Friday, 29 April 2005

General Synod Elections 2005

Election Poster There will be a general election for the Church of England’s General Synod in September. Church House Westminster held a consultation for returning officers on Tuesday of this week. In connection with this a lot of guidance material has been placed online. Although intended primarily for the returning officers much of it will be of more general interest.

The provisional timetable is:

1 Notification to electors of the election timetable to be followed in the diocese and issue of nomination papers:
Not later than Tuesday 19th July

2 Notification of the validity of any nomination:
As soon as any nomination is received

3 Closing date for nominations:
Friday 2nd September

4 Issue of voting papers:
Friday 9th September

5 Closing date for return of voting papers:
Friday 30th September

6 Day of the Count:
Monday 3rd, Tuesday 4th, Wednesday 5th, or Thursday 6th October

The final timetable may differ slightly from diocese to diocese.

There have been a number of changes since 2000. Some of the more significant are:

1 Synod has been reduced in size by 105 members.

2 There will no longer be a representative archdeacon from each diocese. Instead the archdeacons will be eligible to stand for election in their diocesan proctorial election although at most one can be elected in any diocese or electoral area.

3 Clergy with permission to officiate are now eligible to be candidates. Only those who are also a member of a deanery synod are electors.

4 Candidates will only have to provide one copy of their election address. Dioceses will be responsible for making copies and sending them to all electors.

Full details of who are eligible to be candidates, who the electors are, the number of clergy and laity to be elected by each diocese and a full set of rules are included in the online material.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 10:00am BST
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Categorised as: General Synod
Comments

It would be good if each member on the parishes' electoral roll had a vote for their representatives on GS. Any chance of this being raised again in the next Synod?

Posted by: Paul Bagshaw on Friday, 29 April 2005 at 2:52pm BST

Paul Bagshaw's suggestion of universal suffrage was considered by the Bridge review of synodical government and rejected. The review group thought that a low turnout would be likely so that successful candidates could not claim grassroots support. The cost would be about £1.5 million every five years for a general election, plus the cost of the numerous by-elections. The review group thought that such a cost could not be justified for what it considered a serioulsy flawed system.

So far as I can recall there was no significant opposition to these arguments when Synod considered the matter several years ago now. It will only be raised again if a diocese or private member has an appropriate motion debated.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Saturday, 30 April 2005 at 9:23pm BST

Peter Owen's comments about the Bridge report are accurate but partial. I suggest the committee ignored (in relation to voting) other observations it had made in relation to parishes: in particular that an increasing proportion of the income of the Church comes through the parish; and that members of organisations in general were increasingly claiming greater participation in their respective decision making processes.

And my recollection (though I've not checked) of the previous debate in General Synod was that there was an overall majority in favour. However 22 people - rather than the statutory 25 - requested a vote by houses in which the motion was lost. I think this liberal interpretation of the rules was unique in the history of Synod.

I would argue for universal lay suffrage on the grounds that being able to elect one's representative is an essential part of a membership organization. Those seeking election would also have to make the effort to relate to the range of people in the pews.

And as to the cost: it's a matter of presentation: £1.5m translates to about 25p per member per week. What price involvement and engagement?

Posted by: Paul Bagshaw on Sunday, 1 May 2005 at 7:20pm BST

To give a little more detail, the Bridge report did recommend a change in the electorate for the House of Laity of General Synod - from the lay members of deanery synods to a set of electors elected by parishes. This proposal should be viewed in conjunction with the report's proposal to abolish the statutory requirement for deanery synods.

The follow-up group to the Bridge Report recommended that neither of these proposals should be put into effect. Two reports from the follow-up group were debated in Synod - in November 1999 and July 2001. The first was simply a take-note debate. However in July 2001 Synod had the opportunity to propose amendments to the group's recommendations. I have all these in front of me and none refer to the method of election to Synod.

Paul, are you thinking of some other occasion on which Synod debated this matter, such as a private member's or diocesan synod motion?

Posted by: Peter Owen on Sunday, 1 May 2005 at 8:52pm BST

Peter, yes (now I've looked it up). A private member's motion on Direct Suffrage of Lay Leadership was proposed by Mr Jim White and debated on July 11th 1993. Long enough ago, I'd have thought, to re-open the issue.

It was lost in the House of Laity - Bps 14:4; clergy 107:60; laity 75:129 - a total of 196:193.

And a red-faced apology. The cost works out to 25p per member per year (not per week)- a significant difference and a careless error.

Posted by: Paul Bagshaw on Monday, 2 May 2005 at 9:44pm BST

1993 was before I was first elected to Synod. More recently Synod members had the opportunity to re-open this matter during the debates on the Bridge Report, but nobody did.

Universal suffrage will only come up again if there's a private member's or diocesan synod motion. So, Paul, you can either lobby the members of General Synod in your diocese and try to persuade one of them to put down a private member's motion, or start the process of sending in a diocesan synod motion by getting your PCC to send a motion to your deanery synod.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 2 May 2005 at 10:12pm BST
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