NEWS: Wrangle over who leads the flock in the fields of Newbury

The controversial Newbury bypass became the focus for a public relations battle between Church of England clergymen last weekend.

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.



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