On Easter Day, 20th April 2014, the Church of England Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield, will be merged to form a new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. Here – in three parts – is a (very) brief history of the bishops of those dioceses as parliamentarians. Part One (Ripon) can be viewed here.
Part Two: The Bishops of Wakefield
All but one of the 12 who held office as Bishop of Wakefield during the 126 year history of the diocese served in the House of Lords.
On 2nd April 2014 the Bishop of Wakefield, Rt Revd Stephen Platten, received answers to written questions on EU and UK relationships with the Republic of Moldova, which borders Ukraine. The questions focused on:
the EU’s Association Agreement
political and military assurances about territorial independence and sovereignty
EU visa waiver programme
Tensions between Moldova and the autonomous regions of Transnistria and Gagauzia.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury asked Her Majesty’s Government what is being done to mitigate the social and cultural consequences of the weakening of community life in the United Kingdom.
The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, will the Minister join me in welcoming this morning’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that the Near Neighbours scheme—a very successful collaboration between faith groups and government—is being extended for a further two years? Does he also agree that the scheme is an excellent example of strengthening social cohesion in ways that are sensitive to local dynamics, and that it could serve as a model for communities up and down the United Kingdom?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The right reverend Prelate is of course right to raise the issue of the Near Neighbours scheme. It is a successful scheme in which the Church of England works with local communities, and it shows how communities and wider faith groups can come together. My noble friend who is sitting to my right famously said, “This Government does do God”. We work with people of all faiths across the country to ensure that communities are vibrant and working well together.
The Bishop of Wakefield spoke during the debate on the statutory instruments relating to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. He drew the attention of Peers to the recently published statement by the Church of England’s House of Bishops, which set out the Church’s position on this subject. He noted the wide range of views on the subject, both in the Church of England, and in the wider Anglican Communion, and noted the on-going discussions taking place between the Anglican Church in different parts of the world on the subject of human sexuality. He also highlighted the Church of England’s commitment to tackling homophobia.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: It would seem odd to me if I were to just sit here silently after people, particularly the noble Baroness, have said what they have. First, I am sure that no one in the House of Bishops would have approached with anything other than irony the fact that the statement was issued on 14 February. Secondly, I entirely associate myself with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Alli, about Uganda and other countries where such repressive measures have been taken. I am fairly certain that no one in the House of Bishops would want to say anything different.
The next thing to say is that, without any sense of disloyalty to the college to which I belong, there was a variety of opinion on how we approach the problem. It is a problem because we are dealing with a very long tradition, set out in the Book of Common Prayer. For a church that has a tradition that now goes back 450 years in what it has been saying about marriage, to move in a significantly different direction is a significant shift. There will be a variety of opinions, but that is an issue. Continue reading “Bishop of Wakefield speaks in debate on secondary legislation for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act”
The Bishop of Wakefield spoke during the debate on Syria and the Middle East, highlighting the increasing complexity of the conflict in Syria, the difficulties facing outside countries such as the UK in responding appropriately and effectively, the huge displacement of the Syrian population, and the need to invest significant resources in the region to facilitate a peaceful solution to the conflict. He asked the Government to support efforts to bring about reconciliation between two key actors in the conflict – Iran and Saudi Arabia, and called for support of civil society within the refugee populations, particularly in Lebanon and Jordan.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her characteristically clear introduction to this debate and for setting the context so succinctly.
In December 2002, I was called to 10 Downing Street for a clandestine meeting with the Prime Minister’s appointments secretary to talk about the possibility of my going to the See of Wakefield. When I arrived, I was terrified that my cover might be blown, since television cameras surrounded us and, indeed, I followed Andrew Marr through the security gate. The cameras were, of course, not for us but for President Assad, who was paying an official visit to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Indeed, there was even talk at the time of persuading the Queen to confer a knighthood on the Syrian leader. Continue reading “The Bishop of Wakefield speaks in debate on situation in Syria and the Middle East”
Baroness Williams of Trafford asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of town-centre parking policies and their impact on local businesses.
The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I want to focus particularly on the impact on small towns, which may not necessarily have trains and buses bringing people into them. Where there are not just large-scale out-of-town developments but also small-scale shopping centres, where it is easy to park for nothing, the impact on the high street is significant. In Mirfield, in the diocese from which I come, free parking has had a very good impact. In Berwick-upon-Tweed, another town I know very well, there is no free parking and that is seriously affecting local businesses. Can we be assured that Her Majesty’s Government will encourage local authorities to look at ways of finding more parking spaces in small towns?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The right reverend Prelate is right to raise the issue of more free parking. In a recent report published by Deloitte, more free parking was the single biggest issue raised by people who responded. In examining some options, we are trying to ensure that local people have a greater say in the parking arrangements of their local areas—and, clearly, access to free parking should be one of those things.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, having been one of the signatories, along with 26 other Anglican bishops, to the letter that went to the Daily Mirror last week, I am loath to speak too much about amendments to government legislation. However, on this particular occasion, because bereavement support is such a notable part of our business and ministry, I am very bothered about the direction in which the legislation is going. Continue reading “Bishop of Wakefield speaks about bereavement payments during Pensions Bill debate”
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, on securing this debate. I reassure noble Lords that I am not speaking simply to bring a modicum of gender balance to the Chamber.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, perhaps I may focus my question on Ukraine. It seems to me that there are some senses—not exactly repetitions—in which we are seeing replayed some of the things that were not resolved in the early 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union. I remember that at that time I was working at Lambeth as the archbishop’s foreign secretary, as it were, and on one occasion the telephone was brought to me in the bath. There was a call from the gatekeeper telling me that Mr Gorbachev was in captivity in the Crimea and he thought that I ought to know so that I could do something about it. Some very good and quite low-key, and low-cost, initiatives were taken by Her Majesty’s Government at that time to support the development of democracy in the various republics that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine. Can we be reassured that, once things become a little more stable, those sorts of initiatives might be looked at again? I am suggesting not carbon copies but that sort of thing.
My other point is that only the churches never recognised the division of Europe. The Conference of European Churches always worked across Europe. There are very serious divisions in the churches in the Ukraine, often reflecting some of the fragmentations that exist in the country as a whole. Again, that is another area where Her Majesty’s Government might work with others to see how one moves towards a more democratic situation.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I continue to learn how close church links can be across national boundaries. I was in Armenia some months ago and was met by a very chatty archbishop, who seemed to know almost every bishop I had ever met in this country. However, we all know that the Orthodox Church in and across the former Soviet Union is a very complex and divided entity, and not all its branches are committed to anything that we would recognise as a liberal approach to organised religion. Sadly, the different branches of the church in Ukraine represent that rather well.