Church Commissioner Questions: Tributes, climate change, archbishops, reconciliation, telecommunications, thefts, women in prison, marriage, digital evangelism

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:

Church Commissioners

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. [900272]

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.

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Church Commissioner Questions: social media, telecommunications masts in parishes, FCO support for persecuted Christians, festivals in cathedrals, funding for Keighley constituency

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:

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Bishop of Chelmsford calls for better regulation to protect online spaces

Chelmsford310119aOn 12th June 2019 the House of Lords debated a report from the Communications Committee, “That this House takes note of the Report from the Communications Committee Regulating in a digital world (2nd Report, HL Paper 299).” The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, who served on the Committee, spoke in the debate.

The Government have already committed themselves to making the United Kingdom the safest place in the world to be online. The ideas in this report explain that this does not necessarily require more regulation, but a different approach to regulation. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is one of the big moral challenges of our day. We need to get it right, especially for our children, for there are no longer two worlds, the online and offline, but the one digital environment that we all inhabit and that needs a set of principles to govern not just its oversight but its future development.

Bishop of St Albans welcomes Online Harms proposals, calls for action on gaming addiction

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, this is a vast subject, and I will limit my comments to just a few areas.

I and others on these Benches welcome this White Paper, in particular the attempt to rethink the way we see this whole area. In the past we brought in individual laws to deal with particular problems. My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has been arguing for some while that we need to see this as public space. We need to try to understand how we can regulate it from first principles in a way that guarantees the freedoms we want and the huge benefits that have come through the online world, which has made a huge and incalculable difference to our lives, but also protects the many people who are vulnerable. We have heard some account of just some of the problems some people have faced.

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Bishop of Durham raises impact on children of digital advertising

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”

Bishop of London asks about regulation of internet platforms based in other countries

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.

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Church Commissioner Questions: digital connectivity, ordination of women, Easter

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.

Church Commissioners

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. [910102]

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