Leaders of Britain’s Black churches met recently with standards executives from Ofcom, the broadcasting standards watchdog, in a landmark meeting. The meeting was called by Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs (MECA) of Churches at Together in England (CTE) in light of recent concerns that Pentecostal ministries in miraculous signs and wonders could be endangering lives.
In a wide ranging discussion Ofcom explained its legal remit to regulate UK-based TV and radio broadcasters in a manner that protects the public from harm, or offence, while not interfering with legitimate rights to freedom of religious expression. The Ofcom executives heard from black church leaders who support their work; and others who questioned the need for such a body. Some wanted to know if Ofcom is trying to suppress religious expression particularly among BME faith communities.
‘The presentation from Ofcom was informative and indeed an eye opener. It is in the interest of our churches, as we grow exponentially, to ensure that we operate within the law of the land with sensitivity whilst not compromising our (biblical) belief in divine healing’, said Rev Nezlin Sterling, Director of Studies at the New Testament Assembly.
Church leaders sought assurance that Ofcom does not have an agenda to undermine the Christian faith, particularly black Christian faith, through its codes of practice. Ofcom’s executives made clear their largely complaints-led role is to ensure broadcasters stay within the guidelines set out in their charter to protect the public from harm and exploitation.
Commenting on the meeting, Dr Michel Sacramento, President of Pastorale Francophone UK said, ‘Far from hindering our mission for broadcasting the message of the Gospel, the Ofcom regulations may help spur evangelical broadcasters into developing more imaginative ways of communicating the Gospel to a cosmopolitan audience, taking into consideration the peculiarities of the environment in which it is articulated. The challenges we now face may turn into blessings as we grow stronger in effectiveness and scope’.
Church leaders in their concluding discussions agreed that whilst freedom of religious expression is a right, claims about miraculous healings must not be made lightly or without corroboration. Listeners to this type of broadcast should be encouraged to seek medical advice before making any change to their treatment regimes. Ofcom and Black Church Leaders agreed to continue to dialogue.
- Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs (MECA) is an arm of Churches Together in England (CTE) that works closely with members and non-members of the national ecumenical instrument towards a Church in which Black and other Minority Ethnic (BME) Christian communities play their full part in the proclamation of the Christian Gospel.
- Contact: Bishop Dr Joe Aldred 07775 632288 or email firstname.lastname@example.org