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 Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question from Sir Desmond Swayne MP on marriages:
Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West): 28560 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, in what circumstances a Church of Scotland minister is able to conduct a wedding in the Church of England. Continue reading “Church Commissioners’ Written Answer: Marriages”
On 17th March 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Divorce and Dissolution and Separation Bill at its Report Stage. The Bishop of Carlisle Rt Revd James Newcome, spoke in support of two amendments. Both amendments were opposed by Government and were not put to vote after debate:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, much of what I might wish to say about Amendments 5 and 13* has already been mentioned, so I will not repeat it. However, from these Benches I would like to express my warm support for the main thrust of both amendments and briefly reiterate three points.
First, in both amendments, those applying for a divorce are not compelled to do anything, but they are presented with information that might make a difference not only to what they do but to the way in which they do it. Continue reading “Divorce etc Bill – Bishop of Carlisle supports amendments on information about relationship support and child wellbeing for divorcing couples”
On 3rd March 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill at its Committee Stage. The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, supported two amendments on relationship support, to ensure that divorcing couples had access to information about support and mediation to enable them to consider alternative ways forward before being issued with a final divorce order, and that this resource is funded. One of the amendments was put by the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. The amendments were resisted by Government on grounds that they did not consider the Bill to be the right vehicle for tackling the wider issues that lead to relationship breakdown. The amendments were debated before being withdrawn.
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, I rise in support of Amendments 3 and 21 and to provide a brace of bishops. I want to observe the seriousness and the quality of this debate as we as a House navigate the support of marriage as an institution and of couples in keeping their vows while recognising that marriages break down and trying to provide adequately for those circumstances. If the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, is right that support for the relationship support services sometimes depends on the whim of a Minister or Prime Minister, one might hope that the present occupant of 10 Downing Street would take a particular interest in these matters.
On average, the Church of England conducts about 1,000 weddings a week. We have experience of conducting, preparing people for and supporting them in marriages. Quite often, couples that I have prepared say that they want to get married in church because they know that they are standing and making their vows in a solemn and serious place that has significance in the community and before God. They want the support of the community gathered around them.
Continue reading “Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill: Bishop of Salisbury supports amendments on relationship support”
On 5th February 2020 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, expressed concern about the Bill, saying that divorce needed to be kinder to all involved, rather than easier. In his view “the Bill before the House discourages reflection and hence the possibility of reconciliation”.
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I add my warm welcome to the noble Baroness, Lady Hunt, and congratulations on her fine maiden speech.
I hope that ordained speakers can bring a distinct perspective to the deliberations of your Lordships’ House today, since—unless I do noble Lords a grave disservice—the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle and I from this Bench and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, are the contributors to our debate who conduct marriages.
I have never lost the sense of immense privilege of being with two people at such a significant moment in their lives, and of the joyfulness of the occasion, their commitment to one another and the commitments they make so significantly together and before others. Such commitments are integral to the foundations of their lives together, but also to the lives of their friends, communities and society as a whole. If your Lordships will forgive my brief lapse into theological jargon, marriage represents not just a contract but a covenant between two people, and between them and society. It is about not contractual rights but covenantal generosity. It represents a good for them and for us all.
Continue reading “Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill ‘discourages possibility of reconciliation’ – Bishop of Portsmouth”
On 5th February 2020 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Revd James Newcome, spoke in the debate and his remarks are below. He highlighted several problems with the Bill, which he said would create more difficulties than it was intended to resolve.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I am greatly looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Hunt of Bethnal Green, and I welcome her to this House, which I am sure will benefit greatly from her expertise, campaigning zeal and commitment to debates on justice and equality.
Let me begin by saying that I appreciate the motivation behind the Government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. As we have already heard, they want to make divorce less complicated, less acrimonious and less harmful. Who could possibly argue with that? I like the revised terminology that the Bill suggests, and I agree that, at first sight, this looks like a sensible response to shortcomings in a process that is currently unsatisfactory and often seems to lack transparency or fairness.
However, this deceptively simple piece of legislation actually creates more difficulties than it resolves. One has to do with the nature of marriage itself and our commitment to it as a society—I shall confine my comments to marriage rather than civil partnership.
Continue reading “Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill ‘creates more difficulties than it resolves’ – Bishop of Carlisle”
On 30th January 2020 the House of Lords considered the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, a piece of church legislation that was introduced by the Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Revd Rachel Treweek. A short debate also took place on a motion to regret the Measure, tabled by Lord Trefgarne, which was subsequently withdrawn. The Measure was passed.
Moved by The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, although the provisions contained in this Measure are miscellaneous, some of them are nevertheless important. Rather than go through the Measure section by section, it might be helpful if I just mention some of the more significant provisions at this point.
Section 2 implements a recommendation from Dame Moira Gibb’s report following her review of the Church of England’s response to the abuse committed by Peter Ball. One of the report’s recommendations was for the introduction of a national register of clergy with permission to officiate. That recommendation has been further developed and Section 2 will now require there to be a national ministry register. Every clerk in holy orders who has authority to exercise ministry in the Church of England will have to be included in the register. There is also provision for the creation of a register of licensed lay people, and bishops will be required to provide details to the Archbishops’ Council on a regular basis so that the national registers are kept up to date. A form of the register that omits personal contact information will be published by the council and be accessible to the public free of charge.
Continue reading “Lords approve Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure”
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”