Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament by the Lords Spiritual and the Second Church Estates Commissioner.
In the past week, Bishops in the House of Lords have spoken in debates on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill and the rural economy.
They have also put questions to the Government on busking, the needs of dyslexics in higher education, National Voter Registration Day 2015, violence in the Middle East, sexual violence in Syria, protection of civilians in South Sudan, and the appointment of the next Bishop of Guildford.
“I very much hope that the Department for Education will not resort to a philosophy of “the weakest to the wall” with these small schools because small rural schools are so often worth their weight in gold, as the heart and hub of our rural communities. The Church of England will publish a report very soon on how to support our rural schools effectively” – Bishop of Oxford, 3/7/14.
On 3rd July, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, took part in a debate on the rural economy, lead by the Earl of Shrewsbury. The Bishop spoke about the need for intentional support for the many micro-businesses that make up the rural economy, and also for greater personal investment in rural schools, particularly through an increase in the number of foundation govenors supporting rural schools.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, for giving us this opportunity to debate this matter. We all approach this important subject from different angles. I want to emphasise one that is economic and the other that is personal in the sense of our own personal investment and commitment. I serve a diocese which is largely rural although it has large centres of population such as Oxford, Reading, Milton Keynes and Slough. However, the rural expanses of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire are considerable, with 815 churches and 650 clergy, all of whom are strongly connected to the all-round flourishing of our diverse communities. Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford calls for more intentional support for the rural economy and rural schools”
On 3rd July 2014, the Conservative Peer Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty’s Government whether the Prime Minister is yet in a position to make a recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen in respect of a new Bishop for Guildford. The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, asked a supplementary question.
On 2nd July 2014, the Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd John Inge, received answers to three written questions on South Sudan.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they are offering members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to stop small arms entering South Sudan.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have played an important role in the mediation efforts and have consistently called for both parties to respect the cessation of hostilities to solve the ongoing crisis in South Sudan and commit fully to the mediation process. Although South Sudan is not subject to an UN Arms Embargo, we have been clear that the actions of its neighbours should not in any way exacerbate the conflict. South Sudan has been subject to an EU Arms Embargo since its independence. Continue reading “Bishop of Worcester asks about protection of civilians in South Sudan (Written Questions)”
On 2nd July 2014, Conservative Peer Baroness Jenkin of Kennington asked Her Majesty’s Government for their assessment of the alleged sexual violence crimes committed against Syrian civilians in Syria.The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, given that discussion of sexual violence is always a very sensitive subject in any culture, will the Minister give assurance that the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative team that is working in Syria will draw in responsible, enlightened religious leaders to combat the stigma that is so often associated with these awful crimes? This can prevent the kind of recriminations and rejection by communities and families that can result from them.
Baroness Warsi: The right reverend Prelate makes an incredibly important point. Faith as part of the solution to dealing with sexual violence was an important element of the summit, and we hosted two very successful fringe events. One involved a coalition mainly of church leaders, called We Will Speak Out. The other was at ministerial level where we hosted Sheikh Bin Bayyah, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and discussed the way in which we can get faith communities to be the first point of support in both providing protection and changing the culture that perpetuates the culture of impunity.
In the House of Commons on 1 July 2014, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Rt Hon St Tony Baldry MP, took part in oral questions to the Secretary of State for Justice. He asked a supplementary question on the commemoration of King Richard III, which was answered by the Minister of State, the Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP.
King Richard III
Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): As the Minister said, Richard III was the King of all England, not just of York or Yorkshire. Is he aware that the Dean and Chapter of Leicester Cathedral see it as their responsibility to rebury the remains of King Richard and to commemorate his memory on behalf of the whole nation, and not just for Leicester or York?
Simon Hughes: I have every confidence that the Dean and Chapter of Leicester cathedral will do that job for the nation. I understand that they intend to apply for an extension so that it may be done in the spring of next year. I believe that it will be a great credit to Leicester and will bring great joy to the people of Leicestershire that a King of England is buried in their county.
On 1st July 2014, the Baroness Warsi made a statement on the Middle East Peace Process. The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, asked a question about what the government is doing to promote a measured response to the recent events in the Holy Land.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: On behalf of these Benches, we associate ourselves with the condolences to the families and the widespread grief on all sides. We welcome the statement by the unity Government but an inevitable reaction to grief, especially with the death of the young, is anger. Yet grief is something that is never handled by anger; it requires time for reflection, engagement and a deeper kind of approach to the issue at stake. Can the Minister assure us that, in our work to seek peace, we will do everything we can to mitigate the knee-jerk reaction of anger and invite people to think more deeply about the human content of grief and how to deal with it?
Baroness Warsi: We will of course do that. The right reverend Prelate makes important points, but I think he would also say—and on a very personal basis, I acknowledge this as a mother—that it must be incredibly difficult to reach that second phase when you have just lost your children.