Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Females & faith and Spiritual Lords in Legislatures.

This week has seen the leading body of the Church of England, its General Synod, fail to decide and agree upon whether or not to finally allow females to fill the senior positions within its church. Concurrently in the elected chamber of our parliament, MPs have torn themselves apart over the reform of its second chamber, where such Bishops still sit and vote as of right.

A planned restriction over the length of debate on the Lords reform bill had to be withdrawn by the Coalition Government yesterday, yet even that was not sufficient to quell a revolt by 91 of the members of the Commons' largest party against even the principle of Lords' Reform.

I have recently been researching the ghastly Albigensian crusades of 800 years ago, where heretics were freely burnt alive, sometimes without the slightest inquiry as to their beliefs. Studying the obscure difference in the beliefs that divided the Roman Church and these supposed heretics, it is difficult not to reach the conclusion that the real complaint was that the "Perfects" at the top of the breakaway faith were often female.

It would be self-gratifying to pretend at this distance from my own confirmation into the Church of England, that I left that church because of their similar intolerance, but that would not be strictly true, for like my peers I learned only blind tradition. More accurate as the cause of my distrust was the suspicion that the clergy attracted an odd type too prone to possibly enjoy the need to dress as female! Women clergy have hopefully now tempered that tendency.

So not considering myself a part of the Church of England I need not concern myself with their ongoing contortions over women Bishops.

That said why is my own gut reaction then to support the 91 Tory rebels over House of Lords' reform? I think it again rests partly on looking back at history. Constitutional change in England has tended to have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary. From monarch to Barons and steadily and often reluctantly from the Lords to the Commons. As always in considering the governance of Britain in the present times, we must for the moment discount from consideration the present unconstitutional powers handed to the EU, now shortly to be returned.

Power, even when transferred co-operatively, is never shaken loose easily, but when voluntarily relinquished by the powerful it serves to cement the remaining privileges of the donors.

Against that background there has been something seriously amiss in the package as presently being put before Parliament through the Commons:

1) It results from a short term political fix between two parties sharing power on a platform never put to the country's voters.

2) It denies a popular referendum when such is now commonplace on far more trivial matters.

3) Finally and most crucially, the fact that Ed Miliband, the leader of the Opposition, allowed leading Muslim MP Sadiq Khan, to appear as spokesman for his tactics, given the complicating factors in this issue of the sitting Bishops and the future role for an established church, compounding his own rather unusual non-establishment backround, tended to turn this vote into more of a revolutionary, rather than an evolutionary change to my mind - with the desired eventual power structures being allowed to determine the reforms as opposed to the self-rejuvenation from the sitting powers in a more truly English manner.


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