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Time for bishops to leave the House of Lords

The Government has released plans to reform the House of Lords, replacing an entirely unelected chamber with a wholly or partly elected chamber.

The plans are that the House of Lords should be either 100% or 80% elected. I don't want to express an opinion about whether it should be 80% or 100%. But if we are going to appoint 20% I want to make sure that that does not include, as a matter of right, 26 Anglican bishops. Of course if some committee decides it wants to appoint any bishops, fine. And to be honest someone like Rowan Williams is probably the kind of person I would want.

But we cannot continue to have a constitution that deliberately favours one particular religion and one particular denomination. It should not be the right of 26 Anglican bishops to vote on national legislation.

Last year as part of the Power 2010 movement, over 50,000 people wrote emails to those 26 bishops asking them to support a pro-demoncracy reform that would include an elected House of Lords. I don't know if there was ever any official response from the bishops, but perhaps now is the time for another letter writing campaign.

It's frankly embarrassing and undemocratic to still have religious officials in our Parliament like this, and now is the time to get them out.

What a wonderful Christ-like witness it would be if they voluntarily left, rather than hanging on to their antiquated powers. But if they don't do it, the people should make it clear that we don't want them there.

Comments

Rich said…
Sadly, the bill makes it clear that if the 80% option is taken, 12 of the 26 bishops will be allowed to remain indefinitely, with the Church of England itself electing them each term.

I totally agree with you that they should leave, but this will be seen as a move towards disestablishment, which somehow England has resisted every time it's come up (although Wales and Northern Ireland were disestablished, and their Lords Spiritual were banished from the Lords accordingly).
sewa mobil said…
Nice article, thanks for the information.
Anna Trapnel said…
While we're on the topic of bishops, I'd love to hear your comments on this:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/25/church-england-gay-clergymen-williams

I've been following your blog, Stephen, and find it really interesting; as I say, I'd be intrigued to hear your take on all this. I'm by turns inspired by, and dissapointed in, Rowan Williams. The poor old CofE. Who'd be an Anglican?
@Anna, not me! Which is kind of the point. The endless pursuit of "unity" does not work, as people on the left or right will vote with their feet and leave. And they have done. They've avoided an institutional schism so far, but schisms are happening all the time. You can't please everyone. You have to decide on what is right.

That whole article is very sad. It's not great for a confidential process to be leaked like that, and it is only from one person's point of view. Appointment processes can be difficult in all kinds of ways.

But the larger point is that the way the established church works makes it very difficult for anyone to stick to Christian virtues of honesty and integrity.
Yewtree said…
Hi Stephen, I agree it's crazy that there are still bishops in the House of Lords, and would personally support full disestablishment of the CofE.

I mainly dropped by to say how excellent I thought your article in The Inquirer, "Get Faith out of Government" was.

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