Farewell, Ruth

The Church of England - - Comment -

Af­ter 27 years Ruth Gled­hill is bow­ing out as the fi­nal daily Re­li­gious Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent on Fleet Street. Al­though she ar­gues that the qual­ity of re­li­gious af­fairs reporting is high, I tend to think she is de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble. Very few jour­nal­ists un­der­stand the church or mosque, have any sym­pa­thy for re­li­gious sen­si­bil­i­ties and have any rounded un­der­stand­ing of the­ol­ogy or re­li­gious his­tory. Ruth has done a very good job as an in­ter­preter of re­li­gious tra­di­tions few people nowa­days un­der­stand.

Hav­ing said that there are still a num­ber of distin­guished jour­nal­ists who have filled the re­li­gious af­fairs brief at one point or an­other who still work in the in­dus­try, of­ten in se­nior po­si­tions. So for the time be­ing the sky will not fall in. But ac­cu­racy in re­li­gious af­fairs reporting will be sac­ri­ficed with­out spe­cial­ists.

Fi­nally, Ruth will be missed as re­li­gion cor­re­spon­dent. She did her job well – to get up the nose of the hi­er­ar­chy and get at the truth in spite of the Church of Eng­land’s of­ten dis­as­trous pol­icy of se­crecy. Her great­est scoop was prob­a­bly be­ing first with the news that Rowan Wil­liams was to be the 104th Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury but over­all the long-term ben­e­fit of her scru­tiny was to get the Church of Eng­land to open up and be­have more de­cently.

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