Thursday 1 March 2012

Britain is still a country where old men called Bishops of the Church of England make the laws of the land

Britain is one of the world's most secular societies, where only 7% ever go to church in a year, only 1.9% on any Sunday yet 26 bishops of the Church of England, all men and mostly old, sit in the 'House of Lords', are Christian by religion and represent a 'part' of the christian spectrum  in Britain.
Most of them are post Second World War baby boomers and in their 60's with 5 of them below 60 and the youngest at 56.
Known as the 'Lords Spiritual', they read Christian prayers at the start of each daily meeting and play an active role in making the laws which govern all citizens. Other Christians like Catholics and Methodist along with Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists have no overt voice.

They have been there for a long time. ABY Lords wide shotChristian leaders have had a hand in law making  since before the formation of the Church of England when, prior to the 11th century along with feudal landlords, they were regularly consulted by Saxon kings.

Their defenders today would argue that their presence in the Lords is an extension of their general vocation as bishops to preach God's word and to lead people in prayer. They  provide an important independent voice and spiritual insight to the work of the House of Lords and, while they make no claims to direct representation, they seek to be a voice for all people of faith, not just Christians.

Bishops in House of LordsAn image of King Edward I presiding over his parliament c.1300 with assembled Lords Spiritual on the left (Bishops in red with Abbots and Priors in black), Lords Temporal and members of the Commons on the right

An article appeared in the Gaurdian in 2010 entitled :

Goodbye to the bishops

The Lords is for people of all faiths and none: there is no space for reserved benches for the clergy

'Bishops in the Lords hold great sway over matters of life and death, most recently in organising to prevent right-to-die reform – against the will of 82% of voters. They helped engineer an exemption in the equalities bill to allow religious employers to discriminate against gays and others, though they run a third of all schools and increasing numbers of state-financed services, from hospices to care homes and day centres'.

The Bishop of Lichfield's maiden speech.  Is this an old man in touch with Modern Britain and in particular the urban young ?

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