[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Newcastle Christine Hardman on Jan. 26 become the second female bishop in the Church of England to take her seat in the U.K.’s House of Lords – the upper house of the U.K. Parliament. The ceremony took place the day after her neighboring bishop secured a Lords’ victory over the government on child poverty reporting.
Bishops have played a part in Britain’s legislature since before the era of democracy; and today some 26 bishops have seats in the upper chamber. The archbishops of Canterbury and York and the bishops of London, Durham and Winchester are automatically members of the House of Lords. The remaining 21 places are taken by the most senior diocesan bishop by length of service. However, under transitional arrangements, for the next nine years the most senior female diocesan bishop will jump the queue and leapfrog their male counterparts.
At the start of business in the House of Lords this afternoon, Hardman was led into the Lords’ Chamber by Bishop of Southwark Christopher Chessun and was followed by Archbishop of York John Sentamu. Immediately prior to becoming a bishop, Hardman served the Diocese of Southwark as an archdeacon. Her new diocese, Newcastle, is in the Church of England’s Province of York.
Her Writ of Summons – the Queen’s instruction to sit as a bishop – was presented to a House of Lords official who read it out loud. Hardman swore the parliamentary Oath of Allegiance. She was then taken to her place on the bishops’ benches, shaking the hands of the Lords’ Speaker and the Leader of the House of Lords on the way.
“Joining the House of Lords is a great privilege and responsibility,” Hardman said before the ceremony. “God cares about the world as a whole – not just about the Church. I look forward to engaging and working with the other bishops and with key partners for all that leads to the flourishing of communities.
“I will make the most of this opportunity to speak on behalf of those whose voices are not always heard, and particularly alongside the Bishop of Durham to speak up for the North East.”