This morning I was sent the following question in 2 tweets by a Labour tweeter, Caroline Penn:
@Ian4PCC Im considering my 2nd preference. Can you just answer the following questions? 1. As a church man, do you believe in women bishops? 2. Do you fully support equal marriage? 3. Do you fully support the current abortion law of 24 weeks? Thank you.
In the interests of openness and to avoid the restriction of answering the questions in 140 character bursts I am happy to answer here for Caroline and indeed anyone else who is interested in my personal opinions.
Firstly I must point out that these questions are completely unconnected to the role of Police Commissioner and in that sense they will not affect my role if elected in any way. Secondly I recognise an element that is consistent across the three which is that many people have got focused on the detail implicit in Caroline’s questions, and it is easy to miss the bigger picture in terms of the people involved. Finally none of these apply to me personally and so my view is somewhat distant from the direct consequences of these views. I apologise if my views do not respect the situation which impacts you.
1) Women Bishops – There are no Bishops in my own church, but we have many women leaders. The ruling that allowed women to be Priests in the Church of England makes no sense if the Church does not enable women to also become Bishops. The current discussions are about when and how not if, and sadly the debate about the delays and special measures are sending out signals that the rest of us find very confusing. These concerns are important to those who hold them, but in my view the sooner one of the many wonderful possible candidates is selected as the first female Bishop the better.
2) Equal Marriage – In my view the 1837 Marriage Act opened the way for equal marriage decisions to be taken by the state but it has taken 175 years to get there. I understand why so many people within and outside the church do not support the proposed change but that would be true of many other changes in our history. Marriage is a fantastic way of saying that one other person is special and making a lifetime commitment to them and I think any adult wishing to make such a commitment to another should be enabled to do so by the state. However I also recognise that there are views within most faith groups that place an additional dimension to this service which cannot be changed by the state or through legislation, it is clearly a matter for each of these groups to determine on what basis they will conduct their religious activities.
3) Abortion at 24 weeks – Like many people I recognise that the decision to end a pregnancy through abortion is a serious matter, and together we must work harder to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. A change of the termination date from 24 weeks does not appear to affect that in any way and a return to back street abortions would add nothing to our care for women who are faced with such a difficult situation. What we can do though is ensure that all women are supported to make the best decision in challenging circumstances.