Bishop A. Brown commented upon the memorandum which he and the Rev. R. Berryman prepared and circulated to all the Bishops. The memorandum contained a review of the current procedure as agreed upon by the House at its meeting in October, 1980 as follows:
1. A check would be made with the Bishops about actions which are considered newsworthy;
2. The time schedule of releases;
3. An agreement on who speaks for the House of Bishops on particular issues.
The distinction was made between (a) making public statements, eg. the statement sent to the Government regarding the Economy from the House of Bishops and, (b) making statements public as agreed upon in October 1980.
It was agreed that, in future, the Rev. R. Berryman should attend all sessions of the meetings of the House of Bishops. Following a meeting of the House, Mr. Berryman shall act as a liaison between the House of Bishops and the media.
The Bishops were encouraged to hold public forums to address pertinent matters, and to alert the media in various parts of the country when this is to be done. It was noted that a list of people from across Canada to whom press releases will go is being developed.
Text of motion
That the Proposal re making public statements and making statements public be accepted and that Bishop A. Brown and the Rev. R. Berryman be asked to continue work, particularly on Section (a)(i) to (iv). CARRIED 14-2-82 (See Appendix A)
DISCUSSION PAPER PREPARED BY BISHOP A. BROWN AND THE REVEREND RICHARD BERRYMAN
A. MAKING PUBLIC STATEMENTS
By this we mean a statement which evolves from a report, discussion, motion, etc. of House in session.
The least troublesome are prepared reports, position papers, etc. which are presented as agenda to the House. Much work and thought has usually gone into these, in advance.
When passed, the procedures in (b), are in place for their responsible publication.
The problem is a statement which just "happens" during a session, is usually composed over a meal break by one or more bishops, editing takes place during the debate - it is referred to another editorial group and comes back to the House, late in the session - and is passed. We all agree that this is not the best process possible.
Sometimes this is unavoidable ! When it is, perhaps there are some suggestions that would make the process a bit more responsible.
(i) When it is known in advance of a meeting of the House that a statement on a particular subject is likely to be required, members of the National staff OR of Standing Committees of General Synod who have expert knowledge of the subject, should be asked to be present and to assist in the drafting of the report/statement.
(ii) If (i) is not possible because of spontaneity or geography, the statement should be vetted by telephone to several such people
(a) for their opinion and advice
(b) out of courtesy, as they will undoubtedly face questions about it if it is in their area of responsibility
(iii) This is a "judgement" call but - if the statement is one which appears will have considerable interest to the media and the general public, or is of a sensitive or controversial nature - when the House has fully aired its opinions the task of writing the statement should be given to two or three bishops who will have power to co-opt expert assistance and produce a statement within two weeks of the House session. This would then be sent special delivery to each Bishop THEN released to the public.
(iv) The Media Officer of General Synod should be a part of the group preparing such statements during House sessions and an auditor of all the discussions leading to them. His knowledge of the impact of certain phrasing, and insight into what the media are likely to pick up and how it will be treated would be most helpful during the formative state of the statement. He performs this function in many instances at National Headquarters for statements on Public Social Responsibility, World Mission, by the Primate, etc.
B. MAKING STATEMENTS PUBLIC
Procedures Now in Place
At the end of each meeting of the House, the General Synod Media Officer, after consultation with the General Secretary and the Primate, declares which actions of the House seem to require publication within the Church constituency; which actions and/or statements should be released generally to the media; the time frame for such releases (to enable Dioceses to prepare their clergy and people by whichever means seem appropriate).
Wherever possible, notice is sent to Dioceses as soon and as quickly as possible, of potential controversial items which have been or are about to be published between sessions of the House. It would be of great help if all Dioceses would arrange for a telex number (11 have), from a co-operative business firm. I can speak about this if necessary.