Thinking Anglicans

Faith Leaders Condemn Two-child limit on Universal Credit

Sixty bishops have joined with other faith leaders to condemn the UK government Two-child limit on Universal Credit policy.

This has been very widely reported in the media.

C of E press release Bishops call for rethink on two-child limit

Bishop Paul Butler writes: A blessing not a burden: why every child should be valued equally

End Child Poverty report: Unhappy Birthday! The Two-Child Limit at One Year Old

End Child Poverty press release

The full text of the letter and the list of signatories is copied below the fold.

Text of letter:

Sir, Today the “two-child limit” policy, which restricts tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in a family, has been in place for a year. The policy is making it harder for parents to achieve a stable and resilient family life. By 2021, 640,000 families will have been affected. Most are low-earning working families, most have three children and some will have made decisions about family size when they were able to support children through earnings alone, but later claimed tax credits or universal credit after bereavement, redundancy, separation, disability, illness or simply low pay.

The policy is expected to tip an estimated extra 200,000 children into poverty. It also conveys the regrettable message that some children matter less than others, depending on their place in the sibling birth order.

It is a grave concern that there are likely to be mothers who will face an invidious choice between poverty and terminating an unplanned pregnancy.

Children are a private joy and a public good. They are all equally deserving of subsistence support.

Signatories:

The Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London;
the Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham;
Harun Khan, secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain;
Gillian Merron, chief executive, Board of Deputies of British Jews;
Dr Philip McCarthy, chief executive, Caritas Social Action Network;
Alison Garnham, chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group;
Shaykh Mohammad Yazdani Raza (Misbahi), London Fatwa Council;
Jill Baker, vice-president of the Methodist Conference 2017-18;
The Rev Loraine N Mellor, president of the Methodist Conference 2017-18;
Sam Royston, chairman, End Child Poverty Coalition;
Paul Parker, recording clerk, Quakers in Britain;
the Rt Rev Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester;
the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich;
the Rt Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham;
the Rt Rev Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester;
the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry;
the Rt Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford;
the Rt Rev Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans;
the Rt Rev James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle;
the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth;
the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford;
the Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester;
the Rt Rev Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely;
the Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark;
the Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds;
the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury;
the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester;
the Rt Rev Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle;
the Rt Rev Tim Thornton, Trustee of Feeding Britain;
the Rt Rev Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester;
the Rt Rev Richard Frith, Bishop of Hereford;
the Rt Rev Paul Williams, Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham;
the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester;
the Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield;
the Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield;
the Rt Rev Peter Eagles, Bishop of Sodor and Man;
the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden;
the Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham;
the Rt Rev John Stroyan, Bishop of Warwick;
the Rt Rev Clive Gregory, Bishop of Wolverhampton;
the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow;
the Rt Rev Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford;
the Rt Rev Richard Blackburn, Bishop of Warrington;
the Rt Rev Geoff Annas, Bishop of Stafford;
the Rt Rev John Holbrook, Bishop of Brixworth;
the Rt Rev Jonathan Meyrick, Bishop of Lynn;
the Rt Rev Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney;
the Rt Rev Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon;
the Rt Rev Dr Edward Condry, Bishop of Ramsbury;
the Rt Rev Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley;
the Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon;
the Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Dudley;
the Rt Rev Richard Jackson, Bishop of Lewes;
the Rt Rev Paul Ferguson, Bishop of Whitby;
the Rt Rev Dr John Thomson, Bishop of Selby;
the Rt Rev David Court, Bishop of Grimsby;
the Rt Rev Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester;
the Rt Rev David Williams, Bishop of Basingstoke;
the Rt Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs, Bishop of Huddersfield;
the Rt Rev Dr Toby Howarth, Bishop of Bradford;
the Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley;
the Rt Rev Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone;
the Rt Rev Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington;
the Rt Rev Rod Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton;
the Rt Rev Anne Hollinghurst, Bishop of Aston;
the Rt Rev Jan McFarlane, Bishop of Repton;
the Rt Rev Mark Tanner, Bishop of Berwick;
the Rt Rev Robert Springett, Bishop of Tewksbury;
the Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Loughborough

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David Lamming
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David Lamming

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?

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

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.

Kate
Guest
Kate

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.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

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.

John U.K.
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John U.K.

“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

Picky
Guest
Picky

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

Malcolm
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Malcolm

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.

NJW
Guest
NJW

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.

Peter Owen
Guest

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/

Fr John E Harris-White
Guest
Fr John E Harris-White

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… Read more »

RevPeterM
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RevPeterM

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?

Flora Alexander
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Flora Alexander

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.

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

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

Kate
Guest
Kate

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.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

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… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
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Pete Broadbent

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

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

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.”

Kate
Guest
Kate

“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… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

‘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.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

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… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

*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/

crs
Guest
crs

“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.

Kate
Guest
Kate

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… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

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… Read more »

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

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… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

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…

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

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.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

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… Read more »

shamus
Guest
shamus

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.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“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… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

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!

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

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?

crs
Guest
crs

“…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… Read more »

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

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

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

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… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“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.”

Priscilla White
Guest
Priscilla White

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.

Laurie Roberts
Guest
Laurie Roberts

Canonical obedience only – in all things lawful and honest.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

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

David Runcorn
Guest

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.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“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.

David Runcorn
Guest

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?

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

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

Kate
Guest
Kate

“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… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

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.

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

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… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Guest
Bill Broadhead

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’!

robert williams
Guest
robert williams

No one is poor, when they have children.