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Women bishops in C of E: Lords and Commons

by
21 December 2012

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From the Revd James Little
Sir, - I warm to Mr Alan Bartley's suggestion that women deans might take up some of the seats reserved for the Church of England in the House of Lords (Letters, 14 December); but I would like to look at this more in terms of re-establishing an ancient English constitutional practice than as innovation.

Before the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the majority of church leaders in the Lords were not the bishops, but rather the mitred abbots, most of whom would have been in priest's orders. It was not so much that the Crown ceased to summon the abbots to sit in the Lords as that, after the Dissolution, there was none left to summon.

To develop Mr Bartley's argument further: looking at some of our cathedrals that were once mitred abbeys (e.g. Peterborough or St Albans), could it not be argued that their deans (including women) might be considered the modern successors of the mitred abbots who once sat in the Lords?

Since the revival of Anglican monasticism, is there not now also a case for summoning the heads of religious orders back to the Lords? Given that women can now serve there, why not include the modern equivalent of abbesses?

Would it not be wonderful to have the Church of England represented in the Lords not only by the successors of St Augustine and St Cuth-bert, and their like, but also by the successors of such people as St Etheldreda and St Hilda?

JAMES LITTLE
The Minster Rectory, Howden
East Riding DN14 7BL

From the Revd Ben Phillips
Sir, - If Members of Parliament proceed in removing equal-opportunities exemption from the Church of England, all members of the Church, men and women, must campaign for disestablishment.

The Church of England will have no integrity if it allows doctrinal decisions to be forced by a secular Parliament. The MPs who have proposed this should be ashamed of this suggestion, as there is no parallel outside of the Chinese government's control of the Chinese state Church, and the worst of totalitarian regimes.

BEN PHILLIPS
The Vicarage
R. Real Grandeza, 99
Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, RJ
Brazil, CEP 22281-030

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