Money not morals

Lord Tyler

This week’s public debate about the role of faith in Britain today has thrown up some curious myths about the Church of England  … and indeed about the presence of 26 of its Bishops in the House of Lords.

I am a practising Anglican (trying to improve) but I have been firmly committed to disestablishment for over 50 years, for the sake of both church and state.  The muddled relationship doesn’t help either at a time when we have become, over the centuries, a multi-denominational and multi-faith nation.

In any case, Wales and Northern Ireland are not represented by the Church of England and Scotland has a different established church. Are they any worse for that ?

As for the Lords, when we in the Joint Committee on the Government’s reform bill were examining the issue of the ex-officio Bishops, I had an opportunity to question Archbishop Rowan Williams:  with his experience of Wales, did he think that the church there, or the Welsh people, felt deprived because they had no Bishops in the Lords?

And far from being a necessary product of the Established Church, was it not true that the original medieval model for Parliament, long before Henry VIII and the Reformation, had for a time included more “Lords Spiritual” than “Lords Temporal”?  And, indeed, did not these involve Catholic Abbots and Abbesses, as well as all the Bishops?  And was not the reason for their inclusion that monarchs of the day needed the financial support of every big feudal landowner before they could contemplate a good war?   The whole privileged role is an absurd anachronistic anomaly.  Far from being the “moral compass” of the nation, the logic for the presence of the CoE Bishops on the Red Benches is that once-upon-a-time their predecessors were such big businesses they could not be ignored.

After that exchange Archbishop Williams commented: “I am afraid that anachronism is, to me, a shortcut in an argument.”   But he didn’t dispute my facts.

8 comments for “Money not morals

  1. Gareth Howell
    26/04/2014 at 2:27 pm

    Very interesting post! Thank you! That may be how we know each other noble lord.

    I may say that I am tussling with the differences between “Secular Franciscan Friars and anglican ones at the moment, so my concern is …. different.

    I take issue with this remark, and I’m ethnic Welsh,
    ” >Wales and Northern Ireland are not represented by the Church of England” They are. The cofE is the mother church of both the Church in Wales and the Church in Ireland, CofE churches in Dublin regrettably included.

    Curiously maoris who take up God in NZ are Anglican, but the
    ethnic Brits are CofE.

    I wouldnt bother mentioning it but I have done some fairly deep genealogical studies since internet/web and CofE Wales
    is essential.

    Late Dad (Howell of course)was a communist for a while in the late 20s!! But then we got to know Stalin.

  2. Honoris Causa
    26/04/2014 at 2:38 pm

    I suppose if we dis-established the CofE we could form a kind of papal state out of the Borough of Westminster and describe it as sovereign, the same way as the Vatican city. We could even have our own radio station and broadcast to Finland in old English (Viz Latin from Vatican radio to Helsinki!)

    The ancient R Catholic order of St John, (1185ce)SMOM (Soveriegn military Order of malta) about which our good friend Norman St John Stevas was so fond, now has sovereignty in Malta for the first time in several hundred years after a charter agreement in about 2005.

    The precedent is there!

  3. Gareth Howell
    26/04/2014 at 3:22 pm

    The new, thus formed, sovereign state would ,obviously, include Buckingham palace and the palace of St James and its parish.
    It would probably also include the palace of Lambeth, across the river, but the palace of Westminster would have to relocate, or be excluded, in order to rule over the English of England, which I have been urging for some time now! Palace of Westminster as a museum of palriaments wpuld be very interesting indeed for all the visotors to its precincts!

    Disestablished, but a haven for all those of British descent all over the world.

    These things take time, but the imitation of the Catholic way of doing things over the last few hundred years, make it clear that a sovereign state along the lines of the Vatican state and Vatican City are the way ahead!!

  4. Senex
    29/04/2014 at 1:13 pm

    Why is Señor Clegg suddenly calling for a separation of Church and State when the Bishops are already separated? The Bishops along with other religious leaders inform the political process on matters of morality. If he is calling for these others to have ex officio status too then this strengthening must be welcomed.

  5. Gareth Howell
    30/04/2014 at 1:19 pm

    Why?! It’s something to talk about, and there is not much at the moment, thank goodness!

    Unfortunately the outcome of a good many bills and acts of parliament, as well, is to have precisely that, moral effect, by no means always good; some people might say rarely “good”

    Not to understand the lack of moral effect of acts of parliament can be disastrous for the individuals concerned.
    Not to understand the lack of moral effect, or complete lack of morals ,of the protagonists from the church may be even worse.

  6. Lord Tyler
    01/05/2014 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks for the very thoughtful – and thought provoking – comments. Just one clarification, for Gareth in particular, I should have been more specific: “Wales and Northern Ireland are not represented by the Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords.”

    • maude elwes
      03/05/2014 at 10:18 am

      I wonder if you feel, Lord Tyler, any of the people in the UK are represented by the Church of England Bishops in the House of Lords? I know I don’t.

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