By a narrow vote, the Bishop of Sodor and Man has retained his place as an ex-officio member of Tynwald’s Legislative Council. Tynwald (the parliament of the Isle of Man, or Manx) voted 18-14 to continue a tradition that dates from the beginning of parliamentary rule.

Opponents forced a vote despite a report from a government select committee recommending that the bishop retain his seat. Opponents claimed the arrangement is anachronistic and the bishop should stay out of politics, focusing on the work of the diocese.

One member, Bill Shimmins, said it was “time to move on from the medieval era” and “a question of democratic principle versus a questionable historical tradition.”

The Rt. Rev. Peter Eagles, who took office last September, said he “never felt threatened” by the debate. The diocesan bishop has been a member of the upper house of the Isle of Man’s parliament since democracy was established there.

“The role is acknowledgment of how seriously Tynwald takes the spiritual nature of the island’s identity, and its moral and ethical responsibility in caring for its people,” Bishop Eagles added. The vote emphasized “that it is a great privilege and a great responsibility.”

Sodor and Man — based in the Isle of Man’s capital, Douglas — is the smallest diocese in the Church of England, comprising 45 churches and 27 parishes. The church traces its origins to early Irish missions but was disrupted by Norse invasions. At various times it was under the jurisdiction of Norway and Ireland. In 1542 it was transferred to Canterbury. The first Book of Common Prayer in Manx Gaelic was published in 1610.

John Martin

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