Mr Speaker 'guides' Labour MPs on Church of England equality
MPs are queuing up in a concerted effort to impose equality upon the Church of England. Leading their ranks are Labour's Ben Bradshaw and Chris Bryant, who both doubtless have a further equality agenda in mind, just a little beyond the current vexatious one relating to episcopal gender.
This development is concerning, not least because (unlike some other Christian denominations) the Church of England has its own democratic structures for debating change and enacting legislation, and it's not even as if all of those who voted against the recent proposal are opposed in principle to women bishops: quite a few were manifestly unhappy with the wording of the legislation put before them, which both sustained anti-women discrimination and merely exhorted 'respect' for the traditionalists. It was a bit of a fudge, not to say a dog's breakfast.
But, in the myopic world of Westminster, it was simply and straightforwardly a vote against women bishops, and this is offensive for it breaches equality law; in particular, it reserves 26 places in the House of Lords exclusively for men, and we can't be having that, can we? And so the Prime Minister said he would 'look closely' at what Parliament might do, and then ranted that the Synod should 'get on with it' and 'get with the programme'.
The programme, presumably, being the equality agenda.
Which is odd, because he is presently assuring religious institutions (including the Established Church) of certain exemptions from another bit of the equality agenda - presumably because he knows that the next government will simply seek to impose that bit of equality upon the Church of England as well.
Mr Speaker informed Labour MP Diana Johnson that it wasn't for Tony Baldry to explain the implication of 'continuing discrimination of having only men eligible to sit in the House of Lords as bishops'. He exhorted her to approach Equalities Minister Maria Miller, who would then make a statement to the House of Commons.
Which is odd, because she, too, is presently assuring religious institutions (including the Established Church) of certain exemptions from another bit of the equality agenda - presumably because she, too, knows that the next government will simply seek to impose that bit of equality upon the Church of England as well
There is an undoubted 'tension' between equality legislation and religious liberty in the hierarchy of rights, which His Grace has spent six years expounding. He knew it would come to this juncture (and, indeed, it will go further). The bizarre thing is that politicians are seeking to impose a ecclesio-theological belief (with a majority of 1) upon an institution which sets a much higher democratic bar (66%) because such changes are not as straightforward as amending the Dangerous Dogs Act: we are dealing with centuries of church history, theological tradition, and the Word of God. 66% is actually the sort of threshold that ought to apply in Parliament for all constitutional reforms, which might then act as something of a deterrent to those politicians who treat Magna Carta, the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights as if they were no more than ordinary statutes.
It ought not to be for a simple illiberal majority to determine that religious affairs of others. Yet Ben Bradshaw is clearly intent on Parliament intervening to 'ensure that the overwhelming will of members of the Church of England, and of this country, is respected'.
Forget the need to find a solution that might be acceptable to everyone: this is now the raw politics of power. His Grace never thought he would say this, but disestablishment is a far more attractive option than this discredited, dysfunctional and deficient parliament imposing its secular will upon the religious conscience of the Church of England.