Daily Telegraph backs old guard in row over Church of England's 'Alpha' evangelicals

The Daily Telegraph has leapt into a dispute between two factions of a London church, offering its support to traditionalists who dislike changes brought by a new priest and the younger crowd of worshipers he has attracted.

The author of the 14 August 2017, article entitled “Proms conductor in row with musicians' church after it bans 'non-religious' concerts” would most likely reject this summary of her story. Yet the journalistic shortcomings of this article turn it into a club for traditionalists to beat modernizers.

Congregational conflicts are seldom newsworthy. But they are often vicious, taking their cue from the command to smite the Amalekites and “utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (1 Sam 15:3). And these church spats seem to revolve around the same set of problems that often boil down to a battle for power.

The exceptions to the rule, however, are often great news stories.

Who would not relish reading about the conflict in this Tennessee church:  “Pastor’s Wife And Mistress Fight At Communion Day Service In Church.”

The Daily Telegraph picked up a story about St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church in the City of London over a power struggle within a church, which has widened to include comments and criticisms from non-members.

The lede telegraphs the Telegraph’s construction of the story. We are told who are the villains and who the heroes.

[St. Sepulchre] is the spiritual home of musicians where Proms founder Sir Henry Wood is buried. But a London church has become embroiled in a row with one of Britain's best-known composers after it announced it would close its doors to choirs and orchestras because their music was not religious.

The fight within the church is between the choir and the evangelical views of its new vicar and the crowd he has brought with him. The Telegraph reports:

The church became part of the evangelical group, which is known for its youth-friendly rock-band style of worship, in 2013. Now classical groups are no longer welcome to rehearse and perform there -- and resident choristers say they are "concerned that it will become a worship choir with drums and keyboards".

Sounds like the story line of an Elvis Presley movie to me -- with the King as a trendy vicar defending the kids who just want to have fun, while the stodgy old choir members backed by the stodgy old Telegraph cry foul. 

The bulk of the article consists of criticisms voiced by composer John Rutter.

"What this current vicar seems to be saying is that music is OK so long as it's part of a worship service. The concerts that take place in just about every church in the land, they're not OK, and rehearsals are not OK either."

Continue reading "Daily Telegraph backs old guard in row over Church of England's 'Alpha' Evangelicals" by George Conger.

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