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A good read

The news year so far has been characterised by the ethics of publication. As well as the Wikileaks release of various communications between diplomats and governmental organizations, we have seen much discussion of whether the government is right to publish street-by-street crime statistics, or wrong to withold the education league tables that were a key component of Labour's schools policy.

In the anniversary year of the publication of one of our great Bible translations, it might be timely to posit a historical analogy. Back when the Bible was available solely in Latin, it was argued that only priests had the sufficient learning and spiritual understanding to handle it. The architects of the Reformation, however, insisted that the church would benefit from a wider dissemination of the scriptures. Only when each person could study them personally could the revelation contained within them be connected to the other pillars of personal faith and church tradition.

Today, of course, few would argue that wider Bible reading has not enhanced the Christian community. But it has not made the role of the priest redundant - far from it. The more personal study took place, the more we relied on learned and called individuals to guide us in interpretation and application.
When one looks at the huge amount of information available on Wikileaks, it can be difficult to work out where to begin. Further, how are we to decide whether the material is partial? What we might gain by looking at a primary source, we may also lose by the lack of an expert commentary.

This role invariably falls to journalists, which places us back in the hands of partisan media forces that we may have mistrusted in the first place. And, much as there have always been priests whose handling of the Bible has not been disinterested, there are reporters whose judgment can appear to have been made before their investigations have even begun. The answer is not to dispense with their services any more than we should our church leaders. We need them perhaps more than we have ever done. It is your job as a reader to discern the word carefully.

It was with much sadness that we heard of the death of Alex Mitchell at the end of 2010. She was an early editor of Third Way, and largely responsible for its reputation for bringing a fresh Christian voice to current affairs. She led the magazine through the difficult economic climate of the late 1970s, managing to attract several high-profile names to its pages despite a very restricted budget. Circulation increased by 50 per cent while she was in charge, a figure that has been the envy of many of her successors.
On the occasion of her marriage, the Rev John Stott said, 'Under your editorship, Third Way has been a blessing to hundreds of thousands.' An exaggeration perhaps, but she undoubtedly serves as a model to follow.