Church Commissioner Questions: Holy Land, Nigeria, Local Authority Grants, Parish Ministry, Trees, Coronation

On 28th April 2023 MPs asked questions of Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner.

Holy Land: Desecration of Religious Sites

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)

1. What discussions the Church of England has had with international counterparts on the desecration of religious sites in the Holy Land. (904699)

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)

4. What discussions the Church of England has had with international counterparts on the desecration of religious sites in the Holy Land. (904702)

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): In the first three months of this year, seven cases of serious vandalism and antisocial behaviour against churches have been recorded in Israel. That is a sharp increase on the previous year. The Church of England continues to work with the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, the heads of other Churches, other faith leaders and the Jordanian Government, as custodian of the holy sites, to maintain the peace.

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General Synod should decide on doctrine, not Parliament – Second Estates Commissioner to MPs in response to Bill

On 21st March 2023 Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP spoke to a Motion he had tabled in the House of Commons, for leave to bring in a Bill on same sex marriages in the Church of England. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, responded.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE (CHURCH OF ENGLAND): TEN MINUTE RULE MOTION

Mr Ben Bradshaw: That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable clergy of the Church of England to conduct same sex marriages on Church of England premises in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.

Ben Bradshaw introduces his Ten Minute Rule Bill and Andrew Selous responds

A transcript of the response from Andrew Selous is below:

Mr Andrew Selous MP (Second Church Estates Commissioner): Thank you very much Mr Deputy Mr Speaker. I do not intend to divide the House, but it is necessary to respond to the Bill in my capacity as Second Church Estates Commissioner, because it seeks to usurp the role of the democratically elected General Synod of the Church of England, as well as to remove the freedom of the Church of England to decide its own doctrine, a freedom which Members on all sides of this House champion for religions and beliefs all over the world, and one that we should therefore apply equally to the Church of England.

There are passionately held and differing views about same sex marriage on all sides of this House and I am also acutely aware of the personal pain and hurt that this issue causes for so many people. But it is for the democratically elected assembly of the Church of England, the General Synod, to decide matters of doctrine rather than Parliament. And this has been the settled convention for nearly fifty years, since the 1974 Worship and Doctrine Measure was approved by Parliament.

At the General Synod last month, it was agreed that the Prayers of Love and Faith proposed by the bishops would be finalised, that the pastoral guidance for clergy would be produced, and that a welcoming culture towards LGBTQI+ people would be embedded throughout the Church. It was also agreed not to change the doctrine of marriage. And that Motion was passed by a clear majority in all three Houses of the Synod. Amendments to require the bishops to bring forward proposals for same-sex marriage to the next meeting of Synod and to revisit the issue within the next two years, were rejected by the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.

The Right Honourable Gentleman’s Bill proposes that the decision of the Synod, arrived at prayerfully and democratically, should simply be set aside.

In this House, we do not all agree with each other, but we do respect everyone’s right to be here because we have all been given our mandate through the same black boxes on election night. I would ask that the Members of this democratically elected House show the same respect to the democratically elected members of the General Synod.

Directing the Church of England on doctrine is not the job of Parliament. It would infringe on settled principles of religious freedom, which we argue for our sisters and brothers overseas, and it would call into question the rights and protections of conscience for other denominations and faiths as well. Several Catholic members of this House came up to me after the Urgent Question on the 24th of January and told me how grateful they were that Parliament was not telling their church what to do!

The Bill is also unnecessary as should Synod decide to change the doctrine of marriage in the future, it could do so. It would produce a Measure, which would come before Parliament and amend the 2013 Marriage Act. There is no need therefore for Parliament to act independently to change the Act.

Although the Bill is intended to be permissive and not to compel any member of the clergy to solemnise same-sex marriage, it is just not possible to leave it to individual clergy to choose to do things that are clearly contrary to the doctrine of the church. Doctrine is not determined by local decision, varying by parish or diocese, but is decided centrally, not by a small group of bishops, but through the prayerful deliberation and decision of the democratically elected Synod. If the Church lost its ability to require compliance with its doctrine, this would be a breach of the Human Rights Convention as it would be contrary to article 9, read with article 11, for the State to interfere with a religious organisation’s ability to require compliance with its own doctrine.

The Bill’s attempt to give individual freedom and choice would be unworkable and would breach the longstanding convention that Parliament does not legislate for the internal affairs of the Church of England without its consent.

I honoured my commitment to tell the General Synod the views of Parliament as expressed in the Urgent Question on the 24th of January, and I know that the General Synod will continue to listen carefully and respectfully to the views of this House, just as I would ask Parliament to be respectful to the views of the Synod.


Note: The Motion was not opposed in a vote and the Bill was presented, though it will be unlikely to progress any further due to lack of time in the parliamentary session.

Church Commissioner Questions: families, marriage, Lichfield, Nigeria

On 9th March 2023 MPs put questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, during his monthly question time in the House of Commons.

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Second Estates Commissioner to Synod – not the job of Parliament to decide Church of England doctrine

On 8th February 2023 the Church of England General Synod debated a motion on same-sex marriage and the response of the College of Bishops to the Church’s Living in Love and Faith process. The Second Church Estates Commissioner addressed the Synod:

Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner. Ex-officio 458:

I was called to answer an urgent question on this issue in the House of Commons on 24th January. I was amused to be told the urgent question would not be repeated in the House of Lords because there was apparently no one to speak for the Church of England in the House of Lords !

I pledged to make MPs views known to Synod. Of the twelve who spoke that day, eight expressed a hope that the Synod would change doctrine to enable same-sex couples to be married by the Church. There were deep and heartfelt stories from a number of MPs of the personal sense of hurt they felt at what they considered to be ongoing discrimination against LGBT+ people.

Others have contacted me in private, for fear of retribution, to support traditional doctrine and several said that it is for Synod, not for Parliament, to reach its own prayerful decision on this issue. Copies of the Hansard extract are available at the administration desk.

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MPs put questions to Church Commissioners on same sex marriage and the Church of England

On 24th January 2023 the Speaker of the House of Commons granted an urgent question to Ben Bradshaw MP, to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP. A rare event, this was only the second time such an urgent question to the Church Commissioners had been granted in the House of Commons, the first being in November 2012.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)
(Urgent Question): To ask the Second Church Estates Commissioner if he will make a statement on the outcome of the meeting of Church of England bishops on equal marriage in the Church of England.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
Mr Speaker, as you know, I offered to make a statement to the House yesterday but was advised that a response to an urgent question would be preferable.

Last Friday, the bishops of the Church of England published a pastoral letter and draft resources that will enable same-sex couples to come to a Church of England church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership, and to have a service in which there would be prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and blessing for the couple. The bishops also apologised for the rejection, exclusion and hostility that LGBTQI+ people have faced in some of our churches. The bishops are united in condemning homophobia, and urged churches to welcome same-sex couples “unreservedly and joyfully”. I am pleased to speak for a Church that has the humility to apologise and admit when it has behaved badly.

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Church Commissioner Questions: parishes, freedom of religion, housing, Channel crossings, marriage, new clergy, arts and culture

On 28th April 2022 MPs asked Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, about parish ministry, freedom of religion & belief, affordable and sustainable housing, illegal migrant crossings in the Channel, families parenting and marriage, candidates entering Holy Orders, and supporting arts and culture. A transcript is below.

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Church Commissioners’ Question Time, 10 March 2022

On 10th March 2022 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions from MPs in the House of Commons, freedom of religion or belief overseas, family hubs, supporting Ukrainian refugees, affordable housing, the Queen’s platinum jubilee, and the Commissioners’ Scottish landholdings.

Global Summit: Freedom of Religion or Belief

Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con): What role the Church of England has in supporting the global summit to promote freedom of religion or belief, to be hosted by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in July 2022. (905957)


The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The Church is making every effort to support that important summit to promote freedom of religion or belief. A debate was held on the lack of global religious freedom at last month’s General Synod and I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), in her capacity as the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, was able to brief Synod members on the huge cost of following Jesus in many parts of the world.

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Church Commissioner Questions: church buildings, racial inequality, freedom of religion or belief, parenting and marriage, gay and lesbian Christians, Christians in the Middle East, church schools

On 27th January 2022 MPs asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons chamber:

Churches and Cathedrals: Sustainability

Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)

What assessment the Church of England has made of the steps needed to put the maintenance of churches and cathedrals on a sustainable basis. (905258)

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The Church estimates that over the next five years at least £1.14 billion of maintenance and repairs are needed for churches and cathedrals. The Church is very grateful that 550 churches and cathedrals have already benefited from the culture recovery fund, but there remains an urgent need for predictable and sustainable sources of funding, which enable us to keep skilled builders and craft people in work.

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Church Commissioner Written Answers: Asylum Seekers and Baptism

22nd November 2021

Baptism: Asylum

Chris Loder: [76831] To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, how many services the Church of England has conducted specifically for the purposes of Baptising people seeking asylum in each of the last five years.

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Church Commissioners Written Answer – Vision and Strategy

Question for Church Commissioners, UIN 31286, tabled on 12 July 2021

Michael Fabricant, (Conservative, Lichfield): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, with reference to the article by the Revd Marcus Walker, Rector of the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great, London, entitled, Is this the last chance to save the Church of England, published in the Spectator on 10 July 2021, what assessment the Church has made of the implications for its policies of the (a) findings of Revd Walker and (b) potential merits of proposals to create 10,000 new lay-led churches in the next 10 years in private homes and public halls.

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