Does my hon. Friend accept that the number of redundant churches there is likely to rise if the clergy reflect their bishop's view of the resurrection and talk about a conjuring trick with bones? That phrase is grossly offensive to millions of bible-believing Christians. Does my hon. Friend also accept that the bishop's view about society, the economy and allegedly shoeless families are as eccentric and ill-founded as his theological views?
I should incur your wrath, Mr. Speaker, if I attempted to answer matters for which I am not answerable. I hope that my hon. Friend read the text of what was said—I expect that he has. I take the point about the actual formulation used. The Lord Bishop of Durham is now well able to answer for himself in another place, which is a great relief to me.
Mr. Mark Hughes:
May I record that it is a great relief to the diocese of Durham that its bishop can answer ln the other place, rather than have the hon. Gentleman answering for him? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many people in the diocese of Durham welcome the bishop's forthright views on the pressures invoked on families consequent upon the current strike?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that, not only today but previously, I have attempted to understand both sides. Perhaps he and I—he is much more qualified than I am in this matter—understand the difference between a quip or a phrase used round an academic table and instruction or guidance given by the bishop of a diocese.
As my hon. Friend is the nearest thing, with the possible exception of myself, to an English pope, will he tell us how many redundant bishops there are in the diocese of Durham?
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that churches in Durham and in many other places would be fuller, and the views of priests listened to with more respect, if more clergymen spoke with the clarity, conviction, courage and facts with which the Bishop of Durham recently addressed the nation?
Will my hon. Friend ensure that in future redundant churches are vested in the fund so that they can remain quiet places where orthodox believers can contemplate the fate of heretics?
Will not the social and enlightened message of the Bishop of Durham serve only to swell congregations throughout that county and, indeed, the entire northern region, where there is high unemployment? Will the hon. Gentleman have a word with the chairman of the Conservative party and tell him to stop bullying the bishops? They do not like it.
One could say many things about the 43 diocesan bishops of the Church of England, but one cannot say that they are capable of being bullied by my hon. Friend or by anyone else.
While thanking my hon. Friend for that answer, may I say that there may be many more redundant churches if women are admitted to the priesthood? Will he encourage the Church Commissioners to ensure that no churches are demolished after they are declared redundant, but are instead used for other purposes such as for the ethnic communities?
I have studied carefully the list of churches in Leicester. My hon. Friend will know of the great care that has been taken to find alternative living uses where that is possible. As to the first part of his question, I do not believe that this afternoon, after what has happened, I should touch women.