Comments: Lords reform postponed: "bishops safe"

No the bishops are not safe. To use one of these fashionable numbered lists:

1 The Lords is not fit for purpose. it is vastly over size and stuffed with party donors and ex-Whips. About 1/4 of its members are ex-MPs. As Walter Bagehot said 150 years ago, "the cure for reverence for the house of Lords is to go and listen to it". Which I have, during the debates on civil partnerships on religious premises.
1.1 Now that reform has been abandoned the pressure to add yet more party donors and ex-Whips will become irresistible. Instead of an unfit house of 800, the next govt will face an unfit house of 900.
2.The bishops cannot claim that they represent religion. They represent one religion in one of the four constituents of the UK (albeit the largest). See Frank Cranmer's post.
2.1. Where religious opinions differ, as currently over equality issues, the only wise and prudent thing is to insist on religious freedom but otherwise stay silent.
2.2 The bishops create a "West Lothian question" in reverse (Cranmer again). Why do these guys think they have a right to vote on matters affecting Wales, Scotland, or Ulster? As a Scottish (albeit expat) Quaker, I feel this twice over. I would still feel it if I belonged to my birthright Church of Scotland.
3. Some of them seem blithely unaware how far out of step they are now on women bishops (although they have been warned by Tony Baldry among others) and on gay marriage. There is nothing wrong with being out of step if one's religion so dictates, but this amounts to a plea - which Quakers support 100% - for religious freedom, not for some religious people to impose their ideology or theology on everyone else.

Posted by Iain McLean at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 5:07pm BST

Can imagine that when Our Lord called the Twelve, he ever expected them to devolve into "bishops safe"? }-/

Posted by JCF at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 8:42pm BST

Dear Iain,

'The bishops cannot claim that they represent religion. They represent one religion in one of the four constituents of the UK'

The religion they represent, uniquely in the UK, submits to parliamentary oversight of its doctrines, liturgy and ecclesiology. In return for this extraordinary level of democratic accountability, I think it's perfectly fair and morally sound that the Church of England gets its extraordinary seats in the House of Lords, and its extraordinary automatic access to registered charity status without having to pass any further public benefit test. As I understand it, both the Society of Friends and the Church of Scotland _chose_ not to enter into a similar quid pro quo, back in the seventeenth century - and I don't really think either denomination has any intention of reversing that choice now.

Posted by Feria at Sunday, 12 August 2012 at 12:52pm BST

The whole business of Bishops in the House of Lords is unique to the Church of England. There would need to be agreement of both parties - Church and Parliament - to discontinue the arrangement. It is up to the Church of England to consider whether the present arrangement is both equitable and just.

Thank goodness other Churches of the Communion are not tied to the political party of the hour.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 13 August 2012 at 12:34am BST

Feria: not quite correct. Scotland came in by treaty in 1707. One term was that the English not interfere in the church of Scotland (violated 1712, rectified 1874). S of F was exempted from Anglican monopoly of marriage in 1753, other denoms not till 1830s. See my "what's wrong with the british constitution?" OUP 2010 excuse iPhone typing

Posted by Iain McLean at Monday, 13 August 2012 at 8:47am BST

Thanks Iain. I'll look out for a copy of your book.

I was thinking a little further back than the Act of Union: for the Church of Scotland, to the differing Scottish and English outcomes of the Westminster Assembly; and for the Society of Friends, to the breakdown of the 1688 BCP revision process.

Posted by Feria at Monday, 13 August 2012 at 1:14pm BST
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