Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Elections Review Group - General Synod debate

Last month I outlined the proposals from the Elections Review Group on the composition and electorate of the General Synod: part 1 and part 2. The Business Committee brought these to Synod for debate as the last items of business (apart from farewells) at Synod yesterday morning.

The proposals in part 1 were largely uncontroversial, and Synod agreed to send the draft legislation to a revision committee. But there was a lot of opposition to the proposal to abolish the university constituencies rather than reform them (and the way in which the review group had made its decision), and Synod passed this following motion, proposed by Professor Richard Burridge:

That this Synod request that the Steering Committee appointed under SO 49 to be in charge of the draft legislation arising from GS 1901 undertake full consultation with the University proctors regarding the proposals relating to the University constituencies in GS 1901, GS 1902 and GS 1904 and bring forward further proposals for consideration by the Revision Committee for the reform of those constituencies, based on accurate information.

Synod then moved onto part 2, of which the main part is the possibility of a change in the electorate for the House of Laity. Although the Business Committee supported replacing the lay members of deanery synods by an electoral college, they wanted to test the mind of Synod before producing any draft legislation. There is also a proposal to conduct elections online. But there was not time to complete the debate, and it was adjourned to a future group of sessions. Which group will be decided by the Business Committee.

The official summary of all Tuesday’s business is online, but strangely there is no mention of Professor Burridge’s motion.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 10:30am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

Any attempt to replace the current system with another form of electoral college will be seen as just another attempt to prevent the real mind of the church (that is you and me) being expressed. Why are Bishops and Clergy allowed to vote as individuals but the laity have to have their votes controlled by a system designed to ensure that only those with the time, commitment and a high boredom threshold get to vote for their representatives on General Synod? Only one person one vote of all on electoral rolls will do along with complete transparency by those standing for election of their views on the issues of the day.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 11:16am BST

I don't disagree that the present system for electing lay representatives is unsatisfactory. However three problems at least affect the electoral roll:

1. Some churches make much more of an effort than others to make sure people who are eligible are on the roll are and those who aren't are taken off. In some cases, where the level of parish share is connected with ER numbers, there is an obvious incentive towards a smaller ER.

2. On a more partisan point, many of the largest ERs will be the larger evangelical churches, and this would give them voting power which may still result in a Synod which does not quite represent the breadth of the church, or at least yield the kind of outcome that readers of this blog generally favour!

3. Membership of the electoral roll does not actually require church attendance - just residence in the parish - and still less any kind of Christian commitment or awareness of the church's governance.

I think myself the ER probably is the best means of securing the widest possible representation, but a lot of work would need to be done to make coverage consistent across the country.

Posted by: Philip Hobday on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 3:10pm BST

Are the lay members of General Synod 'representing' anyone in particular? In Australia, for all its faults, the clergy and laity of the General Synod are all elected by their diocesan synods, with the number elected determined by the number of licensed clergy in each diocese. It seems reasonably fair: the same electoral basis for clergy and laity, and the principle is that the diocese is the basic unit that needs to be represented in the General Synod. This gets around the need for an electoral college for the whole General Synod, though it reinforces a stronger sense of clergy and lay representatives representing a particular diocese.

Posted by: Peter Sherlock on Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 7:02pm BST

Then, Archbishop, I would suggest that you lead by putting an end to your rhetoric that the marriage of gay people hacks away at the stability of one of society's cornerstones. Such an example rather validates homophobia than otherwise. And, of course, the little matter persists that such an assertion cannot be substantiated.

The real deal, your Grace, is that you and the rest of the leaders in the C of E who dislike gay people need to come to terms with the enormous contribution to church life made by gay people, time-out-of-mind. It has always been so and will always be so. Deal with it.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Friday, 12 July 2013 at 11:31am BST
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