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Parliament told BBC provides adequate Christian programming: The Church of England Newspaper, January 31, 2014 February 17, 2014

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The Second Church Estates Commissioner has assured Parliament there is an adequate amount of Christian programming on radio and television.

During Oral Answers to Questions of the Church Commissioners on 9 January, the member for Strangford, Jim Shannon (DUP) asked Sir Tony Baldry “what discussions has the Commissioner had with media outlets such as TV and radio with regard to Christian programming? Does he agree that it is important to retain a level of programming that reflects the Christian status of this nation? What can be done to promote such programming?”

Sir Tony stated he did not believe there was a problem as if one looked, one could find religious programmes.

“To be honest, I do not think that Christians do too badly. If one gets up early enough, one can find a perfectly good programme between 7 and 8 o’clock on BBC Radio 4 every Sunday. I do not think we can feel that we are in some way discriminated against by the broadcasters.”

Parliament told no solution at hand for church bat crisis: The Church of England Newspaper, July 28, 2013, p 6. August 1, 2013

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Bats are destroying British churches, the Second Church Estates Commissioner Sir Tony Baldry told Parliament. Speaking in response to a question from the member for Bury North, Mr. David Nuttall (Cons.) on the “ effects of bats in churches”, on 4 July 2013 Sir Tony said the “present situation” of 6400 churches infested with bats was “simply unsustainable.”

“A small number of bats living in a church can be manageable, but parish churches are finding an increasing number of bats taking up residence in large roosts. There are significant costs in financial and human terms to those who worship in these churches, and to the wider community,” he said.

Sir Tony noted “Parish churches have to raise the money for bat litigation at considerable cost to their community, and that can prevent their own mission and ministry,” citing the case of St Hilda’s Ellerburn which had spent “a total of £29,000 so far, which is a significant sum for a small congregation to finance.”

“As yet, there is no resolution in sight,” to the bat problem, he said. However the member for Bristol East, Ms. Kerry McCarthy (Lab.) rose to speak on behalf of bats, asking if the Church Commissioners would foster dialogue between the Bat Conservation Trust and the Church Buildings Council?

Sir Tony responded this was not “an issue that can be managed. Large numbers of churches are being made unusable by large numbers of bats roosting in them. Churches are not field barns; they are places of worship”

He added that he had “a number of letters from clergy up and down the country saying how distressing it was for them, before they could celebrate communion on Sunday, to have to clear bat faeces and bat urine off the altar and the communion table. That is not acceptable.”

He told the House bat infestation was “not a joking matter. This is serious and people have to understand that. I am grateful for the attention paid to this issue by the Under-Secretary. We are making real progress, but we need to ensure that [churches] can continue to be places of worship and are not closed as a consequence of bat faeces and bat urine.”

Second Church Estates Commissioner rejects govt’s gay marriage bill: The Church of England Newspaper, February 8, 2013 February 14, 2013

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The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, broke ranks with his party’s leadership this week and spoke against adoption of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.

Rising to speak during the debate following the Second Reading of the Bill, Sir Tony stated that while he would vote against the bill, he wished to thank the government for their assurances that the legislation would protect religious freedom.

Speaking in his capacity as Second Church Estates Commission, Sir Tony said he wanted to “make clear to the House the views of the Church of England on the provisions that the Government have included to safeguard religious freedoms. Let me make it clear that I entirely accept the Government’s good faith in this matter and am appreciative, as is the Bishop of Leicester, who convenes the Bishops in the other place, and as are senior Church officials, of the attempts the Government have made.”

He noted the government was correct in ensuring that “every Church and denomination can reach its own conclusion on these matters and be shielded so far as possible from the risk of litigation” and he accepted the government’s pledge that the “quadruple locks” would protect the rights of the Church of England.

“The so-called quadruple locks are sensible and necessary,” he said, adding the “simple point” is that the Church of England and the Church in Wales “have not wanted anything different in substance from all other Churches and faiths—namely, to be left entirely free to determine their own doctrine and practice in relation to marriage.”

However, Sir Tony noted the Church of England was not a creature of Parliament. While it had a common law duties to marry all parishioners, the issue was rather “complex” as its “canon law remains part of the law of the land and it also has its own devolved legislature which, with Parliament’s agreement, can amend Church legislation and Westminster legislation.”

He noted that in changing marriage, the government was creating a “number of extremely difficult second-order issues. Although the failure to consummate a marriage will still be a ground on which a heterosexual marriage can be voidable, the Bill provides that consummation is not to be a ground on which a marriage of a same-sex couple will be voidable.”

“It also provides that adultery is to have its existing definition—namely, sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. It therefore follows that divorce law for heterosexual couples will be fundamentally different from divorce law for same-sex couples, because for heterosexual couples the matrimonial offence of adultery will persist while there will be no similar matrimonial offence in relation to same-sex marriage. The fact that officials have been unable to apply these long-standing concepts to same-sex marriage is a further demonstration of just how problematic is the concept of same-sex marriage.”

“There is an inevitable degree of risk in all this,” he said. While the “Government believe that this is a risk worth taking. The Church of England does not.” Sir Tony said.

Knighthood for Second Church Estates Commissioner: The Church of England Newspaper, June 19, 2012 June 23, 2012

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Sir Tony Baldry, MP

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry MP, has been awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. On 16 June 2012, the London Gazette reported the Queen had conferred the honour of Knight Bachelor upon Antony Brian Baldry for “for public and political service.”

The member for Banbury (Cons.) in Parliament since 1983, Sir Tony was appointed Second Church Estates Commissioner by the coalition government in 2010.

Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners, said: “I am delighted that Tony Baldry has been awarded a knighthood. Sir Tony plays a vital role in the link between the Church and Parliament, regularly answering questions on Church matters in the House of Commons.

“Since his appointment as Second Commissioner two years ago, he has worked tirelessly to ensure both Church and State understand each other, and encourages each to work together for the benefit of the whole country.”

Sir Tony said: “I am very proud to have been made a Knight, particularly in the Birthday Honours of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.

“All the work in which I am involved as an MP, from campaigns on the Horton Hospital, to campaigns with the Churches, are team efforts, and I hope that I will always be an effective advocate for such campaigns.”

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Metal theft concerns raised in Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, March 16, 2012 p 7. March 21, 2012

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Tony Baldry MP

Concerns over the economic and social costs of metal thefts from churches and war memorials dominated questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Mr. Tony Baldry, in Parliament last week.

On 1 March 2012, Mr. Baldry answered four Oral Parliamentary Questions in the Commons and answered a written question on 5 March about metal thefts.  Last week’s questions follow on questions raised by MPs on 20 Feb and 19 Jan 2012 on the costs of the 0ver 2500 metal thefts from churches reported in 2011.

In response to a written question from the member for Ashfield, Ms. Gloria De Piero (Lab.) about the total costs of metal theft, Mr. Baldry stated that the “total value of cost to the Church of England” for metal thefts in “2010 was around £6.5 million of which around £2.3 million was covered by insurance.”

In 2011 the cost “was around £10 million of which around £4.4 million was covered by insurance.”

The previous week Mr. Baldry answered nine questions in Parliament, four of which dealt with metal thefts and related issues.

The member for Truro and Falmouth, Ms. Sarah Newton (Con.) asked “what steps the Church Commissioners are taking to ensure that cathedrals are able to access insurance.”

Mr. Baldry responded the Church Commissioners were aware of the “increasing demands that cathedrals are making on their insurance policies, especially as a consequence of metal theft. The majority of cathedrals are insured by Ecclesiastical Insurance and so far no Cathedral has ever been refused any insurance claim by Ecclesiastical, which is working extremely hard with all cathedrals to assist in reducing the problem of metal theft.”

Ms. Newton noted that she had read of instances where cathedrals were “unable to insure themselves.”

“So will my hon. Friend keep ensuring that cathedrals can afford insurance?”

Mr. Baldry responded that he believed her concerns were justified, but deflected her question. “Cathedrals have not been immune from thefts,” he noted, adding that each new theft “puts up the costs of insurance in all cathedrals.”

“That is why we have to bear down on metal theft,” the Second Church Estates Commissioner said.

The members for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Mr. Tom Blenkinsop, (Lab.) and Hexam, Mr. Guy Opperman, (Con.) rose to ask what steps were being taken to protect churches, churchyards and war memorials from metal thefts, and if there had been any consultations with the government over these issues?

Mr. Baldry said that he, the Bishop of London and the chairman of the cathedral and church buildings division of the Church of England, Mrs. Anne Sloman, have had “numerous detailed discussions with a number of Ministers on the issue of metal theft from church property.”

Asked by Mr. Opperman whether he would support stiffer prison terms for metal thieves, Mr. Baldry replied there was a “general desire across the House for the courts seriously to consider deterrent sentences for what is a despicable crime.”

The member for Leyton and Wanstead, Mr. John Cryer (Lab.) rose and asked whether grants might be available to churches to protect them from theft.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner responded that churches that had installed roof alarms or used SmartWater had seen a “substantially reduced” incidence of theft.  These steps were “necessarily that expensive and I hope that all churches will look at how they can improve security to deter metal theft.”

The member for Sherwood, Mr. Mark Spencer (Con.) rose and asked whether there had been discussion with English Heritage about “allowing fibreglass replacements of lead roofs so that the crime is no longer a temptation?”

While there had beencontinuous discussions with English Heritage” about replacing lead with fiberglass, some “60 per cent of grade-I listed buildings in this country are Church of England churches, and there are some restraints as a consequence of those listings,” Mr. Baldry said.

The member for Walsall South, Ms. Valerie Vaz (Lab) rose and asked a new question of the Second Church Estates Commissioner about the number of churches using marking systems to prevent metal thefts and the costs of such systems.

Forensic marking is “widespread and strongly encouraged” Mr. Baldry said.  “Some 12,500 churches have registered with the SmartWater scheme,” he said, adding that SmartWater had “been successful in a number of cases involving arrests and successful prosecutions.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gay marriage ‘nuts’: The Church of England Newspaper, March 9, 2012, p 6 March 15, 2012

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The Church of England will be making a submission to the government’s consultation on same-sex marriage, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Mr. Tony Baldry told Parliament last week.

On 1 March 2012, the member for Wellingborough, Mr. Peter Bone, (Con.) asked what “recent representations he has received on the implications for the Church Commissioners of the Government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage.”

Mr. Baldry stated the Church of England would be making a “detailed submission to the forthcoming consultation exercise, which will provide an opportunity for a more focused critique of what is proposed, including the proposal to distinguish in law between civil and religious marriage.”

In response Mr. Bone asked if it would not be simpler “just to write back and say, ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman so this is completely nuts’?”

The Second Church Estates Commissioner declined to be drawn over the sanity of the government’s plans, but noted that “so far as the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and many other faith groups are concerned, marriage is a union between one man and one woman. That is a point that we will be putting forward, I hope, responsibly and clearly in the consultation.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bell ringing questions in Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, March 9, 2012 p 6. March 15, 2012

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The Church of England remains keen to support campanology, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament last week.

In response to a question from the member for Pendle, Mr. Andrew Stephenson (Con.) who asked what steps the Church Commissioners were taking to “promote bell ringing,” Mr. Tony Baldry stated that a “general fund provides grants to enable the repair and maintenance of historic bell towers.”

He added that the Church of England was “delighted” that bell ringing in churches would take “centre stage” during the diamond jubilee and Olympic celebrations.

Mr. Stephenson informed the House that the bell ringers of St Mary-le-Ghyll church in Barnoldswick had raised more than £60,000 to add three bells to their church, and were in the process of raising funds to add an additional two bells.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner stated this was a “fantastic achievement” and expressed his hope that all six bells would ring out on 3 June 2012 to coincide with the river pageant on the River Thames.

“I am glad to report to the House that the lead barge—the herald barge—will contain a floating belfry, the first of its kind with a new ring of eight bells cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Each of the royal jubilee bells will have the royal arms cast on it and will be named after a senior member of the royal family. The bells will go down the Thames and ring a quarter peal on the river, with the church bells along the route providing a musical response. It is hoped that at 3 pm on 3 June bells throughout England will ring out to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee,” Mr. Baldry said.

The speaker congratulated the Second Church Estates Commissioner for the breadth of his knowledge on bells, saying “no one could accuse the hon. Gentleman of providing the House with insufficient information.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Women clergy now make up 15 per cent of Anglican clerics: The Church of England Newspaper, October 27, 2009, p October 27, 2009

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Anne McIntosh MP

Women vicars comprised 15 per cent of the parochial-incumbent status clergy of the Church of England at the close of 2007, the Second Church Estates Commissioner told Parliament last week.

At the end of 1997, six per cent of parochial-incumbent status clergy — or 426 overall — were women, whereas in 2007, 15 per cent, or 974, were women,” Sir Stuart Bell said on Oct 15. However, the number of full-time parochial clergy had also fallen over the past 10 years, from 7,471 at the end of 1997 to 6,450 on Dec 31, 2007.

The member for the Vale of York, Miss Anne McIntosh (Con) asked Sir Stuart what the Church of England would do to arrest this decline and “increase the number of parish priests, particularly in rural areas.”

“Because the number of priests has fallen, the size and number of parishes that they are being asked to look after has risen. That is putting huge pressure on them, and is obviously quite stressful,” Miss McIntosh said.

Sir Stuart responded that the Church of England was “keen for stipends to be flexible enough to allow it to put clergy where they can best be deployed, consistent with preventing their mobility from being impeded.” He added that the number of ordinands had also risen to 552 in 2007, “the highest number since 2000.”

The Church of England welcomed the “upward trend” but “owing to deaths and retirements the number of stipendiary clergy is falling overall,” he said. The Church recognised that the amalgamation of parishes, particularly in rural areas had increased the “work load of priests,” Sir Stuart said, “but how we deal with it shall have to be discussed with the Archbishops’ Council.”