Monday, May 28, 2012

I think we should keep Anglican bishops in a reformed House of Lords

From The London Telegraph-

The debate continues about the place of the Church of England's bishops, the 'Lords Spiritual', in the House of Lords. At the moment 26 archbishops and bishops are allowed to sit in the upper house, a small number in the midst of over 800 members. Of course, their presence in Parliament flies in the face of a steady progression of wisdom from the Enlightenment onwards: religion and politics are best (at best) sharing a fence not sharing a bed. But the present debate is not really about the influence of religion on politics, good or bad, but rather about keeping on-board the input of an unlikely but valuable group of men.

Here are three non-religious reasons I believe the bishops are worth preserving in the UK's Parliament: they are unelected, they are pastoral and they are vulnerable.

Why should we allow anyone unelected to have political power? Well, the bishops actually occupy a unique position. They are neither born to rule like the aristocracy was in the past, nor are they elected in the normal democratic process. There is nothing wrong with elections of course, and I am passionate about voting in them, but there's often quite a lot wrong about striving to win them. An ambitious vicar may play games in ecclesiastical politics to try to be ordained a bishop but I don't think he would spend his clerical career seeking secular political power by trying to become a bishop. 

It just wouldn't make sense – and the House of Lords would not give him that sort of power anyway. Few people would want to return to the privilege of power through blood, despite its usefulness in older, wilder times – perhaps most especially not the one who in Britain could most easily lay claim to it, our Queen; but the bishops, coming from all social backgrounds and intellectual interests, are given their unelected political role without asking for it. It's possibly the closest we can come to disinterested rule.

More here-

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