Bishops urged to play leading role in reform of House of Lords

London, UK - 11 MARCH, 2010 - The religion and society think-tank Ekklesia has today teamed up with democracy campaign Power2010 in an initiative to urge Church of England bishops to take a lead in reforming the House of Lords.

Local churches and others are being encouraged to contact bishops, and ask them to continue in their support for the ‘bottom up’ campaign to reinvigorate democracy, which saw 100,000 votes cast, many in support of a reformed Second Chamber.

Several bishops have previously spoken favourably about Power2010, which aimed to identify five key political reforms.

A public vote, which finished on 22 February 2010, saw an all elected second chamber supported as the third most popular reform.

Bishops are now being urged to support the results, and in particular five principles for reform of the House of Lords that:

* people of faith participate alongside others in public life through civic action, free debate and good example - not through special reserved places and exemptions

* members of the second chamber are elected, publicly accountable and recallable - not based on the appointed status and privilege for a few

* legislation is scrutinised for its impact on the most vulnerable in society - not primarily the rich and powerful

* membership is open to independent and minority elected voices - not dominated by the big party machines

* Parliamentary business is discussed and voted upon in ways that encourage common action, co-operation and understanding of differences - rather than division and confrontation.

People can email all the bishops with a fully customisable message quickly and easily through the Power2010 website: http://www.power2010.org.uk/faith

Jonathan Bartley, Ekklesia co-director who recently debated the role of bishops with the Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens, the convener of the Lords Spiritual, said: “During the debate, the Bishop spoke about the importance of democracy and mentioned Power2010 by name. Other bishops too, have spoken favourably about the initiative in the House of Lords itself.

“Reform of the Second Chamber is an inevitability. The debate about the role of religious people has often been conducted in a defensive way. But now religious leaders have the chance to put the case for positive change, which will benefit everyone for years to come. The bishops should take a lead in this.”

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Notes to Editors

1. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia has been listed by The Independent newspaper as among 20 influential UK think-tanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religious and political / current affairs websites in Britain. http://ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml

2. Power2010 is a unique campaign to give everyone the chance to have a say in how our democracy works. What is unique is that it is involving the public directly in 'changing politics for good' and reforming a system many now regard as rotten. At the forthcoming election, Power2010 will work to ensure every candidate commits to reforms people have voted to see as part of a nation-wide campaign to reinvigorate our democracy from the grassroots. http://www.power2010.org.uk/

3. Ekklesia is one of a range of civil society partners involved in Power2010 and was involved in the founding discussions of the campaign, as well as in initiating this campaign for getting the bishops engaged with second chamber reform.

4. At present, Church of England bishops sit in an unelected House of Lords as of right. Britain is the only democracy where non-elected all-male representatives of one religious denomination have a place in the legislature. Ekklesia has long argued that this is wrong from both a constitutional and Christian stance, and is urging the bishops themselves to recognise the need for change and to seek a properly accountable second chamber in which persons of faith, alongside others of goodwill, may stand for election and be held publicly accountable when in public office.