Jonathan and Ruth are On-Scene

In a sign of how serious the Primates’ Meeting is, both Ruth Gledhill of the Times and Jonathan Petre of the Telegraph are in Tanzania, though not necesarilly getting near to the associated Archbishops as Jonathan explains:

A “ring of steel”, or at least a heavy security presence, has been imposed overnight around the conference centre in the White Sands hotel where the five-day meeting, which will determine whether the Communion has a future, will begin on Thursday.

Guards, some armed with truncheons, patrol every entrance, challenging anyone who dares to wander into the vicinity without a red security pass, which is issued to participants only.

According to one account, there has already been an ugly confrontation between security staff and a writer from a Christian magazine who had strayed into the wrong area.

Such arrangements can, of course, be justified in this age of terrorism, especially when so many archbishops, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, are gathered in one place.

But we journalists know that the elaborate security is primarily aimed at keeping us at arm’s length from the meeting, in case we overhear something we shouldn’t, such as Christian voices raised in anger.

Unfortunately, the security cordon has had a complicating side effect: journalists with press inquiries were told to go and knock on the door of the media room, which is headed by Canon Jim Rosenthal, the Anglican Communion’s avuncular Director of Communications. But the media room is now within the secure zone, and they are turned away.

Drawing on years of training, I did manage to penetrate the “ring of steel” this morning, simply by walking through the door to the conference centre when nobody was looking. While jumpy staff made hurried phone calls to locate the absent guards, I tracked down Jim to his lair. He is now setting up a satellite operation in the main hotel.

Ruth though, knows exactly who she needs to talk to to get all the real and important news:

As the local paper in Dar es Salaam reports, the media is not being given any official access to the main meeting. But you can bet there will be access to the conservatives next door. At Lambeth 1998, there was access but it was tightly controlled. There also, the conservatives set up their own operation, in the Franciscan Centre just off the Kent University campus. So guess where we got all our stories from, and guess who won the media battle, and partly as a result of this, the war over sexuality? You’ld have thought they would have learned, but no. It is happening all over again. And you can be pretty certain, that once again, the conservatives will win both the media battle and the bigger war, and it will be partly because of this.

Of course, if you want to talk to “the conservatives” you don’t even need to ask Ruth. David Anderson of the AAC is telling anyone who wants to know what is going on:

It is Monday morning in Dar Es Salaam, and it will be in the mid-80s (degrees Fahrenheit) today, with nearly 80 percent humidity and probably some rain. This is a welcome break from two days of brutal heat and humidity, which resembles the American Southeast in August. It appears that in the coming days it will progressively heat up again temperature-wise, perhaps in parallel with the primates’ meetings themselves.

The Anglican primates have been arriving in groups, some earlier than others, to attend several meetings scheduled prior to the general Primates’ Meeting. It is anticipated that several primates will not arrive, although that is unclear until the meetings actually start. We have been told that the primate of Wales will not attend due to a long planned sabbatical, and the primate of North India will also be absent.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is arriving somewhat late and will miss some or all of the joint meeting of the primates and Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). With Dr. Williams arriving late, Wales not attending, and a few others understood not to be coming; it may be that the joint meeting consists mainly of the Standing Committee of the ACC and Primate Bernard Malango (Province of Central Africa). It has been suggested by some that the reason for the poor showing has to do with a lack of timely planning on the part of the organizers. The minutes of the last meeting are said to have not been given to the members in attendance until yesterday, and there is a difference of memory as to what the minutes should actually reflect.

Now, all we need is a copy of those minutes and then a copy of the “real minutes” and we would have our first big story of the meeting? I’m available for a leak if anybody wants to let me have them. Huh? Huh? Ah well…..

3 Comments on “Jonathan and Ruth are On-Scene

  1. Peter, thank you for all your comments. Just for clarification, I decided to cover the Primates virtually – from London. That you have the impression I am in Dar es Salaam shows how well it is working! Thnx again Ruth xxx

  2. If I really thought that was Mother Ruth of Gledhill writing above I’d be alarmed. I would hope the esteemed Times columnist would not bestow *three* kisses on the leaders of the “Charismatic, Reformed and PostGay” revolution – that’s nailing your colours to the mast a wee bit blatantly even for a Murdoch minion. But surely even Rabid Ruth doesn’t resort to MSM talk (thx??!) . Does she?? Pls Gd no!

  3. Myself and Ruth G? We’re like *that*…

    Ruth, I do think you should have sorted out covering the meeting on-site. Think of the sun and beaches at this time of year. You missed out seriously.

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