The Bishop of Blackburn to join the House of Lords

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The Diocesan Bishop for The Church of England in Lancashire is set to become the newest member of the House of Lords.

Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, has received his ‘writ of summons’ and will take up his seat as one of the ‘Lords Spiritual’ on February 6.

From 11am that day, Bishop Julian becomes one of 26 Church of England bishops in the House of Lords. He continues as Diocesan Bishop, with Lords responsibilities now forming part of his ongoing workload.

Speaking today, Bishop Julian said: “It is a huge privilege for me to be admitted into, and share in the work of, the House of Lords. I ask for the prayers of people across Lancashire as I prepare for this new role.

“I will still spend most of my time in the Diocese fulfilling my responsibilities here, but I am looking forward to being a new voice for the County; to engaging in debates on matters of public interest from a Christian perspective and to joining other Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal [1][3] in holding the Government of the day to account.”

At an as yet unspecified date Bishop Julian will be invited to make his first address (or ‘maiden speech’) to the House. That speech will form part of a wider debate on the date chosen, so Bishop Julian plans to wait until there is the right opportunity to allow him to speak first on topical matters related to Lancashire.

Subsequently, Bishop Julian will participate in a variety of debates as and when the opportunities arise. As one of the Lords Spiritual, from 2021 onward he will also take turns to be ‘duty Bishop’ in the House twice a year. One of the key tasks of the duty Bishop is the offering of prayers at the start of each Parliamentary sitting day. (The House cannot legally sit without a Lord Spiritual in place and prayers being said.)

Bishop Julian may also represent a particular ‘portfolio’ in due course; in other words, becoming an official spokesperson for the Lords Spiritual on a particular subject aligned to his own expertise and/or interests.

He commented: “While the agenda in the House of Lords will dictate when I give my maiden speech and speak on other matters, I would hope to be able to draw on my experience of being a Bishop in Lancashire and to speak on a variety of topics including rural affairs, homelessness, education, community cohesion, poverty, mental health matters and, of course, the importance of faith in today’s society.

“Lancashire has many vibrant and active faith communities and I hope to be a voice of support for all faiths; in particular the importance of respecting people of faith, their beliefs and their right to hold those beliefs in our free and democratic society.”

When Bishop Julian is admitted at 11am on February 6 he will be supported by members of his family watching from the gallery, including his wife Heather; and on the floor of the House itself by current Lords Spiritual, the Bishops of Carlisle and St Albans.