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Friday, September 14, 2007

The Spin Doctor is IN (and he's been working overtime)

The first time I met Rachel Minns, Martyns daughter, I had a horrid, pounding headache - the kind that makes your eyes water and your jaw ache and you wish you could just crawl off into a hole somewhere and die.

Problem was, were were already in a hole of sorts.

We were in Philadelphia at the '97 General Convention where the exhibit hall was in the concrete basement of the Convention Hall - no windows, poor ventilation, godawful 'fast food', and the constant din and buzz of conversation, occasionally punctuated by raucous, albeit nervous, laughter.

With that combination, it's a wonder we all weren't sick unto death. (Remind me to tell you about the book I'm writing: "General Convention: 101 Reasons Why It Should Be Held Mid-Winter In Hawai'i")

Rachel has Trisomy-21 Syndrome (also known as Down's), and is quite verbal and delightfully charming. She is also enormously compassionate and grew very concerned about my headache.

"Oh, wait!" she said in that husky voice familiar to all who know people with Trisomy-21. "Just wait for my Father-Bishop to come. He will lay hands on you and you will feel much, much better."

"Father-Bishop?" I asked, honestly confused, the damn headache making me a bit slow on the uptake.

"Yes, that's what I call him," she said.

"Your father? You call him 'Father-Bishop'? Why is that?"

"Oh, because he will be one day. You just wait and see."

Martyn has been working his spin cycle everywhere and anywhere for years, and to obvious great effect.

He has been "the man behind the curtain" at every General Convention I've ever attended, working with conservative deputies on various subcommittees to craft language on resolutions - many of which were the purview of the committee I have always served: Social and Urban Affairs - being jointly followed by IntegrityUSA and the AAC (American Anglican Council).

The article below appears in the latest issue of Church Times. While the author doesn't 'name all the names' she doesn't have to. Just "think purple" - a conservative, orthodox, evangelical in a purple shirt or about to get one - and you're there.

The brilliant cartoon above is also from that site.

Pushing Anglicanism to the precipice
Spin-doctors are dismantling the Anglican Communion in line with their political agenda, argues Pat Ashworth

SPIN-doctoring overreached itself — and fell flat on its face — two weeks ago with the publication of a pastoral letter purporting to be from the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, to his flock in Abuja (News, 24 August).

Should it matter that the bulk of it was written in the United States from the computer of Bishop Martyn Minns, and that revision, editing, and formatting took place over four days?

I believe it does. After our news story (24 August) we were accused by the Nigerian director of communications of being “insulting and racist”. It has nothing to do with race but everything to do with language and politics, in a climate where the word “decision” is now drip-fed into every missive.

Brainwash us often enough with news that the Anglican Communion is on the brink of destruction, and we will all believe it: that is, until proof comes along that schism really is being orchestrated by a knot of people dedicated to keeping their supporters on message.

“Forced to choose”, “moment of decision”, “brink of destruction”, “the gravity of this moment” are phrases designed to turn a drama into a crisis, as US conservatives, with help from English friends, seek to sabotage next year’s Lambeth Conference.

Delete this: “The journey to unity has been long and agonising and needs to come to an end soon,” and substitute: “It now appears, however, that the journey is coming to an end and the moment of decision is almost upon us.” In the end, it doesn’t matter who made the change: the result was to ring the alarm bells louder.

LANGUAGE has changed noticeably. In 2000, the communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting in Porto was characterised by graciousness, patience, and humility. After a very difficult meeting, they warned that a “careful, patient and pastoral” process was not created by “the demonising of opponents or by overheated, politicised and polarised language in our conflicts”.

Even the Archbishop of Rwanda, the Most Revd Emmanuel Kolini, spoke in an interview of “a common language of reconciliation”, saying: “We shared the bread first and talked to each other.”

But the US lobbyists were already on the rise, hunting in a pack in Porto, but failing on that occasion to cut any ice in public with the Primates as a body. The conference room was off limits, and the Primates moved at speed and with minders — defensiveness that metamorphosed into paranoia the following year in Kanuga, when high security surrounded the meeting, and a 24-hour guard was mounted to keep the press and the lobbyists out.

Wind forward to the Primates’ Meeting in Newry in February 2005, in the wake of the consecration of the Rt Revd Gene Robinson in 2003, and the publication of the Windsor report. The tenor of the final communiqué from Newry, which requested the “voluntary withdrawal” of the US and Canadian Churches from the Anglican Consultative Council, was patently intended to appease the angriest voices.

“Many Primates have been deeply alarmed that the standard of Christian teaching on human sexuality . . . has been seriously undermined by the recent developments in North America. . . At the same time, it is acknowledged that these developments . . . have proceeded entirely in accordance with their constitutional processes and requirements.”

Lobbyists were no longer in the background but present in force at the Canal Court Hotel in Newry, in touch by mobile phone with Global South Primates inside the meeting, and discussing the business with them each evening. The meeting famously “leaked like a sieve”, and the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, identified the emergence of new language within Anglicanism — a “sub-text of hatred”.

Every Communion-related meeting since has been hyped to await a final letter or communiqué, and these have been increasingly orchestrated. In October 2005, Global South Primates, meeting in Egypt and accompanied by observers and lobbyists, sent an apparently corporate letter to Dr Williams, questioning his leadership. The tone had hardened: the letter spoke of the C of E “giving the appearance of evil”, and of Europe as “a spiritual desert”.

Five of its alleged signatories denounced it as having been neither commissioned, discussed, nor approved by the body of Primates. The Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, described it as “an act of impatience and disrespect for process”. The President-Bishop in Jerusalem & the Middle East, the Most Revd Clive Handford, called it “megaphone diplomacy”.

I asked Bishop Handford who had written the letter and put it out. “It’s not clear. One might speculate,” he said, and did.

Archbishop Akinola thundered: “It is pertinent to say NO ONE [his capitals] objected.” Yet another Primate told me: “Peter Akinola is skating on very thin ice when he says only one or two Primates didn’t approve it.”

The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, the Most Revd Greg Venables, said: “I’m afraid I’ve yet to receive an explanation which gives me confidence. It’s all, ‘Not me, guv.’”

By the time the letter reached Dr Williams at Lambeth, its contents had already been circulated on the web.

The lobbyists behind all these developments have been visible at every significant Communion gathering over the past few years. They blatantly influenced the Primates in Dar es Salaam in February, and have now gone beyond that point to holding positions of power themselves, as newly created bishops.

THERE ARE, of course, lobbyists on the other side. Integrity has been active at various Anglican summits for years. The difference is that the liberals are not trying to unchurch anyone, though there are signs of attitudes hardening. But they are not the victims of the neo-conservative spin. These are the bulk of Anglicans worldwide who value the comprehensiveness of their branch of Christianity, who see the Communion as a place of debate, and who dread a Church of the Like-minded.

Those whose impulse is always to react rather than reflect are playing into the hands of the lobbyists we have been too preoccupied to notice: the secular commentators, who are happy to write off Christ’s Church as ill-informed, bad-tempered, and irrelevant. When even Christians are forced to agree with them, this is where the real damage starts.


Karen said...

So now you want to throw muck at Rachel?! Fine, take on Martyn. But leave Rachel out of it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...


I said nothing but complimentary things about Rachel. She is a sweet, delightful person.

The only muck is the perspective through which you see anything on this side of the church aisle.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

As soon as I read that, Elizabeth, I thought, "Oh now they will accuse her of saying ugly things about +Minns' daughter..."


I thought it was a sweet story, although sad for the portent of it.

To be honest, why anyone would want to be a bishop is beyond me...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Doxy - Apparently, you're right. Karen proves your point.

Deep sigh.

I like Rachel. She's as sweet as sweet can be. And, she has a kind, compassionate, caring heart.

If anyone wants to read something bad about Rachel in this piece, they clearly have their "muck" glasses on.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Actually, having thought about it, this is what the Bullies and Trolls do, don't they?

They switch the ground of the argument so that, suddenly, you're not arguing about the point, which was perfectly valid, but about something that was completely beside the point and, especially in this case, without an ounce of validity.

What is is Edmund Burke said about 'Desperate people in desperate times' . . .?

Nicholodeon said...

Karen found what she is looking for.

I read this posting, and a little red flag came up in my Early Warning Mechanism inside my brain that someone, somewhere, is going to use the Karen anecdote to 'stir up strife all the day long...'

What I read is how sweet and loving folks with Downs are. I ride the bus each day with many Downs people who work in a sheltered workplace not far from where I work. They know everyone on the bus, they say hi to everyone, even new people coming on the bus...your description of conversation with Rachel illustrates what I mean.

So carry on writing what has to be written. And trolls be damned. They should all go back under their bridges and wait for Big Billy Goat Gruff.

PseudoPiskie said...

We had a friend like Rachel who lived into her 80s. She was always concerned about others. After her sister and parents died, friends took over the task of watching out for her as she lived alone and was not always responsible, partly because of her generosity. It was no chore as she was always happy.

Nicholodeon said...

I got me names mixed up...I was referring to Rachel when I mentioned the 'Karen anecdote' and to Karen in the opening remark, viz. Karen found what she was looking for.

Jim said...

Karen proves what we all know about fudiepiscopalas, they can competently read neither the Bible nor a post. ;;sigh;;


Ralph Webb said...


The presumption that Rachel echoed Martyn's alleged spin about himself is what's offensive here. (It's not the question of how you regard Rachel.)

I can tell you from first-hand experience over a period of more than a decade that Rachel came up with clever designations about people on her own quite regularly. And why wouldn't the idea of her father becoming a bishop enter her mind? By 1997, he had already been nominated and run for bishop at least once, as I recall.

I can also tell you that Martyn never promoted the notion that he would be a bishop himself at all. To the contrary, he always downplayed it at Truro meetings whenever he was nominated.

In fact, Martyn and Angela believed that if someone nominated you for a position, you should step through the door to see if it was God's will for you. And they always took it every time Martyn lost as not being God's will for them.

The most offensive "spin" on the part of all who made an issue of the "ghostwriting" incident is that whatever role Martyn may have played in the writing or revision of the document, it somehow reflects him instead of Archbishop Akinola. That is simply absurd.

Ralph Webb

Elizabeth Kaeton said...


I appreciate your courteous and respectful tone. It is so rare from someone on the Right side of the pew who disagrees with something I might have to say.

I don't know if you know Karen and therefore feel that you can accurately interpret what she says - or, indeed, if you were sent here by her to explain her angry, emotional outburst - but since they were written to me and about me, I have the right to describe their impact.

I maintain my position that Karen's words stand for themselves and her thoughts.

It's a very common "rhetorical" tactic of those on the Right. I call it: "Hit, twist and run" = 'hit' the main argument with emotion, 'twist' it on it side to make it about something else (usually ad hominum) and then 'run' like hell away from it.

You see it over and over and over again on every progressive blog - including my own.

It is clear to me that Rachel is, like any daughter, echoing the spin of her father - and all those around him.

Martyn has shamelessly - shamelessly - promoted himself as a bishop in any diocese that will run him in an election, perhaps holding the unofficial record of the most number of times anyone has ever run for bishop in TEC.

Others, like yourself, may have bought his "piety" as a reason for his running for election, but, even to some conservative ; orthodox, it has been an embarassing display of ego and hubris as manifested in "purple fever".

I have watched Martyn work "behind the scenes" at three General Conventions. He is the undisputed 'spin master' of most of the conservative resolutions as well as statements from the conservative members of the HOB.

I watched him first hand working to obfuscate a real reconciliation between me and a conservative woman deputy from FLA who got HOLLERED at because she did not tow the party line.

It was widely reported among the progressive presence as well as the press corp across the spectrum that Martyn and Moderator Bob were in Tanzania, meeting with Akinola after every session of the Primates and late into the night to craft the so-called "Primates Statement."

Martyn was also reportedly "working the purple shirts" to get them all to sign onto it and 'hold the line' for a 'victory for Africa over years of American imperialism.'

Let me put my own positive spin on it - Martyn is good at what he does. Why wouldn't Akinola, an obviously busy and very important man, put him to work for him as chief strategist and propagandist?

If "winning" were my goal, my only goal, I would certainly want someone like Martyn on my tearm.

The thing of it is, Ralph, that it's not just some "wackado LGBT progressive" who is making these observations.

Reporters who have been sitting in the press boxes at national and international Anglican Church gatherings know all about Minns - and Virtue and Kennedy and Hey and Griffin.

No one is fooled.

Even Rachel gets it. Except,she celebrates it and rejoices in it - which does not cover her with muck but, rather makes her even more endearing - and exposes her father for what he is.

No one is fooled.

When the history of this time is written, I predict that our grandchildren will read at least a paragraph dedidicated to the fact that that Martyn Minns was the Spin Doctor for the Evangelical Primates and Kendall Harmon was the Spin Doctor for the Radical, neo-Puritan Evangelical segment of TEC.

They have been working very hard to craft this schism - first blaming LGBT people, then the authority of scripture, then 'American imperialism', then, the 'false doctrines of the PB', then, 'the apostasy of TEC' . . .

. . . given more time, they'll come up with something else.

They just keep throwing muck until something sticks - and, amazingingly, little bits of if have - blaming everyone else but the fact that if every knee in TEC doesn't bow to THEIR image of God-in-Christ, WE are the ones who are apostate and "counterfit" Christians and the ones to blame for the schism.

They have been very, very effective.

That's not throwing muck. That's stating a fact.

Let's at least give them that.

The hour of schism has come and is now upon us.

May God have mercy on us all.