A new petition calls for the government to suspend Bishops from sitting in the House of Lords – after Anglicans opted to suspend a pro-gay church.
Christians reacted with shock last week as the Anglican Communion – the global conglomerate of churches headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury – voted overwhelmingly to sanction the US Episcopal Church for affirming same-sex marriage.
The US Episcopal Church has welcomed gay members for years, even appointing openly gay bishop Gene Robinson in 2003 – but provoked the wrath of hard-line and African churches within the Communion by its decision to embrace equal marriage.
After the vote to punish the Episcopal Church was announced, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England were singled out for criticism. Archbishop Justin Welby is reported to have allowed the punishment to go ahead to appease hard-liners and prevent a Anglican split.
But a new Parliamentary petition suggests that given the C of E’s “complicity” in opting to suspend the Episcopal Church from decision making bodies, questions must be raised about the 26 Church of England Bishops who sit in the House of Lords.
It states: “With the publication of the Church of England’s intention to sanction the US Episcopal Church over the latter’s sympathetic stance towards equal marriage, the C of E is quite out of step with UK Law and indeed common humanity.
“Thus we feel quite strongly these bishops have no place in our government.”
The previous coalition government abandoned a bill that would have reduced the numbers of Bishops in the upper chamber in 2012, after opposition from Conservative rebels.
The UK is one of just two countries in the world to reserve places in Parliament for religious leaders. The other is Iran.