Tuesday 14 October 2008

Dave Walker and Mark Brewer

The letter below was sent yesterday to Mark Brewer, from representatives of the We Support Dave Walker facebook group:

Dear Mr. Brewer

We are writing on behalf of 498 supporters of cartoonist and blogger Dave Walker, a group which includes bishops, national journalists in the UK and US, lawyers, clergy, and concerned members of the public. 

We would like to ask you please to contact Dave Walker and withdraw the demands made in the ‘Cease and Desist’ letter which you sent him in July. Your letter, as far as we know, instructed Dave to remove all his posts about the recent history of SPCK bookshops or face action for libel. With the pressures of the impending Lambeth conference, and a very short deadline given by yourself, Dave complied. He commented at the time: “I have therefore removed all of the SPCK/SSG posts on this blog, as, although I believe I have not done anything wrong I do not have the money to face a legal battle. The removal of these posts is in no way an admission of guilt.”

Many of us have read the posts concerned, and are surprised, to say the least, that they could be called libelous. Indeed, the first three posts make no mention at all of yourself, the Society of St. Stephen the Great, or anyone associated with you. The 4th post reports your takeover of the bookshops with the comment “this is splendid news.” Another post is a simple link to your SSG video on YouTube. Other items include verbatim reports of your own statements, and in the simple post on the death of Steve Jeynes, dozens of people used the comments to expressed their grief and condolences to Steve’s family. 

Dave is a reasonable man, and if all critics were as fair as he is the world would be a better place. If you were able to reconsider, and point out specific statements and claims you were unhappy with, we are sure Dave would be happy to correct them where appropriate. This is the normal process of debate on the internet, and in real life, and follows the strong tradition of free speech for which our countries stand and are rightly proud.

So this is a polite request from all of us: please contact Dave Walker, advise him that your ‘cease and desist’ communication no longer stands, and let him report freely. 

Yours sincerely

Rev. David Keen and seven other signatories representing the ‘We Support Dave Walker’ group

Being a Guerrilla Christian

It's a work in progress. With hindsight, in spite of every good intention last year, far too much of my time and attention went into the lovely but limited circle of the theological community. My new (academic) year's resolution has been to make sure that spare energy - and most especially that which I'm tempted to devote to attempts to reform things here at Ridley - goes outwards.

So here are some of the things I am determined not to put (much!) time, effort or brainpower towards:

  1. The antediluvian administrative structure for students, which guarantees a lack of teamwork on community responsibilities, ensures inequality in the division of labour and creates that special combination of inefficiency and near-effectiveness that prevents the resource that is our joint time and effort being available to respond to need and opportunity

  2. The Common Room's indifference to the administrative burden and intensified financial hardship (to the college) of a new payment regime for students

  3. Our shared failure to take an interest in the student world beyond our own Victorian walled garden, whether in theological or general academe, and learn from their experience and practice

That list-making needs, then, to be the end of my musing on these three topics. The first and best of what's freed by this resolution needs to go to my family, who inevitably bear the lion's share of the burden of our change of circumstances as a result of a call to ministry. And the next in line is The Outside World.

The first flowering of this latter is being put up as the 'older and wiser' head on a panel for a 'grill a Christian' evening. I can guarantee 50% achievement on this measure, at least. And I am of an age when making a complete fool of myself is absolutely no deterrent, so as far as I can see the worst that can happen is that someone asks a clever question to which all I can answer is 'wibble,' while the upside is if someone can argue me out of faith I can give up this life of giving up and go back to consultancy, holidays and money.

If you have a praying disposition and are reading this on the day, do keep me in mind this evening. It would be great not to be the scaffolding that spoils someone's view of Jesus.