Synod turns fire on broadcast violence

Church of England council members attack 'evil' of sex and blasphemy on television
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The Independent Online
The Church of England breathed hellfire and brimstone in the direction of Broadcasting House last night when the General Synod was told that ''evil'' television programmes were ''depraving the nation and corrupting the young''.

The media were denounced in apocalyptic terms during a lively debate at the Synod, which is meeting in York. Margaret Brown, an arch-traditionalist lay member, called for laws governing standards of morality to be strengthened. ''This is not just a matter of taste,'' she said. ''The violence, sex, bad language and blasphemy that we are dealing with are evil.''

Mrs Brown, whose private member's motion was signed by 187 Synod members, condemned programmes including Nightlife, a film broadcast recently by the BBC, which she said contained eight scenes of violence. She said cable and satellite stations were ''bringing pornography straight into our homes'', and also attacked Loaded, the men's magazine, as ''full of foul language''.

Frank Williams, the actor who played the vicar in Dad's Army, pointed out that the Bible featured an abundance of sex and violence. ''But it's how you deal with it that matters,'' he said. ''In television, nothing is left to the imagination anymore.''

Today, in what promises to be an explosive session, the Synod will wrestle for the first time in 10 years with the question of its attitude towards homosexual clergy.

The debate, which has overshadowed the five-day meeting, will expose bitter divisions between the Church's liberal and evangelical wings. The gay lobby has been fortified by a survey released yesterday which suggests that 21 serving Bishops - nearly half of the total - have flouted their own guidelines by knowingly ordaining, licensing or employing actively homosexual priests.

The prospect of agonising in the public gaze about this most difficult of theological dilemmas is not one that senior Church leaders relish. But it has been forced upon them by the tabling of a motion calling for further discussion of a document issued by Bishops in 1991. The document, called Issues in Human Sexuality, concluded that while practising homosexuals were acceptable as church lay members, they could not be tolerated within the priesthood. It was an uncomfortable compromise that satisfied none of the warring parties. While traditionalists want the Synod to reaffirm its opposition to any sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage, gay campaigners said yesterday that the survey was powerful ammunition for their cause.

Richard Kirker, secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, which conducted the research, said the findings exposed the hypocrisy at the heart of church policy. ''The bishops should own up publicly to what they are privately prepared to do,'' he said.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev Richard Harries, admitted that the survey was embarrassing. ''But I think it is very unlikely that any Bishop has ordained someone in an actively homosexual relationship since the guidelines were issued in 1991,'' he said.

The Synod last debated the subject in 1987, when it overwhelmingly approved a resolution stating that ''homosexual genital acts'' fall short of the Christian ideal.