The term ‘spin doctor’ has come to prominence in recent years because of the use by ‘New Labour’ of specialist spokespersons who put a ‘spin’ [usually glossy] on items of government policy for public consumption. They have come to be regarded with increasing suspicion as ‘truth’ has subsequently emerged to show very often the questionable nature of their official ‘spin’.
On Sunday 21 July, ‘Power to Change’ spokesmen, Michael Fitch [Northern Ireland committee] and Tom McGuiness [Southern Ireland committee] were interviewed on Radio Ulster’s ‘Sunday Sequence’ about the forthcoming ecumenical ‘mission’ called ‘Power To Change’to be staged from23 September until 20 October 2002.
In answer to the question ‘What’s the thinking behind Power to Change’? Michael Fitch stated ‘The whole thinking behind Power to Change is that for the average Christian in Ireland, after they’ve become a Christian, within 3 years they don’t know any other people apart from Christians and the whole idea of Power to Change is to mobilise Christians to get them out beyond their comfort zone and to share THE GOSPEL, which is as relevant today as it has been for 2000 years, with those that are around them’.
On first reading this may sound plausible and commendable but does it stand up to close scrutiny? Michael Fitch stated ‘for the average Christian in Ireland, after they’ve become a Christian, within 3 years they don’t know any other people apart from Christians’. Can I say that in all my years as a Christian [some 18 years] that has certainly not been my experience nor has it been the experience of any of the huge number of Christians that I have been privileged to come in contact with – not just here in Ireland but in many parts of the world also. As Christians, we are not “of the world” but neither have we been taken ‘out of the world’ [John 17: 14-15].
Basically one’s understanding of who is a genuine ‘Christian’ may colour one’s analysis of this statement by Mr Fitch and obviously the more ‘elastic’ your acceptance of who is a ‘Christian’ then the easier it would be to swallow such a claim. When one looks at the pedigree of those actively participating in ‘Power to Change’ and sees the overwhelming participation of liberal ‘Protestant’ ecumenists and Roman Catholics then it is much easier to discern Mr Fitch’s understanding of who is a ‘Christian’ and to see how he could set forth this scenario that ‘for the average Christian in Ireland, after they’ve become a Christian, within 3 years they don’t know any other people apart from Christians’.
By his obvious acceptance of all those participating as ‘Christian’ [liberals and Roman Catholics] he has just eliminated vast swathes of the mission field that many biblically faithful servants of Christ in Ireland have laboured in and amongst for centuries and whose successors still labour in today to the obvious annoyance of people like Mr Fitch’s minister, Ken Newell [Fitzroy Presbyterian Church] who was one of the ‘Group Participants’ who drew up the 1998 ‘Evangelicals & Catholics Together in Ireland’ booklet that was launched at a public meeting in July of that year in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church where Mr Fitch is now an elder. Mr Newell’s ‘annoyance’ is not based upon conjecture but upon personal first-hand experience!
Mr Fitch referred to ‘the whole idea of Power to Change is to mobilise Christians to get them out beyond their comfort zone and to share THE GOSPEL’ – I simply ask WHICH ‘GOSPEL’? The participants in ‘Power to Change’ represent differing ‘gospels’ and in the light of biblical analysis many represent a false ‘gospel’. In any case, according to what another southern ‘Power to Change’ spokesman, Basil Good, said in the January RTE TV programme promoting ‘Power to Change’, participating churches/groups are free to push whatever doctrinal line they want [see my report ‘The Leaven in Power to Change’] so there is no ‘Power to Change’ agreement on what constitutes THE GOSPEL. Mr Fitch’s claim that this initiative of ‘Power to Change’ can ‘mobilise Christians to get them out beyond their comfort zone and to share THE GOSPEL’ is flawed and spurious.
Later, Southern Ireland spokesman, Tom McGuiness, referred to the wide-ranging participation in their literature by way of ‘testimony’ by laypersons such as Michael McGoldrick and picking up on this Michael Fitch admitted that the inclusion of Mr McGoldrick, who he referred to as ‘coming from a Catholic background’, had not been ‘uncontroversial’. When asked ‘Where have you seen some opposition’? Mr Fitch replied ‘I suppose in terms of opposition – there has been opposition…I get the odd email saying “we don’t agree with what you’re doing”’.
Mr McGoldrick suffered terrible personal tragedy when his son was murdered just after graduating and in no way would I want to minimise the horror of that event but in ‘testimony’ terms he outlines in his story how his Roman Catholic faith helped him deal with that tragedy. The reality is that Mr McGoldrick is not just ‘from a Catholic background’ but he is still actively involved in Catholicism so it should be no surprise that genuine ‘evangelicals’ found his participation ‘controversial’. Other Roman Catholic ‘testimonies’ also feature in the ‘Power to Change’ literature.
Mr Fitch reduced opposition to ‘I get the odd email’. Has Mr Fitch forgotten already that the first ‘Power to Change’ booklet had to be withdrawn and reprinted because 2 of the original contributors, 2 former loyalist paramilitaries who had been soundly converted to Christ, withdrew permission for their testimonies to be used because of the inclusion of ‘testimonies’ by Roman Catholics? They had never been informed by the organisers of ‘Power to change’ of the ecumenical nature of this campaign and in obedience to the Word of God withdrew from it when they became aware of this.
Has Mr Fitch forgotten already that a number of Northern Ireland ‘evangelical’ churches, which likewise were not initially aware of the ecumenical make-up of this campaign, subsequently withdrew their participation just around the time that for whatever reason ‘Power to Change’ suddenly stopped listing the Northern Ireland participating churches on its Internet web site?
Is Mr Fitch aware that a church within the Association of Baptist Churches is ‘bringing charges’ against those Baptist churches that have signed up to ‘Power to Change’ because they are viewed as being in breach of the ‘Stated Aims’ of the Association? Is Mr Fitch also totally oblivious to churches where the case for participation in ‘Power to Change’ has been made but rejected?
The truth is that notified ‘opposition’ has amounted to much, much more than ‘the odd email’ and no amount of ‘spin’ will spirit that truth away.
Cecil Andrews – ‘Take Heed” Ministries – 7 August 2002