On 24th March 2020 the House of Lords debated the emergency legislation from the Government to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate, highlighting issues to do with church closures, funerals, and care of the vulnerable, including the homeless, and those in prison or immigration detention:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, in these days I have been reflecting on the words of the Hebrew psalmist who, at the time of his people’s exile, articulated the question:
“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
In many ways we are entering into a strange land, and indeed in some ways a land of exile: a land in which we are exiled from many of our normal patterns of living, in which people of faith are not able to attend their places of worship and in which many people find themselves having to live life in entirely new ways.
Continue reading “Coronavirus Bill: Bishop of Rochester responds on church closures and care for vulnerable”
On 23rd March 2020 the House of Commons considered the emergency legislation from Government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the Bill provided powers to delay scheduled elections for devolved and regional assemblies and other bodies. A new clause to extend that provision to the General Synod of the Church of England had been tabled by the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, and was accepted by Government. Andrew spoke about it during the Committee stage of the Bill in the Commons:
Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): I will not detain the House long. I rise to speak to new clause 1, which I understand has been agreed in advance with the Government, and I will move it at the end of this evening’s proceedings.
New clause 1 is very straightforward. It enables the elections to the General Synod of the Church of England to be postponed. Quite recently, we postponed all the elections that we in the House are involved in—the mayoral, local government and police and crime commissioner elections—but the General Synod is the National Assembly of the Church of England, and it is a Church that is episcopally led and synodically governed. The General Synod is a devolved body of this Parliament. It is the first devolved body of the Westminster Parliament and has been since 1919. Synods last five years, just as Westminster Parliaments do. The last one was elected in summer 2015 and therefore would expire this summer.
Continue reading “Coronavirus Bill: Andrew Selous supports new clause on postponing General Synod elections”
On 19th March 2020 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, responded to the Government statement on school closures in light of the coronavirus crisis:
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, clearly the educational world is working extraordinarily hard—one welcomes that—in its determination to deal with an extraordinarily difficult situation very quickly and under huge pressure. If we follow the Imperial College analysis model that was recently published, we can see in certain circumstances the repeated waves of Covid-19 going on for 18 to 24 months. At what point will we begin to move towards a longer-term view of what needs to happen? Clearly, schools cannot be closed for two years. I wonder whether the Government have in their mind the planning for the eventuality of longer-term infectious prevalence in this country. Continue reading “Archbishop responds to Government statement on coronavirus school closures”
On Thursday 19th March 2020 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a question in the House of Lords that he had tabled on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to tackle the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, the humanitarian situation in Yemen remains the worst in the world. Some 80% of the population require humanitarian assistance. Alongside our diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, we have provided over £200 million in aid this current financial year. This has met the immediate food needs of more than 1 million Yemenis each month during the year. However, we are clear that the only way to address the humanitarian crisis is through a political settlement.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I thank the Minister for his reply and for the hard work that I know he and his colleagues are putting into this situation. However, Yemen is now also suffering terrible outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria, and now Covid-19 has come along as well. So the airports have been closed. What are Her Majesty’s Government able to do to ensure that food supplies, aid and medicines are still actually getting into the country and getting where they are needed? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about humanitarian situation in Yemen”
On 19th March 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons on church closures, coronavirus, persecution of Christians, and marriage support. A transcript is below:
The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners was asked—
Church Closure and Use
Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con):
- To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what criteria the Church of England uses to decide when to close a church and offer the building to other denominations and traditions. 
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Church opens as many, if not more churches than it closes each year. Parishes may want to focus their mission elsewhere, if the church in question is in a very remote rural location or if there is a very high repair bill. Use for worship by other Christian bodies is generally considered the best use, but there are many other suitable uses.
Continue reading “Church Commissioner Questions – Church closures, coronavirus, persecuted Christians, marriage support”
On 18th March 2020 the House of Lords debated the Budget Statement made the previous week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, spoke in the debate:
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, a Budget is social morality in numbers. Whatever we say we believe about the dignity of human beings and about the existence or otherwise of society, the reality of our belief is demonstrated by the way we act, and especially by the way we act with money. The crisis through which we are passing will change this nation in deep and unpredictable ways, as the noble Lord, Lord Oates, has just said. Like a nuclear explosion, the initial impact is colossal, but the fallout lasts for years and will shape us in ways we cannot even begin to predict at the moment.
The Budget and the extra package announced yesterday must be both adequate in amount and sufficient in their aims to ensure that this country emerges confident from overcoming the virus—positively better than before it began. We will overcome the virus. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, commented that small groups all over the country are showing fresh signs of community spirit and collaboration, and it is from those small groups, through to the large-scale government measures, that things will change.
Continue reading “Archbishop of Canterbury calls for vision of a ‘we’ society, alongside spending in response to coronavirus budget measures”
On 12th March 2020 Lord Bethell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care, repeated a Government statement on coronavirus. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, in thanking the Minister, may I ask him whether he can give any information on the precautions and particular challenges in prisons, where, for instance, social distancing, isolation and provision of hospital services will be difficult to achieve? Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth asks how coronavirus will be handled on prisons estate”