How would you describe your personal identity in terms of religion or belief?
Christian, but of the lapsed variety I suspect. Belief in God, but not regular attender at organised acts of worship. I stopped going when I realised that I enjoyed visiting the dentists more.
Is this the tradition you grew up with? If so what might you stick with it?
I think, I first got involved with church as a result of music really, and getting involved in Anglican churches was the blueprint for other churches I went to. It was sticking with something that quickly became a familiar pattern I think.
Would you describe GB as an equal and tolerant society, in particular where religion and belief are concerned?
I would describe it as variable, I don’t think there is a complete picture of society that is coherent enough for me to say that I’ve seen this and can identify this with the UK’s approach to religion and belief. I see very varying attitudes amongst varying people.
How easy it is for you to live in accordance with your personal beliefs in this country? If so, are they social, legal or political in nature?
Purely social. But when I say social, I perhaps don’t mean as a result of direct societal pressure to live in a different way from how I live. It’s more sort of the norm of the rat race. I feel to a certain extent in the UK, this is a generalisation so probably unfair, but many people I speak to feel that they’ve been brought up to work in a secure professional job, to buy a house and save enough for retirement and make oneself materially comfortable.
And that’s a counter Christian norm?
Not so much directly, but it can make one reasonably insular in terms of perspective, so that would be counter Christian in terms of feathering one’s own nest before looking after others. I think increasingly the problem is one of a pull on time and the pressures of an open all hours society.
How would you say that Christianity/Anglicanism regards human rights?
Yes, because I think the basic teachings of Jesus in particular support treating people fairly. I think however, sometimes there is seen to be dissonance between human rights and organised religion as a result of focus on people views within a particular religious establishment, or particular doctrines or whatever.
Do you regard the Human Rights Act as a positive or problematic development?
I would prefer not to answer that because of my current position.
Can you think of practical ways in which the Anglican Church in GB supports or defends human rights?
In terms of the established Church as a whole, it depends on local branches of organisation. So promotion of family life is something some branches of the Anglican church invest quite a lot of time and energy in, providing support and teaching for families, promotion of marriage, that sort of thing. Other rights I think perhaps less so. There are very different views within Anglicanism about things such as freedom of expression for example.
When should the State intervene to limit the practical expression of religious beliefs?
To my mind the limit should be, harm to others. And by harm I don’t mean offence, I mean, actual harm. I probably don’t even mean distress. Okay, I’m being very professional and refraining from saying that if we included distress that might cause problems for some sorts of church music quite honestly. I suppose, if I could I find legal powers to outlaw some of that, on basic taste and decency grounds.
Do you regard living in a Parliamentary democracy as a good thing? Is there any system which you would prefer?
I regard it as a good thing when compared with all of the others, so I probably wouldn’t prefer any other system of government to that.
Do you believe that you have a personal duty to vote, if so, does that come from your religious faith?
Yes, I do, and this duty is one that I’ve sometimes struggled to exercise. I don’t believe it has anything personally for me to do with religious belief. It’s more to do with Mrs Pankhurst.
And presumably in your case, some of the Chartists as well? More than Mrs Pankhurst?
Well, they were a bit before my time.
I assumed that Mrs Pankhurst was a bit before your time as well? An awful lot of people have quite rightly brought up the suffragettes, but they were people who died so that men without money and property could have the right to vote as well.
Indeed, but they haven’t made any films about them. So they’re less on the zeitgeist than the suffragettes. Maybe they’ll be a film about the Corn Laws next.
Do you think that there are some groups which find it harder than others to participate in a democratic system, and if so, what kind of barriers are there?
I suspect it depends what you mean by difficult. I suspect that there are plenty of individuals, some of whom belong to particular groups who would find participation difficult. There are also varying levels of participation. For instance, of all the people who vote, people vote for different reasons and people engage in the process leading up to the election to different degrees and expense.
Is it a good or a bad thing that Parliament has a final say in making and changing law, would you like to see a judiciary with the capacity to strike down legislation?
Again, I’d better not answer that one.
Do you feel that it is a problem that members of the House of Lords are not elected?
It doesn’t personally cause me any problem.
What do you think about the presence of bishops in the House of Lords?
I see the position of the Lords Spiritual in practical terms with reference to the Lords overall role in the debates and formulation of legislation and legislative scrutiny. I think that any such time that we have an established church it is right to have Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords to perhaps act as a guide, to provide spiritual and moral input. I’m not saying that input from others is necessarily immoral, but the bishops do have a part to play. That said, I would also be keen to see representatives from other faith groups play a similar role.
Well, they sort of do by default, in the sense that in altering what bits of the UK do that has a knock on effect on the whole.
Oh, yes I see, in terms of taxes and finance and consequential implications of that?
Yes, and also the differing experiences of citizens. Look at the controversy about the different system of prescription charges depending on whether you live in say Bristol or Newport.
Yes, and that interesting story recently about how long you wait for an operation depending on whether you live one side of the border or another, that being an effect of those decisions on health spending. I think it raises complexities, the fact that there are almost two different horses being run. A sort of EU harmony approach, but also an increasing desire to have devolved decision making locally. I think that a union has to be based on compromise, so it doesn’t particular trouble me that there are knock on implications for decisions. I’m certainly not aware of anything that has caused me outrage or discomfort.
What does your faith teach about people with people and the duties which they owe to society?
A core of Christian teaching is that power is associated with responsibility and the need for it to be exercised in not only a beneficent but also a merciful way.
Do you think that practising Anglicans are appropriately and proportionately represented in public life?
I really don’t know, I think there might be a number of reasons why I don’t know. Partly because I don’t necessarily pay that much attention to who’s who in terms of people occupying positions of power and therefore don’t know which of them are practising Christians or Anglicans. And secondly, there may be plenty who are in such positions who don’t choose to perhaps publically identify themselves in that way.
How does the Anglican Church seek to challenge decisions which it perceives as problematic for society?
As an established body, I think it depends what you mean by decisions. Obviously, the Lords Spiritual play a part in that. I think we’ve see a sea change since the consecration of the last archbishop of Canterbury. His approach on behalf of the church and as a church leader seems to be to mobiles public opinion using media and social media. So let me give you an example, when there was a particular focus on pay day lenders.
Do you think that public bodies have a good understanding of the needs of practising Anglicans? In your personal experience have your beliefs been understood and respected?
Personally, yes. I suppose two points arising from that. Again, I find it difficult to identify public agencies with a unified approach towards different religious groups. Having said that, most of the public authorities I come into contact with are, whether they know it or acknowledge it or not, are built on deep seated societal, Christian frameworks.
Is it important for you always to act within secular law?
Yes, it is important to act within state law. I think there could be circumstances where it would be morally necessary to oppose it though, one only has to go back to Germany in the 1930s to think of examples where it would be morally required to break laws imposed by the state. So I count myself as fortunate to be in a position where the choice is not really a difficult one.
Do your personal beliefs require you to speak out against injustices affecting third parties, especially the vulnerable?
Do you think that the Rule of Law is applied equally in the UK, or are there some groups who receive either preferential or prejudicial treatment?
I think, the bigger problem in that respect is access to justice in the first place. So I don’t have any personal experience of any circumstances where I feel a particular group has received less favourable treatment as a result of a court exercising its jurisdiction. I am increasingly worried by how certain people in society may now secure access to justice or representation, particularly good quality representation in certain forums, particularly criminal and family courts.
What do you think about the general trend in the last 15 years towards an increase in police powers/state surveillance?
I honestly don’t know. I am troubled by how easy it is to be monitored in terms of things like location. Things like increases in technology and it being possible to work out where a mobile phone is being switched on, and there being so many cameras in our city centres. I’m only troubled about it from a sort of perspective of it must have been nice in the past when one could effectively disappear or go off radar so to speak, not for any more ideological principle than that. I really don’t know in relation to the greater principle in terms of increase in surveillance and police powers are justified.
Are there any legal rules which you find restrictive?
Anything you would like to add?
Only that one of the things that interests me, there has been in recent years significant increase in reporting about Christians in the UK being marginalised as a result of their belief, not being able to do this or that. I wonder, there is a genuine reason for that, or whether just as in the 1990s there was all sorts of sensationalist reporting about the effects of European laws and the story about outlawing bent bananas and that sort of thing. I wonder whether there is an element of that. That said, I think we are seeing law changing to reflect the increasingly secularisation of society. I think that your generation and my generation will be the last to remember a time when shops were shut on Sundays and Good Friday was observed by people as a Holy Day when nothing was open, even if they weren’t regular participants in acts of worship. So I think that there has been that change and that the law has moved to reflect a greater degree of secularisation. But that said I don’t think that I’ve witnessed what is being reported in terms of Christians not being able to speak their minds or exercise their faith.
Chris originally studied law at the University of Durham, following which he trained as a solicitor and worked in the fields of medical and professional disciplinary law for 14 years. He has also notched up around 20 years experience as an amateur church musician, playing the organ and piano for a variety of different styles of worship-the nadir of which has either been a fortissimo wrong note in the concluding organ voluntary for a live broadcast of Radio 4’s Morning Worship, or having to accompany a groom singing “Annie’s Song” by John Denver, as his intended walked down the aisle.
When not doing something connected with music, Chris can usually be found trying to up-cycle old furniture for local charity shops, or reading books about British jazz.