The Council of General Synod (CoGS) has approved a set of new policies and procedures to govern the Anglican Journal and its publisher, General Synod, including rules to follow when disagreements arise between Journal staff and senior management on the newspaper’s content.
Presented by Prolocutor of General Synod Canon (lay) Ian Alexander, the five-page document contains principles meant to safeguard the newspaper’s mandated journalistic integrity while protecting the church as an institution from undue legal risk and other potential harm.
Of these concerns, Alexander told CoGS, “both are important and valid. One can’t and shouldn’t trump the other.”
Work on the new policies began after an incident in spring 2021. At that time, senior church management shared a draft of an article for Anglican Journal sister publication Epiphanies which contained information potentially identifying anonymous sources making allegations of sexual misconduct. The Anglican Journal’s editorial board and editor created the new policy recommendations at the request of the primate in order “to improve the handling of such cases in the future,” according to the document containing the recommendations which Alexander presented to CoGS.
The new policies stipulate, among other things, the responsibilities of the Journal’s editorial staff to protect draft stories and related information and those of management not to breach that protected status or to “seek to know or shape editorial content in development.” They also require the editor of the Journal to give advance notice to management when preparing content that “may reflect badly on the Anglican Church of Canada or leave the Church open to legal risk,” recognizing that General Synod as its publisher can be sued for libel and suffer reputational harm as a result of what appears in the Journal.
The document specifies procedures for senior General Synod managers to follow in the event that they deem it necessary to intervene in a story. These include a requirement that they first consult with the editorial board before doing so and that the editor of the Journal make any such intervention known to readers in a note accompanying the modified article. General Synod should exercise this right “rarely, if ever,” the document states.
And in the service of ensuring General Synod’s concerns are included in editorial decisions, the document recommends creating the position of episcopal advisor: a currently active bishop for the editorial board to consult on stories that have pastoral implications or are likely to cause significant tensions within the church. The document also recommends that the principles it puts forth be summed up in a brief statement appearing in the Journal’s masthead.
(Editor’s note: This statement will appear for the first time in the February issue of the Anglican Journal.)