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Why the Church Times still exists

08 February 2013

THE Victorian free-market values on which the Church Times was founded in 1863 are a useful guard against obsolescence. If enough readers or advertisers decide that the paper is no longer worth their while, the Church Times would cease to exist. This is, therefore, an opportunity to salute our readers, not only for their forbearance, but also for their generosity of spirit. The paper's heyday as the champion of a particular party showed that commercial success could accompany a common cause and shared opinions. By contrast, the Church Times reader of today is asked to tackle uncomfortable subjects and uncongenial views. The loyalty of existing readers, and the appreciation of new subscribers - arriving at a rate of 200 a month - is evidence of the quality of our contributors and a readership that will always recognise in others, opponents even, the work of Christ.

The slow journey, from the 1950s onwards, from serving primarily the Catholic wing to reflecting the Church as a whole was not an easy one. Even now, a tendency towards factionalism in the Church means that those who resist it end up with few friends. We continue to argue, however, that, in the Anglican tradition, a robust defence of a particular stance is consonant with a fierce commitment to unity.

On reaching its 150th anniversary, the Church Times thrives, built on the solid foundation of past decades and a steady investment in new technology. Any profit that it makes is disbursed by Hymns Ancient & Modern, its owners since the Palmer family relinquished the paper in 1989. Of course, the future of any newspaper is uncertain, and the 175th anniversary might be celebrated in a format that looks quite different. But, for the present, the Church continues to need fair-minded and independent reporting and, where due, judicious criticism and generous praise. It is a privilege to attempt to fulfil this need.

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