Comments: Faith Leaders Condemn Two-child limit on Universal Credit

I'm always intrigued, when reading such letters with multiple signatories, why some other people in the category concerned have not signed. In this case, the letter has been signed by 26 out of 42 diocesan bishops (+ the Bishop at Lambeth and 33 suffragans.) Leaving aside Bristol and Truro (currently vacant), this leaves the two archbishops and 12 other diocesan bishops who did not sign the letter. Were they not asked, or were they asked and declined to sign? Or were they simply not able to be contacted in time by the person who was collecting the signatures?

Posted by David Lamming at Saturday, 7 April 2018 at 4:30pm BST

Maybe they didn't think it appropriate to be taking the moral high ground with the government, when we're not doing so well ourselves at looking after children?

I agree with the point they're making in the letter, but I did think it would be nice if we could get that many bishops to make an equally strong stand on mandatory reporting of abuse, or responding well to survivors. It's always easier to see the plank in someone else's eye than the log in your own.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 8:49am BST

Why is Sarah Mullally signing as "Bishop of London" before installation? Have we reached the stage at which the press release from Number Ten is more important than the service?

Signatories apart, it is obviously right to object to this. Should be more like it.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 11:48am BST

I think she is now formally (legally) the bishop of London, her appointment was ratified (or whatever they call it) recently. Installation and beginning work can actually occur some time after the person legally takes office. Just one more of the Church's weird practices.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 3:43pm BST

"Why is Sarah Mullally signing as "Bishop of London" before installation? Have we reached the stage at which the press release from Number Ten is more important than the service?" - Kate

She became Bishop of London from the date of her Confirmation of Election (March 8th). I am not sure if she has yet paid homage to the Crown. The Installation/Enthronement in the Cathedral is symbolic.
See http://peterowen.org.uk/articles/choosing.html

Posted by John U.K. at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 3:48pm BST

Bishop Mullally became Bishop of London in March. Installation follows.

Posted by Picky at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 3:50pm BST

Kate: Diocesan Bishops legally become bishop of their see from the Confirmation Service which in Sarah Mullally's case was 8 March and as tradition in the southern province held at St Mary le Bow. She has since attended a Privy Council meeting and sworn allegiance to HM the Queen as Bishop of London.

Posted by Malcolm at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 3:56pm BST

I understand that Sarah Mullally has been elected and confirmed as Bishop of London, has therefore taken up that office, and would therefore have the right to sign herself in that manner.

Posted by NJW at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 4:30pm BST

Kate - Bishop Sarah signs as Bishop of London because she is the Bishop of London and has been since her election was confirmed on 8 March 2018. The installation is "a grand, but largely symbolic, enthronement in the cathedral" to quote myself from here:

http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2014/07/28/choosing-diocesan-bishops-in-the-church-of-england/

Posted by Peter Owen at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 4:45pm BST

This TA seems easily to get diverted onto other matters.
When I married my wife in 1963, we looked forward to be Blessed with children. The state had nothing to do with it, and in those days made no contribution to a child,s upbringing.
Two matters concerned me as a husband. The health of my wife, and my income.
As it was the doctors informed us we should have only one child, with which we were richly Blessed.

I do not understand the idea that came in the 1970,s that women could have children as they wished, and the government would support them. Hence the growth of single mothers.

Parents should have children according to their health and means.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by Fr John E Harris-White at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 5:10pm BST

Old Men Forget! Fr John, in your day the reason the state had nothing to do with supporting your children was because child allowance was part of the tax system and was paid to you (not your wife). No doubt, so you could spend it on booze and fags and not the kids! The world has changed and now the government wants to punish poor children for being born. It is to oppose this that bishops have signed the letter. Why can't we celebrate that, rather than ignorantly carp about the signatories?

Posted by RevPeterM at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 6:47pm BST

Fr John Emlyn: There are two things everybody should be aware of. There is such a thing as contraceptive failure. Also there are woman in relationships where they are not able to resist their partner's demand for sex. It is a mistake to imagine that all women have complete control of their fertility. Further, the bishops have made the useful point that some parents may have made a decision about family size when they genuinely believed they could support more than two children, and later on found that for a number of possible reasons their resources are no longer adequate.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 7:33pm BST

Apologies. I posted my comment too soon. For 'woman' read 'women'!

Posted by Flora Alexander at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 7:36pm BST

John, presumably then you believe that all parents should pay for school costs rather than rely on the State to pay?

That's the oddity. There is little opposition to the State paying for the education of any number of children (so long as they don't want to go to university to move from working class to professional class) but somehow opinion favours children not having enough to eat: that is the effect of the present Universal Credit policy.


Posted by Kate at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 7:58pm BST

Fr John,
while it's admirable to know that you will always be able to look after your children, child benefit is society's way of recognizing that children are expensive but that having them benefits society as a whole.

I am getting increasingly concerned that we are privatizing our social responsibilities and expect to benefit from a well educated workforce and future tax payers without wanting to make contributions.
Tuition fees are based on the idea that only students benefit from their education, withdrawing child benefit is based on the idea that only well-off people should be allowed to have children and that it's fair to expect families to bear the whole cost of raising them, when all of society needs every new generation.

But what's really wrong here is that this benefit is suddenly being withdrawn from families who already have more than two children and whose financial plans included knowing that there would be support for them.

I'm delighted that the bishops spoke out.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 8:25pm BST

The Archbishops don't normally sign these sorts of letters. It's a policy decision.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 9:00pm BST

The complete picture regarding Bishop Sarah’s progress is as follows:
“The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally has been confirmed as the new Bishop of London. She will be installed as the 133rd Bishop of London at St Paul’s Cathedral on 12th May, and will be introduced to the House of Lords on 24th May. She was sworn as a member of the Privy Council on 14th March 2018.”

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 8 April 2018 at 9:43pm BST

"The complete picture regarding Bishop Sarah’s progress is as follows:... "

If for a CHURCH the definitive moment isn't the service, then that's pretty shocking. Indeed, according to the process Peter Owen linked (thank you), it is possible to be a diocesan bishop but not consecrated. Indeed, if she refused to take the oath of obedience or during the service was called by God to declare that she was not ready, she would still be the Bishop of London? Just what is the point of a consecration service if it is not to make someone a member of the order of episcopi? (I understand in her case she already is a bishop, but in a lot of case candidates aren't.) Indeed, the difficulty with reunion with the Methodists is that their bishops haven't been consecrated in apostolic succession but according to the process linked by Peter Owen, some CofE bishops haven't been either (even if it is hoped to be a temporary state pending expected consecration).

So, OK, legally she is the Bishop of London, but am I really the only one who is shocked by this?

Posted by Kate at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 6:57am BST

'So, OK, legally she is the Bishop of London, but am I really the only one who is shocked by this? '

Kate, I did say above that it's weird. I could have added 'and inappropriate'. But I'm not shocked now when the C of E does weird and inappropriate things. Too long in the tooth.

Posted by Janet Fife at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 10:02am BST

The process is not shocking, Kate, though many would regard it as archaic. It dates back to section 3 of the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533 (still in force), which you can read at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/Hen8/25/20/section/III

However, it is important to note that the 'Confirmation of Election' is conducted in the context of an act of worship, and concludes with the Archbishop of the province reading the 'charge' to the new diocesan bishop, which will be informed by what the vacancy in see committee of the diocese set out in its 'statement of needs.' I have attended two such 'confirmations' at St Mary-le-Bow church and they were not just formal legal ceremonies. (When Justin Welby was confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury, the ceremony, on 4 February 2013, took place in St Paul's Cathedral: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2013/1-february/news/uk/welby-becomes-archbishop-of-canterbury-in-ceremony-at-st-pauls.)

Posted by David Lamming at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 10:03am BST

*When I married my wife in 1963, we looked forward to be Blessed with children. The state had nothing to do with it, and in those days made no contribution to a child,s upbringing.*

Untrue, in the UK at least. There has been child allowance or a tax allowance or both since 1909.

https://revenuebenefits.org.uk/child-benefit/policy/where_it_all_started/

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 11:59am BST

"Too long in the tooth." -- all the way back to 1533?

It is good to be reminded that the historical and catholic claims of the CofE were grounded in the monarch, as distinct from the papacy.

How this carries on in present time, and has over the course of time, is another (serious) question.


Posted by crs at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 2:13pm BST

David, thank you for link to legislation.

My reading of it is that section III concerns the election of bishops. After election they are bishop-elect, but not a bishop until consecrated according to section IV. Section V confirms this, that people take up their responsibilities only once invested and consecrated. Sarah Mullally has already been consecrated as suffragan, but she has not been invested to the office. According to the legislation, she is not Bishop of London, merely Bishop-elect.

The whole rationale of the Appointment of Bishops Act is that the King (presently Queen) may command the Church to make bishops, according to correct liturgy and processes. The Act does *not* allow the Monarch him/herself to directly make bishops by fiat. Before someone takes up the office of bishop, the full process of the church, including consecration and installation, must be followed. Put another way, the entire intent and effect of Henry VIII's legislation was to make his church subject to royal command, not to make him Pope. Saying that Sarah Mullally is Bishop of London before installation is tantamount to saying that the Queen is now pope.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 3:26pm BST

By the way, having read the legislation, conservatives might want to say a prayer for Henry VIII (and presumably Thomas Cromwell). By retaining the (albeit rotten) election by the College of Canons, s52(5) of the Equality Act 2010 stops the Equality Act applying to the Crown selection of diocesan bishops.

My reading of the legislation, however, is that a diocesan bishop would be acting unlawfully if he discriminates on grounds of sexual orientation or marital status in recommending the appointment of asuffragan bishop. Essentially he is exercising a Crown, not Church, prerogative and the exceptions for the Church of England in the Equality Act 2010 would *not* seem to apply. Someone who better understands these things than me might want to consider the legal situation more carefully.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 5:27pm BST

Kate: I think it is this sentence in section IV of the 1533 Act that has the effect of making a bishop-elect legally the bishop of the diocese on the 'confirmation of election' ceremony:

"And yf the seid Deane and Chapyter or Pryor and Convent after suche licence and letters myssyves to theym directed, within the seid xij dayes do electe and chose the seid person mentioned in the seid lettres myssyves, accordyng to the requeste of the Kynges Highnes hys heires or successours therof to be made by the seid letters myssyves in that behalf, then theire eleccion shall stonde good and effectuall to all intentes; and that the person soo elected after certificacion made of the same eleccion under the commen and Covent seale of the electours to the Kynges Highnes hys heires or successours, shalbe reputed and taken by the name of Lorde elected of the seid Dignitie and office that he shalbe electid unto;"

(For "Deane and Chapyter" read now "College of Canons": see section 5(3) of the Cathedrals Measure 1999.)

In any event, it is undoubtedly the case that it is from this moment that the new diocesan bishop becomes the bishop. This is how it is described by David Pocklington in a 2016 post on the Law and Religion UK website:

"The person named takes oaths of allegiance to the Crown and obedience to the Archbishop, and at that point becomes in law the bishop of the diocese. It is this confirmation of election that commits to the new diocesan “the care, government and administration of the Spirituals of the said Bishopric”. In cases where the person has not previously been consecrated as bishop, s/he must be so consecrated before s/he can perform the sacramental acts of a bishop.

"At the end of the ceremony, the Archbishop gives the new bishop his or her Mission – the mandate or authority to continue the mission entrusted to the Church in a particular place and at a particular time. This statement draws on the Crown Nominations Commission’s discussion of the tasks facing the new bishop, both in the diocese and more widely within the House of Bishops, which in turn will have been informed by the statement of the needs of the diocese agreed by the diocesan Vacancy in See Committee and also on the Archbishops’ statement of the requirements of the mission of Church of England as a whole." See http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2016/04/20/bishops-from-announcement-to-installation/

Posted by David Lamming at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 5:33pm BST

No, it's the legal *confirmation* of election that does it. You have an act of worship, then a bunch of lawyers get up and go through an elaborate legal to and fro to "prove" that she is elected. Whether you like it or not, that's the legality. If you really want to know what difference it makes, the Bishop, once confirmed, can sign things. Which as we know is the essence of what it means to be a bishop...

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 5:40pm BST

I can't offer any thoughts about the effect of the 1533 Act in relation to the present Bishop of London.
But purely as a matter of historical interest, one notes that the 1533 Act pre-dated the Dissolution of the Monasteries and still refers to the Prior and Convent in the case of the monastic cathedrals. I believe at that era the liturgy remained essentially unchanged and still 'Catholic'. The 'Protestant' Reformation came later.

Posted by Rowland Wateridge at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 6:16pm BST

Mr Lamming, your quote seems to refer to the election rather than the confirmation thereof. Later in that section the archbishop and bishops are commanded to confirm the election AND invest and consecrate the person AND give him all such ceremonies requisite for the same. There is nothing to suggest confirmation is the only or main or effective stage.

Kate, the pope confirms elections in his church but bishops are bishops elect even after this until consecrated. If Mr Lamming and Bishop Broadbent are correct it is the Archbishop claiming a fiat never claimed by any pope or sovereign.

The rubrics to the 1662 Ordinal say nobody shall be accounted a bishop unless admitted to that role according to the form of Consecration. Welby claimed to be Bishop of Durham for 29 days before consecration.

Following Pope Leo's denunciation of Anglican orders the Archbishops of Canterbury and York response never argued consecration was unneccessary.

If indeed consecration and institution are unnecessary, and the Queen inessential, more proof should exist than the mere assertion of a hobbyist website or bishop that it is so, a la Baptismal Integrity. What specific law counters the Ordinal or reinterprets Henry's laws? In the absence of concrete proof, are we to take the website/bishop as overriding all laws!

Posted by T Pott at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 10:43pm BST

See Hansard 16th July 1984 for the debate when the CofE attempted to abolish the election by Diocesans by Colleges of Canons dating from the 1533 act. Enoch Powell late one night ensured it was defeated. I find the debate sad and pathetic to read now, and a few MPs scuppered the abolition that night, and as far as I am aware no one has bothered to try to get rid of the charade since. Henry VIII would doubtless be deeply unimpressed by this observation.

Posted by shamus at Monday, 9 April 2018 at 10:50pm BST

"You have an act of worship, then a bunch of lawyers get up and go through an elaborate legal to and fro to "prove" that she is elected. Whether you like it or not, that's the legality."

The legislation is clear that this submission of proof is necessary before an elected person becomes bishop so as Pete Broadbent says, the confirmation of election service is not associated with a change of status. However, where I disagree with Pete is that there are two separate aspects of becoming bishop - secular and ecclesiastical. It is quite clear from the section David quoted that the secular perquisites of being a bishop (eg precedence at Court) are granted once the Monarch accepts proof of confirmation of election (assuming that the new bishop has taken the Oath of Allegiance, if not this needs to occur before secular status is granted).

The process involves both Crown and Church. They are entwined but separate. Secular status occurs upon an action of the Crown - acceptance of confirmation of election - but ecclesiastical status occurs upon an action, or actions, of the Church, and manifestly must do so. It is actually impossible for both to be granted at the same time. The legislation contains various repetitions of this sentiment "requyring and commaundyng suche Archabishope to whome any suche significacion shalbe made, to invest and consecrate the seid persone so electid to the office and Dignitie that he is elected unto," It is clear from the legislation that this liturgy - consecration and installation - is what grants ecclesiastical status and that the Church *cannot* legally grant ecclesiastical status until *after* the Monarch has accepted confirmation of election. This is the point at which the new Bishop, for example, becomes responsible for the cure of souls within the geographical area of his/her Diocese.

Since people aren't accustomed these days to thinking of bishops as both Lords of the Court and Episcopi, I understand why people conflate the two, but the legislation clearly separates them. I believe the text book is wrong.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 5:51am BST

Bishops have to make an oath of obedience to the archbishop? And we have been wondering why bishops seem to lose their backbones once appointed!

Posted by Janet Fife at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 8:21am BST

Bishops are speaking out against a social justice and poverty issue - and we get lost in discussing legal aspects of whether one of them should be allowed to call herself a bishop yet?
Really?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 10:59am BST

"...the entire intent and effect of Henry VIII's legislation was to make his church subject to royal command, not to make him Pope."

If one wants to compare (Roman) Catholic and Anglican thinking, it is hard to imagine a more eccentric way for the powerful Archbishop of Canterbury to come into that authority than what exists at present in the CofE. Popes are elevated to that position by a far more coherent method, involving fellow Bishops. As noted above re: oaths of Bishops in the CofE, following the Anglican practice of selecting the Archbishop of Canterbury, that person in turn exercises enormous authority in the CofE, and latterly, by virtue of recent developments, in the AC.

Posted by crs at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 11:33am BST

Clergy have to make an oath of canonical obedience to their Diocesan bishop, Janet - what's the difference?

Posted by Jennifer at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 12:18pm BST

My disbelief is at least equivalent to that of Victor Meldrew!

Come on guys, this is about as serious a moral issue as it gets, where issues of potentially greater levels of child poverty are starring us in the face, and we allow ourselves to be diverted by one acerbic question about whether or not Sarah Mullally should be using her territorial signature. No wonder my fellow Irishman, Stanley Monkhouse, felt he needed to 'get out a bit more' and keep away from this place for Lent. This really is a travesty, and a perfect snapshot of how the 'crowd dynamic' works. Some of us, it seems, have plenty to say about how the Church failed to act over one form of child abuse, but not another.

Perhaps I can re-set the agenda and say that I have written a letter to my MP, citing the concern of the bishops, and asking some trenchant questions about the likely impact of the new Universal Credit arrangements. Would anyone care to join me?

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 1:15pm BST

"In the Name of God, Amen. I N. chosen Bishop of the Church and See of N. do profess and promise all due reverence and obedience to the Archbishop and to the Metropolitical Church of N. and to their Successors: So help me God, through Jesus Christ."

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 1:47pm BST

I "love" the fact that most of this thread is related to the niceties of episcopal election process rather than the issue the letter was about which risks driving some families more deeply into poverty.

Posted by Priscilla White at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 2:08pm BST

Canonical obedience only - in all things lawful and honest.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 3:37pm BST

Michael Mulhern,
writing to our MP pointing to the bishops' letter is an excellent initiative. I shall follow your example, thank you!

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 4:11pm BST

You need to read the whole service of consecration and the question and promises which outline what Godly obedience asks of them.
I am all for robust critical discussion but am I alone in finding a relentless strand of mocking personalised comment whenever bishops are the subject rather tedious and lacking in grace.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 10 April 2018 at 7:18pm BST

"You need to read the whole service of consecration and the question and promises which outline what Godly obedience asks of them."

Jesus in Matthew 23 spoke about clerics who give oaths which sound fulsome to lay observers but by which they intend to mean much less. One of my heroes is Sir Thomas More who faced a traitors death rather than swear an oath intending not to keep strictly to the words spoken.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 11 April 2018 at 1:07am BST

Kate Yes he did - though the 'cleric' and 'lay observers' is not without spin at this point. In Matthew 7 Jesus also said, 'Do not judge, so that you may not be judged' - unless you really suggesting that consecrations in the CofE are routinely events of collective, episcopal hypocrisy?

Posted by David Runcorn at Wednesday, 11 April 2018 at 9:12am BST

Thanks, Erika. Looks like we're lone voices in this vast swamp of inward-looking eccelsiastical obsession.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Wednesday, 11 April 2018 at 1:20pm BST

"unless you really suggesting that consecrations in the CofE are routinely events of collective, episcopal hypocrisy"

The whole process of making bishops in the Church of England is twin-track - in (overly)-simplistic terms, legalistic and liturgical. In terms of the meaning of the oath of obedience, you (correctly I believe) explained the meaning of the oath in legal terms. I am suggesting, however, that candidates should be taught that, since God is invoked and made a party, they should consider in the light of Matthew 23 whether He might have a very different understanding of the oath.

"Looks like we're lone voices in this vast swamp of inward-looking eccelsiastical obsession."

They signed a petition calling on *someone else* to pay to reduce poverty. Good, but hardly earth-shattering. If those who signed really believe that children are living in poverty, why aren't they calling on the Church urgently to use *our* saved assets? Why do we have assets if not to assist those in need? The Church of England has become more establishment than church, and that is what we are discussing on this thread. You might see it as unrelated to the content of the letter; I don't.


Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 11 April 2018 at 6:24pm BST

Kate I do not accept your claim that someone becoming a bishop needs to be taught what Matt 23 means. I am not sure how you know this to be the case. Nor am I explaining the oath in 'legal terms'. I actually pointed to the promises that follow that are all about faithfulness to gospel living and witness.

Posted by David Runcorn at Wednesday, 11 April 2018 at 8:46pm BST

I did try at quite an early stage to confront the unthinking 'Why do people have chldren if they can't afford them?' position. Since then I've been hoping that the emphasis, in comments here, on the question when a bishop can call herself a bishop is a sign that we all agree with the faith leaders who signed the letter. Over the last year I have been surprised that churches have appeared to be very quiet about this measure, which I consider to be appalling. Scottish women MPs and MSPs have drawn attention to the issue, but I haven't been aware of many other people highlighting the implications of it. Like the fact that a woman pregnant as a result of 'non-consensual conception' with a third or subsequent child will have to make an official statement about this circumstance.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Wednesday, 11 April 2018 at 9:21pm BST

Bravo Michael, Erika and Flora. After reading how this thread has developed I think I may give this site a wide berth for Eastertide, and use the time more constructively to work away at the injustices that are impacting on the most vulnerable in our society.

In the meantime, given all I've read here, I really do think this should be renamed 'Sad, Eccelsiastically-Obsessed Anglicans Who Need To Get Out A Bit More Often'!

Posted by Bill Broadhead at Thursday, 12 April 2018 at 7:54am BST

No one is poor, when they have children.

Posted by robert williams at Tuesday, 17 April 2018 at 8:10am BST
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