Unfortunately, this misguided decision affects us all.
In case you didn’t know (and a surprising number of people don’t), the Church of England occupies a bizarre place in British society. Readers from the USA will be particularly alarmed to learn that the Church and State are unified, with the Queen at the head of both. As such, the mention of ‘legislation’ above isn’t a reference to some bunch of internal church regulations. If approved by the General Synod, Church of England Measures are introduced and debated in Parliament, receive Royal Assent, and are entered on the statute books just like ‘real’ legislation.
These might seem like purely theoretical objections were it not for the fact that twenty-six bishops sit in the House of Lords. This means that the most senior representatives of the Church of England—which has just shown itself to be institutionally sexist in the clearest way possible—have the power of scrutiny over all UK legislation. To be fair, their influence is limited: the bishops account for around 3% of the upper house, and their attendance rate is much lower than the average. However, the bishops’ spiritual nature guarantees that they will have a disproportionate presence in, for example, debates on assisted dying.
I have long believed in the disestablishment of the Church of England, reducing it to the status of every other religious organisation in the country. It cannot be justified that an organisation counting only 2.7% of the UK population amongst its active members should have a unique entitlement to representation in the legislature. If any other group in the Lords—a political party, for example—banned women from its most senior positions, it would rightly face censure and ridicule. That the church has now demonstrated its own irrelevance by rejecting equality for women should raise serious questions about its privileged position. There is no place for institutionalised sexism in Parliament.