Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Church of England: it's tricky when your laity are more conservative than your leaders

As a Roman Catholic (of sorts, I at least have the good grace to feel guilty about my non-existent church attendance), I am the last person to take pleasure over the Church of England's discomfort over women bishops. No, really I am, even if I do occasionally refer to it as religion for people who are not keen on this 'God business'.

But the vote by the Church of England laity to (effectively) reject the notion of women bishops does bring into sharp question the right of bishops to sit in the House of Lords and make law for the rest of us.

Admittedly, their collective voting records is shockingly poor, with most of them taking part in less than 3% of Lords divisions, but in an age when most people in this country have come to terms with the concept of equality, the idea that one corner of a Parliamentary chamber is a male-only zone is a hard one to swallow.

Ironically, the bishops were never really there for their political skills, they were there as major landowners. Yes, their voice was a significant one, but in days of yore it was because they had lots of wealth - something that kings needed to fight wars.

Do the bishops make a significant contribution to the work of Parliament? No, not really. Would they be better off concentrating on their leadership role in their dioceses? Yes. Can you justify rewarding institutional misogyny? I think not.

Time to sweep the Lords clean of them, I think...

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