WATCH has always campaigned for women and men to be bishops on equal terms, including as members of the House of Lords. Sometimes, however, equality is so far distant that some speeding up is necessary to make it happen within a reasonable time frame.
We therefore welcome the introduction of the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill to Parliament today, which will suspend the seniority rule for Diocesan Bishops waiting to join the Lords Spiritual.
The Bill recognizes the fact that for the first Diocesan Bishops who are women, this hasn’t been a level playing field and they will not have had the same opportunities historically to be able to fulfill their full and true callings.
This legislation is for a set period of time (ten years) and will offer the opportunity of speeding up achieving more parity between the sexes on the Lord’s Spiritual benches.
Of course this only applies to Diocesan Sees, so would not be relevant for any Suffragan appointments, including that of the newly appointed Bishop of Stockport, Rev Libby Lane.
Hilary Cotton, Chair of WATCH said, ” Women have been members of the House of Lords for less than sixty years, but no-one would countenance a second chamber without them now. We believe that female bishops will add to the wise counsel offered to the Government from the Bishops’ Benches, and on some issues will have very different and significant life experience to draw from, and on which to offer their reflections.”