CofE Bishops and “public office”

Section 2 of the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure 2014 modifies Schedule 6 to the Equality Act 2010, (‘the Equality Act’), with the addition at the end—


4. The office of diocesan or suffragan bishop is not a public office.”.

Whereas paragraph 1 of Schedule 6 to the Act concerns those offices or posts which “are not personal or public offices insofar as one or more of the provisions mentioned in sub-paragraph (2)” [1], the inserted paragraph 4 is of general application within the Act and reflects  paragraphs 2 (Political Offices) and 3 (Honours &c).

Whilst it was clause 2 of the draft Measure, the necessity for and implications of the provision were considered at each stage of its passage through the synodical and parliamentary procedures. However, though Royal Assent has been given, there remains an underlying uncertainty in some quarters as to how the Church of England will rely upon section 2 of the Measure in relation to equality law other than in its application to women in the episcopate HC Hansard 30 Oct 2014 : Vol 587 (53) Col 391. It is therefore pertinent to consider the background to section 2, its future application and the broader role of CofE bishops when exercising public functions, including their position in relation to employment provisions and the common law. Continue reading