The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Tony Baldry, MP for Banbury) answered questions on behalf of the Church Commissioners in the House of Commons yesterday.
Here are two of the questions and answers.
Appointment of Bishops
1. Natascha Engel (North East Derbyshire) (Lab): What recent representations the Church Commissioners have received on the criteria for the appointment of bishops in the Church of England; and if he will make a statement.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Tony Baldry): The canons require that anyone to be considered and consecrated as a bishop at present has to be male and over 30.
Natascha Engel: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that answer. The Archbishop of Canterbury has recently written a newspaper article saying that it is okay to be a gay bishop as long as one is celibate. Where does the Church of England stand on people in civil partnerships? If they are celibate, are they okay to be bishops too?
Tony Baldry: There is no Church of England rule that prevents a celibate person in a civil partnership from being considered for appointment as a bishop. The issue is whether someone in that position could act as a focus for unity in a diocese. That would have to be considered by those responsible for making any episcopal appointment.
Partners of Vicars
8. Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): What training and support the Church of England provides to those who become partners of Church of England vicars after their ordination.
Tony Baldry: When undertaking parish ministry, a curate and their family are able to access support from a number of people, including their bishop and their director of curate training.
Dr Huppert: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a massive asymmetry between the treatment of those who become partners pre-ordination and post-ordination? If the Church expects such partners to play an active role, it should try to ensure that those who join their partner post-ordination get at least equivalent training.
Tony Baldry: I think everyone recognises that being a vicar is not an easy job. Betjeman succinctly observed:
“When things go wrong it’s rather tame
To find we are ourselves to blame.
It gets the trouble over quicker
To go and blame things on the Vicar.”
Every clergyman deserves our full support for what they do in the community, and their spouses – whether pre-ordination or post-ordination – deserve our support, because they are often on the front line of helping parishioners in the community. I very much hope that if any clergy spouse does not feel that she is getting full support, she will get in touch with me and I will make jolly sure that her diocesan bishops and others ensure that she gets the support that she deserves.
Other questions were about gift aid, ethical criteria for investments, VAT on church repairs, and heritage grants for churches