On 16th July 2020 Lord Holmes of Richmond asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of digital platforms on the functioning of democracy.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, asked a follow-up question:
The Archbishop of Canterbury [V]: My Lords, I declare an interest in that certain funds across the Church of England and the Anglican Communion hold shares in social media companies, and vast numbers of churches and Anglicans, including me, use platforms for the promotion of the Church’s work. The Minister will be aware that, although social media has immense power for good, some social media platforms are used to incite hatred, stirring up social disruption and even extreme violence in some parts of the world, as I have recently heard from bishops in the DRC. What steps are Her Majesty’s Government looking at to motivate and encourage responsibility to be taken by such platforms to prevent their use in everything from hate speech to genocide? Continue reading “Archbishop asks Government about preventing use of digital platforms for incitement to hatred and violence”
On 11th June 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Hayman, “that this House takes note of the case for post-COVID-19 recovery strategies that will contribute to a fairer, cleaner, and more sustainable economy.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I warmly welcome this debate. The country faces the triple challenge in the next decade of the threat of climate change, the deepest recession for generations and the health challenges of Covid, all of which will exacerbate existing inequalities. I support much of what other noble Lords have said and will focus my remarks on the vital theme of digital inclusion.
Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford calls for post-Covid economy with fast, affordable internet access for all”
On 11th June 2020 Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the research by the British Board of Film Classification on the extent of exposure of children and teens to harmful or upsetting content while in lockdown, published on 4 May.” The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Libby Lane, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I echo the concern about the Government’s lack of progress in introducing the measures outlined in their online harms White Paper. The BBFC report found that children are increasingly using pornography as an educational tool, which appears to be normalising such access in childhood. That means that, particularly during the lockdown, there is an increased risk of children being exposed to harmful content. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby calls for age verification for pornography online”
On 31st October 2019 Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman answered questions from MPs for the last time as Second Church Estates Commissioner. Tributes were paid to her, and questions were answered on climate change, archbishops, reconciliation, telecommunications, thefts, women in prison, marriage, and digital evangelism. This was also the same day that the Speaker and his Chaplain were due to retire. A full transcript follows:
The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
Climate Change: Investment in Companies
Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): What progress the Church of England has made on holding the companies in which it invests to account on climate change. 
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Dame Caroline Spelman): Since this is my last set of oral questions, I would like to record my heartfelt thanks to my small team of staff, and especially my constituency secretary, who has faithfully served me for 20 out of 22 years. We often forget that our staff are on the frontline of much of the abuse that we receive, and I want to record my admiration for their fortitude. I also thank the amazing staff I have had to support me in this role, particularly Simon Stanley at Church House.
In tribute, Mr Speaker, I thank you for your kindness and courtesy—unfailingly so, and especially at times of personal duress. I single out your inspired choice of Speaker’s Chaplain, who has enriched the spiritual life of this place—but more of that later.
The Church of England Pensions Board has tabled a shareholder resolution ahead of the annual general meeting of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, on 7 November this month. It asks BHP to suspend its membership of trade associations that are not lobbying in line with the climate change agreement. This is just the latest example of the Church Commissioners using their shareholder position to change company policy in line with the climate change agreement.
Continue reading “Church Commissioner Questions: Tributes, climate change, archbishops, reconciliation, telecommunications, thefts, women in prison, marriage, digital evangelism”
On 25th July 2019 MPs asked questions of Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner. Questions were asked about social media, telecommunications masts in parishes, FCO support for persecuted Christians, festivals in cathedrals, and funding to the Keighley constituency:
Continue reading “Church Commissioner Questions: social media, telecommunications masts in parishes, FCO support for persecuted Christians, festivals in cathedrals, funding for Keighley constituency”
On 25th April 2019 the House of Lords debated a Motion from Lord Gilbert of Panteg, “That this House takes note of the Report from the Communications Committee UK advertising in a digital age (1st Report, HL Paper 116).” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert of Panteg, and the committee for the report, which made for fascinating reading. My friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford sends his apologies for not being in his place today; he is elsewhere in the world with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so asked me to address one or two matters. I take complete responsibility for what I say, although he said that I must talk about self-regulation.
We all love digital; at least, most of us do. We love its possibilities. I do not go anywhere without my phone, frankly: I keep looking at it and I get bombarded with adverts through it. It was not planned but, yesterday evening, as it happens, I watched a lecture from a two-day conference for theologians being held in Durham this week, entitled “Missio Dei in a digital age”. Maggi Dawn, a British theologian based at Yale University, tracked the history of the impact of digital on Christian mission. She said this about how we handle digital:
“We need to recognise both the glorious possibilities of digital and its profound brokenness”.
Her point was that although digital is wonderful, with glorious possibilities we must use to the full, we must not fail to recognise its profound brokenness because it is infected by human beings, who make all kinds of mistakes in their use of things. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham raises impact on children of digital advertising”
On 8th April 2019 a Government statement on new proposals for online safety was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, welcomed the proposals and asked a follow-up question about international cooperation:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I add my voice to those of my friends, the right reverend Prelates who sit on these Benches, who have welcomed this White Paper as a first step. Many of the platforms that would fall under the proposed regulator are based overseas. I hope that the proposals set out in the White Paper will give sufficient power to any regulator to hold these and future international companies to account.
Continue reading “Bishop of London asks about regulation of internet platforms based in other countries”
On 28th March 2019 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered questions from MPs on digital connectivity, the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women, and Easter church attendance.
The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
Church Land and Buildings: Digital Connectivity
Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress has been made on implementing the joint accord between the Government and the Church of England on the use of Church land and buildings to support digital connectivity. 
Continue reading “Church Commissioner Questions: digital connectivity, ordination of women, Easter”