THINKING ANGLICANS

bishops in the House of Lords

Two items from politics.co.uk by Alex Stevenson:

Church fights on as bishop threat grows

The Church of England has rejected suggestions from Jack Straw it will give up its seats in the House of Lords without a fight.

Ending the association would be a “retrograde step”, a spokesman told politics.co.uk, after heavy hints from the justice secretary yesterday that bishops may no longer be welcome.

Mr Straw told an Unlock Democracy seminar the exclusive presence of the Church of England among Britain’s religions in parliament was “anomalous” but refused to indicate whether he believed, in a predominantly elected House of Lords, their historic place should be protected.

He said he hopes a transition to an elected House of Lords will take place over three parliamentary cycles, meaning the decision on whether to go to an 80 per cent or 100 per cent elected chamber will not have to be taken for some years…

Analysis: Should bishops remain in the Lords?

One of the most distinctive features of the ‘mother of all parliaments’ is the institutionalised guarantee of seats for the Church of England’s top cloth. Twenty-six bishops are allowed to sit in the Lords by virtue of their ecclesiastical position as the ‘lords spiritual’.

It was the case half a millennium ago. It is the case today. It may not be the case in ten years’ time.

Up for grabs is the entire makeup of parliament’s second chamber – the extent of its powers, how it will be chosen, even its name. Jack Straw revealed yesterday his preference is for the Lords to be renamed the Senate. That gives a flavour of the extent of the changes afoot…

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Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

As a member of the Established Church, I should be delighted if the bishops were removed from the Lords. If the Church of England’s leadership had proved a bit smarter at making sure by now that the bishops represented a wider range of backgrounds, perhaps they could have an ongoing role… but as it is, they are an exclusively male, mainly independent-school-educated, nearly all white, pretty homophobic lobby unelected by anyone, least of all their own membership: how could they be said to represent either the Church’s members or the wider society in any way? When they have been removed… Read more »

Andrew
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Andrew

When I was a post-graduate student in England in the 1970s, the joke was that England was becoming so much like America that it was almost a fifty-first state. Now if you rename the House of Lords, and call it a Senate, it will be perfectly positioned for such a transition, since most American states have Senates. Straw ought to be ashamed of himself. England should remain England, and the Church of it should have Lord Bishops in its House of Lords. We Anglophile Americans love titles such as “The Right Revd and Right Honourable the Lord Bishop of Rochester”… Read more »

peterpi
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peterpi

I’m a Yank, so feel free to tell me to mind my own business, but … I’m trying to imagine 5 seats in the United States Senate being permanently reserved for the Episcopal Church. The Senators Spiritual … Their first problem would be that the late-night talk-show hosts would have a field day. I know England has a long and grand history, but the country nowadays is a modern secular state. Does the Prime Minister still nominate Archbishops of Canterbury? Other archbishops? Bishops? You’d think the CofE would want to run its own affairs, without political influence. And in return… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

From the point of view of an inter-dependent part of the world-wide Anglican Communion – in New Zealand, where we have no official state/church relationship – the continuation of the quasi-feudal system where the Anglican Church of England is represented in the Upper House of Parliament, seems counter to the concept of democratic government and religious freedom. In a day and age where the whole concept of prince-bishops is seen by the laity as a more *temporal* than *spiritual* reality; and where bishops no longer expect to be addressed in cap-doffing manner as “My Lord”; the perception of bishops as… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

It is sad, for a country that is not obsessed with the separation of church and state (but unlike the one on the west side of the Atlantic, still can’t hypocritically keep religion out of it’s politics) that it can’t have a dignified representation of the faithful in it’s national assembly. However, the actions, or lack of by such in bringing more of an equitable society for has largely relegated them to be an anachronism of their own creation. As the more protestant types in my family were fond of saying, perhaps heretically, “God helps those who help themselves.” On… Read more »

Dennis
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Dennis

Isn’t Iran the only other country with guaranteed parliament seats for religious leaders? Nice company you are keeping there, England. I would say join the 21st century but this is more like a 19th or even 18th century issue.

Simon Sarmiento
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peterpi wrote: “I know England has a long and grand history, but the country nowadays is a modern secular state.” This is not in fact the case. As the blurb for a recent new book on disestablishment put it: “In England particularly, religious freedom is not yet accompanied by religious equality: the monarch cannot be or be married to a Roman Catholic, and has to be in communion with the Church of England – a requirement which rules out not only all Roman Catholics but all non-Trinitarian Christians as well as people belonging to other religions or none. This system… Read more »

Kennedy
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Kennedy

‘Isn’t Iran the only other country with guaranteed parliament seats for religious leaders?’

Also, the UK (through the Church of England) has a parliamentary system that has 26 seats only open to those of a male persuasion.

And we won’t mention religious representation from other nations within the UK.

Fr Mark
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Andrew: “We Anglophile Americans love titles such as “The Right Revd and Right Honourable the Lord Bishop of Rochester” “ We might all love the title, but be rather less enamoured of its most recent holder… I don’t think the title would change, though, would it? Not all bishops sit in the Lords, yet the correct form of address for all is “My Lord Bishop”: similarly, many hereditary peers no longer have a seat in the Lords, (or, if they were Irish peers, perhaps never did) yet are stil “Lord So-and-so.” It isn’t so much the title as the unelected… Read more »

Walsingham
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Walsingham

@Fr. Ron Smith:

(OT, I know, but I have to ask. Apologies to our fine hosts.)

You’re in Kiwiland? All this time I was thinking you were in Newfoundland for some reason. (Or do I have you confused with someone else?)

Pshee, talk about getting it wrong.

Gerry Lynch
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Note to the Americans reading this: the House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom; the Church of England is the established church of England. There is a difference. In Scotland the Presbyterian Church is the established church. In Wales (since 1920) and Northern Ireland (since 1871) there is no established religion. I find it obnoxious that a church which is here a “foreign” church and has no ecclesiastical jurisdiction, gets to vote on laws that affect me through a system of patronage that has no accountability to me. Time to scrap it. The… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

There should be no reserved seats in the legislature for any sectarian interest other than those which are elected

Andrew Holden
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Andrew Holden

“I know England has a long and grand history, but the country nowadays is a modern secular state.” Thanks God it is not – certainly not secular and probably not modern! Reform of the HoL should be exactly that. Removing anachronistic weaknesses but building on the strengths of the past. Replacing the HoL with just another lot of elected, self-serving, buffoons (similar to those in the lower house) would hardly be an improvement. We don’t need more professional politicians – we do need people of proven ability from all walks of life (including the religious communities), who understand the meaning… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“You’re in Kiwiland? All this time I was thinking you were in Newfoundland for some reason. (Or do I have you confused with someone else?)”
– Walsingham –

No. You’re confusing me with another ‘free-thinker’ – my old friend Ford Elms. In Kiwiland we also pride ourselves on our angularity.

“In Wales (since 1920) and Northern Ireland (since 1871) there is no established religion.”
– Gerry Lynch –

And I was thinking that Ireland was governed by Roman Catholics. Sorry, couldn’t resist that.

Gerry Lynch
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Gerry Lynch

“we do need people of proven ability from all walks of life (including the religious communities), who understand the meaning of public service, dedicated to acting independently and as a counter and reform to the many nonsenses proposed by the ruling party in Government.” And who decides who these wonderful, saintly, people are? You need to have some method of election or selection. Either the people elect them or some self-selecting group does – which is pretty much what happens at present: currently, all three main parties get a ration every year and the NI Unionist parties set the odd… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

“Personally, I’d always put the representation of the people to a vote of the people – democracy, what a radical idea, eh. It’s the only way of making sure people get *exactly* what they deserve.” Except that it usually doesn’t work out that way Gerry, you see, somebody on this thread mentioned something about “professional politicians”, and that’s exactly what we get in the states, retreads that keep coming back, giving speeches on what the people want to hear, then doing something completely else when they get into office, thanks in large to the lobbyists that work for the Fortune… Read more »

Gerry Lynch
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choirboyfromhell, With the greatest of respect, you are talking absolute tripe. Inherited wealth acts and uses power in its own interests the same way as any other group does. The high-minded “elite-ocracy”, for example your own old-school North Eastern Episcopalian élite, have always governed primarily in their own interests. Look at how long it took them to allow Jews into their universities on the same terms as they were, for example. The people leading the argument against, for example, universal healthcare in the US tend to be the children of inherited wealth (as are the CEOs of many Fortune 500… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

Yes Gerry, it was Ted Kennedy who inherited his grandfather’s illegal booze business wealth of the 1920’s and acted so selfishly with that position that he championed universal health care here to his dying day. For every Franklin Roosevelt and Nelson Rockefeller there will probably be a Dick Cheney (who didn’t have a lot of inherited wealth by the way) and “W”, and having sung in the Bush’s church at Greenwich, CT, I can certainly tell you that there is a vast difference between father and son. To judge a person on money via a “poor” person is just as… Read more »

Gerry Lynch
Guest

Choirboy, I’m not judging anyone by how much money they have. I judge people by what sort of person they are and how they behave, not where they’re from. You were the one positing the idea that an “appointed elite-ocracy” is OK, based on the premise that “the only honest money is inherited money”. I disagree. I take the view that if you’re not accountable to me, don’t presume to rule me, and people who inherit money come in the same variety of saints, scum and weird combinations of the two that the rest of us do. I’ve voted for… Read more »

peterpi
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peterpi

“And none of this answers the question about why the Church of England is scrabbling about for temporal power in the Upper House of Parliament, which is to me the really important question in all this.” — Gerry Lynch ******* Because they are temporal themselves? Because power never gives up power without a fight? Because it’s always been this way? Because the Sermon on the Mount is OK for the masses sitting in the pews, but they know better? Because it’s all fine and dandy for Jesus of Nazareth to renounce earthly kingdoms and power, but you can’t expect them… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

Gerry, The problem we have with politicians, and probably the electors themselves, is that the elected act if they are not accountable once they get in there and that the choice for electors is either between two extremes, or worse yet, two that differ very little, and get bought out by the lobbyists once in power. The power elite in the U.S. lies with “beltway” power brokers of military vendors/contractors, Fortune 500 and government bureaucrats that tend to stick around election after election. As an American I too would be uneasy with a claque of religious leaders appointed to my… Read more »

john
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john

Personally,

I’d abolish bishops.

Gerry Lynch
Guest

peterpi – the Lords Spiritual do not vote as a bloc, not on The Gay Stuff and not on anything else. They’re not beholden to any party whip, and vote their own conscience (but then, so do most members of the House of Lords, even the party members). Apart from opposing the idea of religiously appointed parliamentarians on grounds of both democratic and Christian principle, for every Richard Harries you get as a Lord Spiritual, you get a Michael Scott-Joynt. Choirboy – not disagreeing with that; that’s why you need an active and involved citizenship. John – abolishing bishops isn’t… Read more »

Andrew Holden
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Andrew Holden

Gerry, “Personally, I’d always put the representation of the people to a vote of the people – democracy, what a radical idea” Personally, I think democracy sucks only slightly less than the alternatives. So here’s the radical idea, a HoL that acts as a counter to the mistakes and excesses of democracy and is non-political, non-professional, paid only a representative stipend. They would be people who have proved their worth in many other areas of human life and activity and dedicated to serving their country and following their individual, informed conscience. How to pick them? Well you might as well… Read more »