The stirrings of the Lords Spiritual
The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, said that the Lords Spiritual were not there to hang on to some archaic public privilege, but to speak for God in the public domain. He described other faith leaders as being supportive of the bishops’ speaking out, but maintained that this would be far more difficult if they had to stand for election.
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, spoke against an all-elected second chamber, saying: ‘We should note that election does not bring the following: an age-range of 18-90; the breadth of experience through luck in life, sheer hard work, which leads to some appointments; specialist gifts in areas of life; and conscience and values which stem from beyond the elector.’ These made for wisdom, and, most importantly, freedom. Dr Sentamu said that the Lords Spiritual saw themselves not as representatives, but as connectors with the people and parishes.
Spiritual insight and an independent voice on the political process will be lost if the proposed reforms of the House of Lords go ahead. The consensus among the Lords Spiritual is that their quota of 26 should be retained; any tampering with this risks a move towards disestablishment. This is supported even by Lord Harries, formerly the Bishop of Oxford, though he qualified this with a request to the Statutory Appointments Commission to appoint distinguished people who could represent other Christian denominations and other faiths.
Cranmer has a slight concern over the possibility of Lord Hamza entering the legislature. It remains to be seen precisely how those who represent 'other faiths' will be selected. Islam has no unified voice, and an appointee from the Muslim Council of Britain is likely to be viewed as a compromised, establishment figure. Will there be a Shi'a as well as Sunni, and what of the Sufi? And will any of these representatives of Islam be female, and if not why not? And if no gender quota is to be imposed upon the Mohammedans, why should it be imposed upon the Lords Temporal?
And Cranmer wonders, amidst all this tampering and meddling, whether the Vatican will drop its long-held opposition to Lords-Cardinal...