When we get it wrong

Russell Powell

Some months ago, the team at Southern Cross started planning to do a cover story on prayer.

They say everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. With prayer, we don't talk much about it and do it even less (myself included).

Article complete, we went about trying to illustrate it. It seemed 'knee fitness' might be catchy and contemporary. Because we don't have the funds to stage our own photography, we used a stock image of a woman in fitness gear.

In an effort to focus on the knees to make the theme work, the cover unhelpfully drew attention to other parts of her body and cut off her head, depersonalising the image.

Let me be clear. This was a mistake. With the best of intentions we actually did the opposite of what we were trying to do. 

Instead of drawing attention to the critical issue of prayer it drew attention to the image. Further, it offended people and may have caused brothers and sisters to stumble.

As CEO, the buck stops with me and I wholeheartedly and unreservedly apologise. 

As soon as I received the first complaint we started working on ways to ensure we get it right from now on.

I removed the images online and issued a pdf which has all the articles without the images (you can download here)

I am developing a policy for the use of stock images and images of men and women in the paper.

Others are helping us in this, including some of the gracious people who complained. We will of course publish an apology in next month's paper. 

But two other things are worth mentioning.

First, the fact that some people had such a visceral reaction to it and some saw no problem indicates to me that the issue needs further exploration. Our beloved Anglican educators and those who work with youth have much to teach us about the pressure young men and women are under. We must explore this further.

Second, the graciousness and godliness of Sydney Anglicans has moved me more than I can adequately express.

I read with tears the eloquent and godly letter of one of our 17 year old Christian women. She was a woman of prayer and as we corresponded, I could tell she was a young woman of great spiritual zeal and maturity beyond her years. I thank God for her and for the many others whose wisdom and grace informed their concern.

We Sydney Anglicans minister to Sydney in the broad daylight, often in the glare of secular publicity.

All we do and say and are, including our mistakes, is open to the public every day.

If we want to reach Sydney, Wollongong and beyond with the Gospel it must be so.

But based on my contact with our brothers and sisters this week, they are nothing like they are caricatured to be by some loud public voices and they are everything I would want them to be.

They are loving, gracious, thoughtful, sensitive, sincere and most important to all of us at Southern Cross at the moment, forgiving.






Feature photo: Terrance Heath

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