On 17th October 2013, Independent Peer Lord Filkin led a take-note debate in the House of Lord on the Report of the Public Service and Demographic Change Committee ‘Ready for Ageing?’ The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, took part in the debate, focusing his remarks on the important role civil society play in supporting the elderly. He also raised concerns about the language used to talk about the elderly and highlighted the very significant contribution played by older people in society.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, and his colleagues on the Select Committee for introducing such a comprehensive and expert report. I shall pursue the theme mentioned of the contribution of civil society.
My first point is about the language that we use and the signals that we give out. The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, talked about the importance of a public debate. It is easy to use language such as “retirement”, which indicates something negative, about stopping and ceasing to contribute. In the diocese where I work, we have 200 clergy who are retired; 80% of them make an enormous contribution, not just filling in but front-line, active contribution to the life of the church. Some cultures use the word senior rather than the word ageing. We must be very careful how we frame the debate. I invite the Minister to comment on the language that we use and the signals that we give out, so that it is not about a problem of decline and desperation but celebrating life at different stages and in different ways. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby takes part in debate on demographic change in the UK”
“In civil wars, those who are internal to the civil conflict fight for their lives, necessarily. Those who are external have a responsibility, if they get involved at all, to fight for the outcome. That outcome must be one that improves the chances of long-term peace and reconciliation.”
On 29th August 2013, the House of Lords was recalled to take note and debate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon. Justin Welby, spoke during the debate. He urged that all intermediate steps before opening fire should be taken and expressed concern that intervention from abroad would declare open season on Christian communities in the country and wider region, which have already been devastated. He argued that such a consequence needed to be balanced against the consequences of inaction and that intervention would have to be effective in preventing any further use or promotion of chemical weapons and make it more possible for Syria and the Middle East to be places without millions of refugees.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I welcome very much the opportunity to speak later in this debate because of the extraordinary quality of many of the contributions that have been made and how much one can learn by listening to them. Like many noble Lords I have some experience in the region, partly from this role that I have and from recent visits and contact with many faith leaders of all three Abrahamic faiths, and through 10 years of, from time to time, working on reconciliation projects.
I do not intend to repeat the powerful points that have been made on international law, which is itself based on the Christian theory of just war. That has been said very eloquently. However, I want to pick up a couple of points. First, it has been said, quite rightly, that there is as much risk in inaction as there is in action. In a conflict in another part of the world—a civil conflict in which I was mediating some years ago—a general said to me, “We have to learn that there are intermediate steps between being in barracks and opening fire”. The reality is that, until we are sure that all those intermediate steps have been pursued, just war theory says that the step of opening fire is one that must only be taken when there is no possible alternative whatever under any circumstances. As the noble Lord, Lord Alli, just said very clearly and very eloquently, the consequences are totally out of our hands once it has started. Continue reading “Archbishop of Canterbury speaks during debate on use of chemical weapons in Syria”
“I celebrate today the contribution of humanists and atheists to the common good. I revel in our common humanity, our shared commitment to society and the gift of friendship.”
On 25th July 2013, Lord Harrison led a debate in the House of Lords to take note of the contribution of atheists and humanists to United Kingdom society. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, welcomed the debate and the contribution of humanists and aetheists to the common good. He hoped that the debate would challenge intolerant tribalism and noted that people of faith, atheists and humanists had in common a desire to explore profound questions about life.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, while I am still privileged to occupy the Bench of the Lords spiritual on behalf of the nation, I am delighted to say that the debate today is most welcome and I am honoured to follow the previous three speakers. They have given us the opportunity to hear the great deal of good that can and should be recognised, wherever we find it, whether in philosophy—the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, reminded us of the great traditions of humanist philosophy—or in science. I note the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, about the very serious business of assisted dying; I am sure that we will work hard on that together to get it right.
There is also the wonderful good that comes from humanists or atheists ringing bells. So often in society we appear to be motivated simply by our own interests, with the consequence that acknowledging good in others is interpreted simply as disloyalty to one’s tribe. Within the church, we are not immune to this problem. None the less, the Christian tradition points to the wider generosity; when Jesus was asked for an example of neighbourliness, he told a story about the Samaritan and not a good religious Jew, such as himself. I hope that, among many other themes, this debate will challenge intolerant tribalism in all walks of life wherever we find it. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham speaks of shared values of religious and non-religious”
On 23rd July 2013, tributes were offered by the House of Lords to Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge, on the birth of her son. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, led tributes on behalf of the Lords Spiritual.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, the day’s proceedings in your Lordships’ House begin far too often with the announcement of a death. My friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and my other colleagues on this Bench regret not being present today because they are attending the funeral of the late Bishop of Coventry, Colin Bennetts. None the less, it is a wonderful joy and delight for us to join in the words of colleagues in this House as we pause to celebrate the birth of a new baby. Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can be assured not simply of the congratulations, prayers and good wishes of those who occupy this Bench but, I am sure, the whole of the Church and faiths in England and the rest of the country.
My friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, your Lordships may like to know, did not, as was the custom in times past, actually attend the birth. Instead, he has offered his own prayers and congratulations to their Royal Highnesses, sharing, “in their joy at this special time”, and praying that God would, “bless this family with love, health and happiness”. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham leads tributes on birth of Prince George”
On 18th July 2013, Baroness Prosser led a debate in the House of Lords on the future of civil society. The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastiar Redfern, spoke during the debate. The Bishop concern that as the traditional elements of civil society – family, nation and church – had become weak, civil society had become an elective exercise and that people now had to be persuaded to come together to create the energy and momentum for human flourishing.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness for securing this debate. I shall pursue the definition that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, began to open up in his speech with the notion of the three legs of the stool and what civil society means. I start from the presupposition that we live in an age of liberalism in the technical sense; that is, we are very concerned for the individual to be free, and to be liberal about all those freedoms. Those freedoms are very good things, but any good often creates a problem.
I want to preface what I am saying with some words from TS Eliot. He said that the danger in liberalism is that it releases energy rather than accumulates it. It releases energy and then it is difficult to gather it together, because everybody is free, to make the building blocks of a civil society. He said that it relaxes rather than fortifies. The more we create rights, the bigger the problem with what we call cohesion. The more we are concerned about individual good, the bigger the problem with the common good. The more people have individual freedom, the more chance there is of becoming isolated, lonely and marginalised. It is very important to debate the civil society at this time when we desperately need energy to be accumulated around people for their well-being and flourishing and not dissipated into people being atomised on their own. The Government want to work with civil society—for the state to co-operate in accumulating energy for good things to happen. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations defines civil society as when,
“people come together to make a positive difference to their lives, and the lives of others”—
accumulating energy, making a positive difference to their lives and the lives of others. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby takes part in debate on future of civil society”
On 17th July 2013, Lord Bach moved a motion to regret on the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations 2013.The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, expressed concern that the level at which permitted disposable capital was set would render some older people in particular less capable of securing legal aid without selling their homes. He hoped that if vulnerable people’s access to legal representation were damaged by the regulations the government would change course on humanitarian grounds and not defend the regulations on the basis of a flawed ideology.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, a key reference in this Motion of Regret is to “vulnerable people”, which is why this non-lawyer dares to stand amid such legal luminaries and feels a bit vulnerable himself.
A civilised country is one where we are all free under the law and where vulnerable people are not left defenceless against unjust treatment by another person, organisation or even an agent of government. Vulnerability is relative, of course, but the calculations that inform the regulations under discussion concern people who may be a very long way, as we have heard, from financial comfort and security, and may have multiple other needs. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich raises concerns with civil legal aid reforms”
On 11th July 2013, Lord Patel led a take-note debate in the House of Lords on future models of funding of health and social care in England. The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, took part in the debate. The Bishop spoke of the need to develop community-based approaches to health and social care and called for a more holistic and whole-life approach to their provision.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on securing the debate. As we have heard from all speakers so far, there is a strong narrative about how precious the NHS is, how high public expectation remains and the problem of rising costs—it’s own health check has just been referred to.
I want to talk a little about care systems and the models that we might need to develop. Experience on the ground tells us that care systems are very fragmented. As systems such as family stability collapse, many people are isolated and struggle to access care and health services. The current system is very skewed towards the delivery of episodic interventions around particular crises. We need to look below that. We need to step back and see how we can create a culture of engagement, support and well-being for people that puts those episodic interventions in a different context and perhaps provides a context in which they would be less necessary and less frequent. I shall raise some questions about models and capacity, not least in relation to the elderly.
I work in the county of Derbyshire. Last year, in the city of Derby, I organised a commission, the Redfern commission, which looked at models of care in our community and how we could contribute alongside the statutory provision. We had a public hearing looking at models of care for the elderly. One of the experts who came as a witness to that public hearing raised three issues. She started by talking about people’s feet and the fact that proper foot care is very important to allow people to continue to have mobility—to be able to shop, do their cleaning and have social intercourse. Very simple things that require microengagement make a huge difference to people’s well-being and health. She also talked about the reluctance of doctors to diagnose depression in elderly patients who suffer a lot of loss. She said that something like 2 million elderly people are diagnosed with clinical depression, but there are probably far more, and it is hard for them to get treatment or even support on the ground. She also raised the lack of provision of advice for elderly people about sexual health. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby calls for development of community-led health and social care provision”