Will MPs question the Synod's decision?

 

The failure of the Church of England Synod to approve women bishops (one of the three houses didn't quite attain the required two-thirds majority) came up at PMQs today, when both Sir Tony Baldry, who speaks in the Commons for the Church Commissioners, and Labour's Ben Bradshaw, expressed their disappointment.

David Cameron declared himself a supporter of women bishops, and agreed - but added that the decision of the Synod had to be respected.

A few moments later Labour's Diana Johnson raised a point of order, requesting a statement from Sir Tony, but was told that only ministers could make a statement.

It's pretty clear that quite a few MPs disagree with the result of the Synod's vote; but can Parliament do anything about it? Perhaps.

Keep an eye on a rather low profile organ of Parliament, the Ecclesiastical Committee, which exists to give the parliamentary stamp of approval to legislation on the established Church. It must be said it's not the most hyperactive committee in Westminster, reporting perhaps once a year on some church-related matter, and at least one of its members was unaware that he was a member.

But all the same, it could be the vehicle for expressing parliamentary disapproval, perhaps by blocking some forthcoming piece of church legislation. In the 1990s controversy over women priests, the Ecclesiastical Committee was firmly in the "no" camp, but insiders tell me the balance of opinion has changed since then.

There are some quite assertive MPs on the committee - Sir Tony, Ben Bradshaw, Helen Goodman and Simon Hughes, among others. If they want to kick off, they have the experience and self-confidence to do it.

UPDATE: Ben Bradshaw has just said on The World At One that Parliament has a right to weigh in because the Church of England was the established church of the state. He's asking for advice from the clerks of the Commons on how Parliament could intervene. Could a recent Ten Minute Rule Bill, that Mr Bradshaw cited, to permit women bishops be revived? Could the Church's exemption from equalities legislation be repealed?

UPDATE 2: Labour's Diana Johnson has put down a Commons urgent question on the women bishops vote. If it's granted, it will be for Sir Tony Baldry, the MP who speaks in the Commons for the Church Commissioners, to answer. Apparently it is in order to direct an urgent question at him - but it's not a done deal that Mr Speaker will allow it. A further UQ to the Equalities Minister, Maria Miller, or to one of her deputies, may follow.

 
Mark D'Arcy, Parliamentary correspondent Article written by Mark D'Arcy Mark D'Arcy Parliamentary correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 27.

    As long as the C of E remains 'established' we are all as citizens tainted with their stupidity and disciminatory practices.
    They should be given six months to sort themselves out.
    If they don't - immediate disestablishment.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    If the CoE what to get out of this hole they've dug for themselves, they'll have to amend their constitution. Not by much either, surely it's not too much of a stretch to allow majority voting of the 'houses'. Two out of three had the necessary two-thirds majority, in any reasonable sense that should be enough.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 25.

    Should not the Roman Catholic Church,Muslims and other religious bodies also be required to implement equality provisions in their establishments?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 24.

    The answer must be disestablishment; removal of the church's exemption from the Equalities legislation and the removal of the Bishops from the House of Lords.
    If the CofE wants to discriminate against women then it should have to realise that these actions have consequences.
    Does the new Archbishop of Canterbury have to get formal agreement from Parliament? If so then block it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 23.

    It doesn't matter what MPs think, unless they are members of the Church of England it is none of their business how that denomination chooses to conduct its affairs.

    Likewise as I am a practising member of a different Christian denomination, it isn't my business either!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 22.

    How much, if anything, is it costing taxpayers to have these jokers remaining as the 'established' church?
    Their influence in 'civic' affairs should eradicated with immediate effect.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 21.

    Dear Phil Taylor, I think you really don't get it. The Church has had about 150 years to sort this out; the rest of the country has lost patience with you. You are the Established Church: that means that all of us - every citizen of this country - has an interest, a say, in this. And what most of us say is that we've already waited too long.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 20.

    (Cont from last comment) Parliament interfering will only disturb a process that is very nearly complete. Dotting "i's" and crossing "t's" doesn't need a sledgehammer!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 19.

    (Cont from last comment) Because of this, the vote was in favour in all 3 houses, but not by enough in 1 of the 3 to pass.
    Given that Church Law has already said that those against are to have an "honoured place" in the future of the Church of England, that place needs to be right before it becomes law.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 18.

    Problem with all these comments is that they seem to be completely clueless on what has been going on in this matter!
    The General Synod has ALREADY voted in favour of women bishops. What yesterday was about is HOW it happens. Also, because the Church of England has decided that in very important matters such as this, it is far better to have a wider consensus than merely 50% + 1.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 17.

    As an athiest I don't care what the church does (more fool the woman who belong and still think they are worth less than men) - I DO care about the 26 Lords who HAVE to be men making our laws.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    I have always been in favour of disestablishment: it is quite clear that now is the time for the Church to go. What place can an institution that so wilfully disregards its responsibilities have in a modern body politic?

    Are bishops allowed to resign from the House of Lords? They jolly well should.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    The Ecclesiastical Committee should act to prevent the state established religion from exercising unacceptable discrimination against its staff. The CoE should not enjoy the same protection as other religions do under the Equality Act, unless it is prepared to disestablish. As a constituent of Tony Baldry, I really hope he leads this committee to do something useful for a change!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    I am concerned that this club is keeping women out because they have something to hide.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    Those who believe that Church and State should be separated might want to cast a glance across the Atlantic at the United States, where such a separation already exists, and note how successfully it operates there.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    @7. RonC
    That is indeed an interesting point, if the (hugely corrupt) parliamentary MPs' 'force' the CofE to have women bishops will they do the same to the Catholics and of course to the Muslims....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 11.

    Up against such a bunch of knuckle heads as the right wing Christian fundamentalists in the CofE Parliament has no chance......

    ....the head bangers will never change their minds because they do not like change......

    ....& they'll happily take their whole church down with them if needs must.....the church faces a very real risk of becoming no more than A N Other minority sect of nutters.....

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 10.

    This is the 21st Century! Let the club's members drone their hymns and talk to their imaginary companions as much as they wish, so long as their actions harm no living creature. Why is anybody concerned about whether lady members of this club, to which few people in the country belong, should be allowed to wear the same funny hats as some gentlemen members?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 9.

    It is a matter for the Church to decide - Parliamentarians are in no position to deliver moral lectures.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    Just let the church get on with it but remove all the Churches exemptions under the law so they have to comply with the law like every one else

 

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