Margaret Rodgers, Christian communicator dies

Margaret Rodgers

Margaret Rodgers

News | John Sandeman

Margaret Rodgers, the secret weapon behind Sydney Anglican’s high profile in the media, died on Saturday May 31. Most Australian Christians will complain about how the mass media deals with their church, or Christianity itself. It’s rare to see someone set out to deal with this problem and even rarer to see someone succeed, not just once but many times. Margaret Rodgers, who ran media relations for the Sydney Anglicans for a decade and a half, fitted the third category exactly.

She was the reason the Sydney Diocese rose to punch above its weight in the media. In Australia’s most competitive media market, the Anglicans got a lot of coverage; a lot of surprisingly positive coverage.

Margaret was a master tactician at the media game: she knew the power of rarity, reserving Peter Jensen for the right sort of stories, sending out other spokespeople for day to day combat.

Journalists knew you would always get a quote from Anglican Media: precise, clear and before deadline. If you needed a photo shoot arranged, nothing was too much trouble.

The overall effect was a high profile for the Anglicans in Sydney—and I am sure that other denominations wondered why (except for people who knew Margaret was at the helm). I recall a senior official of the national church implying that it was almost unfair for Sydney to get so much profile while the primate was almost unknown. They needed a Margaret.

In her nine years in charge of the Anglican Media Sydney operation, she introduced Southern Cross as a free monthly magazine and nurtured a generation of Christian writers.

Archbishop Glenn Davies has paid tribute, describing Ms Rodgers as “a scholar of significant intellect” and “for many years the leading laywoman of the Diocese of Sydney, reports. She made her mark not only on the Anglican Church in Sydney  but also on the National Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole.”

“Margaret was passionate about women’s ministry and particularly the order of deaconesses, eschewing the need to be ordained herself, as she was also passionate about lay ministry and provided the Diocese with a model of reason, compassion and servant leadership in the various ministries that she undertook” Archbishop Davies said.

“Margaret was also committed to her local church, where she was churchwarden and synod representative for many years, believing that the work of the gospel was best promoted at the grass roots, seeing people won to Christ and grow in their Christian faith.”

She was awarded an AM on Australia day this year. Her citation read “Archbishop’s Media Officer, Diocese of Sydney, 2004-2007. Chief Executive Officer, Anglican Media, Sydney, 1994-2003. President, NSW Council of Churches, 2008-2010; Executive Committee, Anglican Representative, from 1996; Writer/Presenter of the Council’s weekly current affairs program on Radio 2CH, 1997-2009.

For significant service to the Anglican Church of Australia through governance and representational roles, and to ecumenical affairs.”

“For young Christian women, Margaret Rodgers is an exemplary role model of an older sister in Christ, having dedicated her life to serve God’s people” a former Southern Cross staffer Madeleine Koo recalled. “Her integrity, good humour and perseverence make her a worthy recipient of this honour.”

Margaret Rodgers by any measure was one of the most powerful people in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, a body which only has male clergy. This puzzled everyone, except for those who worked with her and knew that talent had risen to the top.

— Adapted from a profile by  John Sandeman, who saw Margaret Rodgers from both sides—as a member of the Anglican Media Council, and from the Sydney Morning Herald newsroom.

Picture of Margaret Rodgers by  by Ramon Williams