Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 21:48 GMT
Jesus ad campaign 'not blasphemous'
Jesus was "not a meek, mild wimp in a white nightie", said CAN
A Church of England bishop has rejected accusations that an image of Jesus modelled on a famous picture of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara used in a church advertising campaign was blasphemous.
The Bishop of Ely, the Right Reverend Stephen Sykes, said: "The intention of the advertisement is to cause remark, and it has been successful."
The dramatic red and black poster, bearing the slogan "Meek. Mild. As if. Discover the real Jesus. Church. April 4," is designed to encourage more people to go to church this Easter.
The Reverend Tom Ambrose, of CAN, said the aim of the poster was to make people think about Christianity and ask questions about Jesus.
He said: "If anyone is going to know what is blasphemous it will be our bishop and if he thought the poster was blasphemous he would have sacked us yesterday.
"We want people to realise that Jesus is not a meek, mild wimp in a white nightie, but a real, passionate and caring person.
"Jesus was a revolutionary figure and more revolutionary than anyone in the 20th century."
Bishop Sykes, who is also chairman of the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England, said he certainly did not consider the poster to be blasphemous.
"While an analogy is implicitly drawn between the revolution of a political leader and that of Jesus, it is not said or implied that Jesus was a political revolutionary or would have endorsed the actions of Che Guevara.
"The Churches' Advertising Campaign is organised by an independent group which, though it contains members of a variety of Christian churches, is not accountable to any central church authority."
Argentinian Marxist Guevara helped Fidel Castro overthrow the Cuban dictatorship in 1959 and establish a communist state. He was killed leading a rebel group in Bolivia in 1967.
Former Tory MP Harry Greenway, who is still sponsor of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, described the poster as sacrilegious.
On the poster's launch, he said: "It is grossly sacrilegious to liken Jesus to Che Guevara or anybody else."
Churches across the UK will receive 50,000 leaflets and they will then be able to display large posters on their notice boards.
CAN also hopes that the posters will be put up at bus shelters, train stations and hoardings.