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Ready with a comment

02 November 2006

ONE BISHOP who is happy to engage with the press is the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish. He has commented widely on subjects close to his heart, including fair trade, rural issues, secularism, and the Middle East. He writes regularly for his local newspaper, The Western Morning News.

He says: "Wherever I have been, I have made contact with the local press. They need local stories, and the Church needs to be able to disseminate its own story and offer comment on the issues of the day in a way that helps people to see these in the light of the Christian gospel.

"Both needs are best met when a good  working relationship has first been established. This is about building trust and mutually recognising different needs and expectations.

"When I arrived in Devon, I made it clear that I was not really interested in the usual 'godslot'. There are many others around who can do this better than me. However, it did seem that, as a diocesan bishop with something of an overview of life in the county, I could, from time to time, contribute an article on a major issue of the day - either local or national - from a Christian perspective.

  "The Western Morning News responded very positively to this suggestion, and I suppose I contribute six to seven pieces a year. I have written about Foot and Mouth; the rural White Paper; 9/11; the war in Iraq; regionalism; the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury; asylum seekers; Mel Gibson's film; and Make Poverty History. Twice I have been given the editorial slot.

"One of the most important things has been not to write too frequently or about everything,"  Bishop Langrish says. "I try to contribute only on subjects about which I know something, or where I feel that it is important that a Christian perspective is introduced into the debate. I have also tried to take advice from the editor on style and other matters. I think that these things have helped to build trust."

In recent months, the bishop has spoken about his visit to Senegal ( Features, 11 March) and rural concerns for BBC Devon. And, he warned readers of the Church of England Newspaper, that extreme secularism threatens society.

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