Dear BBC, please stop ignoring God

Yesterday was another traumatic day for Maureen Greaves, the widow of Alan Greaves, the church organist who was brutally murdered on his way to a Christmas Eve service last December.  With one of his attackers already found guilty of murder, the second, Ashley Foster was convicted of manslaughter.  As the verdict was read out in the court, Mrs Greaves sobbed in the public gallery, yet shortly afterwards she was able to compose herself sufficiently to give a statement outside the building forgiving her husband’s killers:

Reading the statement outside she ended by saying:

“Alan was a man who was driven by love and compassion and he would not want any of us to hold onto feelings of hate and unforgiveness. 

“So in honour of Alan and in honour of the God we both love, my prayer is that this story doesn’t end today. 

“My prayer is that Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster will come to understand and experience the love and kindness of the God who made them in His own image and that God’s great mercy will inspire both of them to true repentance.”

Mrs Greaves words were powerful and full of mercy that many people would find hard to comprehend given the suffering and pain she has been through.  The BBC has been following this case since the beginning and quickly published three posts (here, here and here), none of which reported these comments in any depth.  Of the three only the last mentioned God and that was in the context of God inspiring the men to ”true repentance” for their crimes.  It is a disappointment to put it mildly and something of an insult to Mrs Greaves that the BBC failed to properly report the key part of her message.  This is even more frustrating given that earlier this month the BBC published a report that found its journalists need to significantly improve the way they cover issues of religion and faith.

The BBC’s reluctance to mention God at appropriate moments almost appears to be policy.  Take for example Usain Bolt’s triumph at the Olympics last year in the 200m. As Bolt, who is well-known is a devout Christian, fell to his knees manifestly thanking God for his victory, the BBC presenter decided to describe this spontaneous act of worship as Bolt having ‘a moment to himself’. This was utterly not the case, yet it was passed over with embarrassment, under the pretence that it was something it clearly was not.

Given the BBC’s reluctance to give Mrs Greaves’ words and faith a fair airing, especially considering what she has been through, it seems only right that it should be done here:

Maureen Greaves, is a Church Army Evangelist at St Saviours Church in High Green,  Sheffield, working primarily with children and families who have had a limited experience of church. She and her husband Alan had dedicated much of their lives to church and community work before his murder.

As her husband of 40 years lay dying in hospital at Christmas, the 64-year-old found it within herself to “place in God’s hands” the people who killed him. Now, following the trial, she has admitted that “Forgiving my Alan’s killers is daily struggle” and she is “constantly fighting the battle” to keep to her promise.

In a eulogy at his funeral Mrs Greaves said she had decided to forgive the two men as it was what her husband would have wanted:

“It has to be a daily act of saying ‘I place them in your hands, God’, so that I don’t have to worry about them, I don’t have to hate them. After the massive shock and heartbreak, this was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, to go down the path of forgiving them.

“It has been a wonderful release that I have not had the burden of hatred towards them. I have to do it every day so I don’t lapse. It is not an easy journey to look two men in the face who have killed the person you love most in the world and hang onto that.

“When you are sitting there in court and you see them and you are heartbroken at what they have done to you, they have taken from you the person who is still your soulmate, it is very difficult to sit there and continue to forgive them and want to forgive them.”

“One thing I have comforted myself with is that the God I believe in had a son who was beaten as Alan was beaten. The God I believe in had a son who was resurrected as I believe Alan will be resurrected to be with God.”

Speaking at her Church the Sunday after Alan died she told this story:

“In the midst of our deep grief, I was sitting in the [hospital] waiting room and a lady came in, and it irritated me, because I wanted to be by myself.

“And I suddenly looked at her and thought, ‘she’s grieving like me’. And so I went over to her, and I said ‘what’s wrong?’ And she said ‘My husband’s got a brain tumour’.

“And I said ‘how are you feeling about that?’

“And she said ‘I don’t believe in a God at all that could allow this to happen’.

“And God gave to me a wonderful moment, when I was able to say that ‘I believe in a God because at Christmas time he sent us a saviour and he can be your saviour too through all of the grief you’re going through’.

“Later on she got her results for her husband and it was a benign tumour and she came to me and she hugged me. And she said ‘I’ll leave this place thinking about the fact that there’s a saviour of this world’.

“And for me that was a great joy in the midst of my pain, because Alan only died a few hours later.”

Maureen Greaves has been an inspiration through all that she has had to endure and is a living example of how God’s grace , love and forgiveness can bring peace and reconciliation in the midst of our suffering.  May God continue to give her the strength she needs to deal with her husband’s loss and that in the process may she be a source of blessing and hope to many others.

Categories: Justice, Media, Mercy

Tags: , , , , , , ,

38 replies

  1. Hear! Hear! Amen to that.

  2. The BBC , paid for by the television watching public, by means of a tax in all but name, should be a “broad church” serving the whole nation. The reality is that it is an out of control, organization on a campaign, using other peoples money, to change society towards its own version of utopia , so it attacks and marginalizes everything Christian and traditional. It is responsible , I believe, to a considerable measure, for much of the deterioration within our society over the last decades. Full stop. It needs to be examined, totally reorganized, and then recast in the image of the sort of broadcaster envisaged by the principled founders, as a lean, small , genuinely public service orientated organization , which would require a far smaller organization. The surplus resources should be sold off. Anything less radical will fail to address these injustices.

  3. I do agree with your general point, but to be fair, the coverage on BBC regional news (Look North) has been rather better throughout. The Greaves’ vicar was interviewed several times, as was the Bishop of Sheffield when he conducted the funeral. This week Ann Greaves had chance to speak about forgiving the attackers on tv and was reported on their website too. (

  4. I don’t know what you watched, Gillan. But on the version of the BBC 10 O’clock news I saw, they showed Mrs Greaves reading out the full end of her statement that you quote at the start of your article. GIven that they are indeed a national broadcasting service with a charter that specifically requries them to be balanced in their presentation, I was actually pleased & surprised at the quantity & quality of coverage that Mrs. Greaves’ personal response & statement has received.
    I’m not condoning any wider agenda that there might be to ignore Christianity, but I cannot complain about this particular example of their coverage.

    • I’ve now watched the 10pm news and you are right. The coverage is much more balanced than on the website. There is a possibility that I have overreacted, although I wrote this post based on the initial BBC coverage which I still think is less well done. I am quite happy to be corrected if I have been unfair in my judgement. Certainly the BBC does get a lot right. The TV news editors don’t deserve criticism on this piece.

      • So basically you’re saying that you wrote a knee-jerk reaction piece to a perceived lack of researched and balanced reporting by the BBC. Irony, much?

        • No. I still stand by what I wrote based on the initial BBC coverage. I did look hard to see if they had done any more. But at the time there was nothing. Media coverage moves fast, so perhaps jumping the gun is a better term of phrase than over-reacting, but we can’t always wait to see if anything else appears. I think my other comments have given credit to the BBC where it is due. Nothing better was put out on the website and the articles were not updated.

  5. Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show also had a discussion on the issue and had a number of Christian callers ring in and talk about how their faith helped them to forgive ( as well as a number who admitted to struggling to forgive despite their faith)

  6. The BBC is becoming more anti Christian almost daily.

  7. I am a Bible-bashing, card carrying, evangelical Christian – but I do get sad and sometimes frustrated with the “woe is me” attitude that some corners of Chritianitybhave towards the BBC and other broadcasters. If you don’t like it. Change it. Don’t watch it. Create your own public broadcasting TV/News station which reports the news as you want it to. We need to stop reeling on this world to be “fair” to us – its not going to happen. But Our God has endowed us with seeds of greatness and the ability to do “all things through Christ,” or so we sing and read on a regular basis!

    • Part of the reason for creating this blog is to tell the stories that the mainstream media doesn’t. I’m more interested in telling Mrs Greaves’ story than having a go at the BBC for a substandard piece of journalism. The main frustration over this was that the BBC website had done exactly what their own report had identified as being done poorly just a couple of weeks ago.

  8. Whereas I think that this is an overreaction anyway, if there even was a bias, which I doubt, I would stand behind the BBC on this one….part of their remit is to educate, not proselytize…. while I have every sympathy and respect for the widow, I would think it a service to reason and education to try and avoid such illogical ravings. I also find it extremely sad that athletes from religious countries can’t pat themselves on the back instead of thanking the sky daddy for their victories. Sorry people, I don’t buy into your paranoia

    • So graciously said, Rob (sarcasm icon) – reporting accurately an opinion is hardly proselytizing whereas censoring is. Are you really unable to regard Christians as individuals with opinions that are just different to yours – often thought through just as carefully. Interesting that you cannot conceive of a thinking person being a believer in God but have to relegate the possibility to cultural influences (“from religious countries”). It’s going to be a tough society when bigots like you enforce your views.

      • OK Kevin, to be honest, as the original poster said, looking at things a little more carefully shows that the original post was an over-reaction. Anyone who is fond of a particular subject or has a desire for a particular point to be made is going to be dissapointed by a heavily edited newspiece, so my apologies if I missed a subtle distinction here.
        I agree, as someone who celebrates individuality, every human being (Christian or not) is entitled to an opinion, however the cultural aspect is very real….if you are born to Christian parents in a society where religion is still very influential then you will probably be a Christian…same goes for Muslims, Hindus and others…I agree “religious countries” was a careless attempt on my part to be brief and what I meant by that is simply a country where, unlike the UK for example, a majority of the poplulation go to church and are indoctrinated as a matter of course. Don’t missunderstand, it is not people I hate but the religious teachings that they have, in my opinion, wasted their belief on. (So I reject your “bigot” namecalling, thank you that’s SO gracious of you too, winking icon). As for the tough society, believe me the last thing I want is a Stalinist pogrom, free thought is something everyone is entitled to, but it strikes me that the toughest societies around the world tend to be the ones where intollerence arises from the strong influence of religion in politics.That is why I felt it necessary to defend auntie Beeb.

        • Hi Rob – isn’t it good that we can talk about these issues fairly and freely, without worrying that because we disagree with one another we could get into trouble with any authorities? It’s good that we’ve all been blessed with a fair and open-minded education system where we are taught that we can make our own minds up, and given all (or at least, some) of the facts to enable us to do it, as opposed to being indoctrinated in it by the state. “Inherited” religion is definitely a real issue, but so is inherited ir-religion. Plenty of people just follow the religion of their parents or of the wider society in which they live. In the case of the UK, you’re right, atheism is the dominant religion (or world-view if you prefer). This is probably due to seven main causes, of which only one is that it is the inherited religion. The others are all much better reasons than inheritance: natural doubt in anything supernatural, laziness, a multitude of religions all trying to prove that they are teaching the truth, a belief that somehow science has disproved God, a belief that religion leads to a restriction of freedom and the simple fact that it is what everyone else is doing. And it might be completely true – I’m not saying either way.
          Indoctrination happens when people aren’t allowed to think for themselves, and intolerance happens when people’s world-views conflict because of their belief that their world view is the only one which is right. That’s why it’s important to have a secular government which educates everyone equally and which allows everyone to practice their religion freely – not that it is possible for politics to be separated from religion (as they are both two different words for the same sort of thing – a set of world views and values that influence your actions) – but that people in government should be making fair decisions that are going to benefit the whole population and not favouring certain religious or non-religious groups over any others. Since the BBC is an organisation which is supposed to represent peoples’ views fairly, it seems only right that they publish peoples quotes in full so that it continues to allow everyone to make their own mind up and prevents anyone from blaming the BBC for any censorship.

    • If you think choosing to forgive is an illogical raving. What do you think is logical ‘ a mob hanging’

  9. Forgiveness and wanting the convicted to get religious are topics for a feature piece, not a news story.

  10. We don’t need the BBC to promote Christianity. Christianity was here long long before the BBC and will be still be for eternity. I like the comment by Rob Green about religious intolerance and our topic is a Christian lady who is willing to forgive in extreme circumstances. Can you get more tolerant than that? She is the best advert for our faith.

  11. Amazing words. Thanks for sharing them. 🙂

  12. Why should my tax dollars support organised religion? It’s bad enough that your churches get tax exempt status without the national broadcaster peddling your dark age myths.

    • Middle Age myths eh? So it is wrong to love your neighbour as yourself? It is wrong to love your enemies? BTW Christianity is eternal – Middle Age? If you’re talking about history, you don’t actually know it that well considering Christianity (on earth) was around for 1,000+ years before the Middle Ages. Christianity has done a lot for society – a group of Christians lobbied Parliament to get black slavery banned, a Christian woman saw a need to improve hospital hygeine and nurse training, Christians saw a need to improve children’s prospects by starting schools, In the 1960s a Christian Organisation (Tearfund) set up Fair Trade for third world workers (unlike secular businesses who are only jumping on the bandwagon 40 years later)! A woman helped improve prison conditions, in the 19th century Christians opened many orphanages – it’s only as secular organisations took them over, have they gone greedy. You really don’t know what you’re talking about!

      • Yes it is wrong to love your enemies. At least I find it quite wrong to love mine.

      • Oh and btw, considering middle ages is how we call the period starting on the 5th century, are you meaning christianity, hence Christ, was around 500 years BC (i.e. before himself)? Wow

  13. I look forward to your enthusiastic applause for the BBC when they give 5 minutes free airtime to the family of a deceased jihadi when they talk about the evil infidels and how there is no true prophet but allah,

    This womans loss and grief are relevant and universal to us all.

    What she choses to do on a sunday morning is not.

    • @Anthony: will be applauding alongside you, because what people choose to do on a Sunday (or any other morning) IS relevant. Besides, we have often enough seen statements of revenge and anger, borne out of the loss and grief you speak of, which have arisen out of peoples’ religious and political choices (agnosticism/atheism particularly), even though they may not be as directly stated or the relationship realised by the grieving person/the observer. What I see from this is an evident contrast. Others may not agree with me but at least with reporting of beliefs as they are expressed by individuals there is awareness and the opportunity to actively consider a choice. As for the general argument about putting religion and politics aside, it can’t be done: what you believe is part of what you are, influences what you do and how you relate to others.

  14. Yes, I believe the BBC is indeed ignoring people’s faith & seems particularly to ignore the Christian faith. I wonder if the BBC will end up like the ancient Roman empire, which became fascinated by itself, decadent & in the end self-destructive.

  15. What a wonderful woman showing God’s grace to those who tragically snatched her husband from her! May God bless her and may His light shine ever brightly through her witness!

  16. The British Brainwashing Corporation seems mainly to be staffed by people of no faith or non-Christian. I want to like and trust the BBC but I am finding it increasingly hard so to do. I’m guessing some of their overpaid and out of touch executives would, given the chance, banish Songs of Praise and anything smacking of organ music to the dungeons of Television Centre. It appears what the BBC lacks is a body of ordinary, everyday viewers and listeners more responsive than the people running the show. BBC executives are as remote from their audiences as much as politicians are remote from their constituents. Talk of transparency and ‘listening’ people does no more than insult the intelligence of its force-fed audience.

  17. The BBC does not exist to give you and your religion a platform to proselytize.

    If you want them to broadcast the religious rantings of a grieving Christian, then don’t complain if the next time a Muslim dies in newsworthy circumstances, you see his widow on the telly extolling the virtues of the niqab and wifely submission.

    Do you want the reporting of the next notable Scientologist that dies to include a speech about how to audit your way to thetan nirvana using a modified lie detector?

    Religion is a private matter and whatever a grieving widow believes is her business and nobody else’s. The BBC is quite right to not to give a platform to those who want to use a publicly funded service to spread their faith. If you want to get your religion on the telly, open a religious broadcasting service and fund it yourselves.


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