The controversial Newbury bypass became the focus for a public relations
battle between Church of England clergymen last weekend.
At the request of Friends of the Earth, Cambridgeshire curate Rev Peter
Owen-Jones and former Bishop of Bath and Wells the Right Rev John
Bickersteth held a service for anti-bypass protesters. The 20 minute
service was widely covered in the media, but most reports focused on a
row between the clergymen and the local Oxford diocese.
Oxford communications officer Rev Richard Thomas had issued an advance
press release distancing the diocese from the service - and the rift
between the clergymen became the story’s main focus.
‘What could have passed off quietly with minimum interest became a much
bigger story than it would otherwise have been,’ said Owen-Jones.
Rev Thomas criticised Owen-Jones’ for failing to consult locally in
advance. ‘Given the political sensitivity of the situation I felt it was
important to get across the message that it was not the local church
doing this,’ he said. ‘In my view the strategy worked.