Comments: General Synod elections 2015 - candidates' election addresses

I am a lay candidate in the diocese of Lincoln, and have declared my membership of WATCH, and that I look forward to the day when sexuality, gender identity and relationship status are no bar to a rich and full experience of life in the Church or its ministry, lay and ordained.

Among the Diocese of Lincoln candidates, it is noticeable that one clergy candidate and one lay candidate have addresses that are very similar in layout and style. I believe them both to be members of Forward in Faith, but nowhere in their addresses is that mentioned or alluded to. Has anyone else observed this in other dioceses? Have they complied with the guidance about the content of candidates’ election addresses in the General Synod Elections 2015 booklet, which says:
‘Candidates should be candid about their membership of any body, or affiliation to any organisation, if that membership or affiliation might reasonably be considered relevant by electors in deciding who to vote for’?

Does anyone else share my unease about this apparent lack of transparency, and is there any way of raising this as a concern nationally?

Sue Slater

Posted by Sue Slater at Tuesday, 15 September 2015 at 11:08am BST

I'm a little depressed having followed your link to the dozen addresses for my diocese (for which, thanks): few candidates actually say where they stand on Green issues, green issues, simplification issues or the inclusion of lesbian and gay people in ordained ministry. Two do label themselves with Inclusive Church, but a third who I know is evangelically committed to a biblically literalist position on homosexuality only hints obliquely at this long after he makes 'Inclusive Mission' his first bold heading. A friend doesn't mention his membership Forward in Faith but does print a picture of himself smiling at a female priest (although his information about others issues is much more helpfully substantial than the others). Between them they give acres of space to their parochial credentials, and two even go on to tell me about their pets.

Posted by Peter Mullins at Tuesday, 15 September 2015 at 11:33am BST

This looks great - thank you!

One slightly sad question - could they really not get enough Religious to fill their places?

Posted by Peter K+ at Tuesday, 15 September 2015 at 1:49pm BST

@Peter K+, re religious - it may be that there will be elections for the other province's seat in each house. I think they have to have one member from Canterbury and one from York.

Posted by Hannah at Tuesday, 15 September 2015 at 5:33pm BST

Ah I think I misunderstood about the Religious - 1 vacancy per province and 1 candidate

Posted by Peter K+ at Tuesday, 15 September 2015 at 5:45pm BST

The pictures are quite telling. One clergy candidate in Lincoln Diocese is pictured in front of a warplane, nicely symbolising Jesus' teaching - 'Bomb your enemies'.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Tuesday, 15 September 2015 at 9:14pm BST

Thanks for providing this very useful facility. I am sorry that my own diocese, Rochester, has not yet put up its election addresses. But it has set up its HoL hustings meeting for Saturday week, at exactly the same time as an Ordination of Priests will be taking place in the Cathedral. I would hope that some of the GS candidates, as well as many of the electors, would wish to be present at the ordination. Protests to the Diocesan Secretary, who is also the returning officer, have come to nought. Shame on them!

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 15 September 2015 at 9:50pm BST

I hear that in London Diocese there are no fewer than 44 candidates for the 11 places in the House of Laity. Even with a computer programme to assist, the count, by STV, will take some time - and how many electors, I wonder, having waded through all the election addresses, will rank the candidates as far as No. 44 !

Posted by David Lamming at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 1:07am BST

The representatives of the religious communities can come from either province; there is one election for two clergy and one election for two laity. This time there was only one person nominated in each case so each was elected unopposed. There will be by-elections to fill the vacancies in due course.

The election rules of the three houses of General Synod are here

https://www.churchofengland.org/media/2242405/election%20rules%20of%20the%20three%20houses%202015%20final.pdf

See pages 21 and 34.

Posted by Peter Owen at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 1:46am BST

Dear Sue Slater

I think you are selectively quoting the guidance. The paragraph above the section you quote says:

"Neither the ClergyRR nor the CRR lays down any rules as to the content of election addresses. So, subject to the limitation on the size of an election address circulated by the presiding officer, the candidate is free to decide on its layout and content including whether or not to have a photograph. Nor does a presiding officer have any power to require changes to a candidate’s election address, save in the exceptional circumstances of his or her being advised that it is defamatory or otherwise unlawful."

I've just had a quick look at the two addresses you refer to, and yes, I think they have used the same template, albeit with completely different content.

Posted by Matt at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 10:09am BST

But Matt they have not declared their membership of certain groups - though they are not the only ones!

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 3:05pm BST

Can any member of a Church of England church or community stand for election?

Are the voting papers being sent out, sent to ALL people on the electoral rolls, or just to a few?

Shouldn't membership of the Synod, and voting in Synod elections, be open to all who are members of the Church of England?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 4:46pm BST

Susannah - the electorates are the members of deanery synods.

19 of the 42 dioceses have now uploaded election addresses to their websites.

There are indeed 44 candidates for the 11 laity places in London, although 4 of them have failed to submit an election address.

Posted by Peter Owen at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 5:47pm BST

Matt, I was quoting from the booklet issued by Lincoln Diocese. The two people who used the same template, also included the same sentence about the issues in the last Synod. I still wonder whether there is any way to make the powers that be aware of the failure to be candid about membership of FiF? Sue

Posted by Sue Slater at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 6:22pm BST

Thanks Peter, though I was already aware of that - my questions were rhetorical.

My point is: why are ordinary members of churches kept at arm's length in the process?

Why can't *anyone* stand for election for General Synod?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 8:46pm BST

More or less, I think there is a minimum age limit of 18 - too lazy to check - anyone on an electoral roll can stand for General Synod. Nomination papers are sent out to the electorate - members of deanery synods.

I think this time around more effort has been made to inform people in general terms of their right to stand. Basically you need to get two deanery synod members within your diocese to nominate and second and persuade all the deanery synod members to vote for you (or at least a sufficient number). If you are a Deanery Synod member yourself then you will get a vote from yourself, if you are not, there is no self vote.

Peter thanks for collecting all the info, it is a great help.

I won't place 44 votes, I will do well if I can count through to 22. But there will others who will only vote for the 22 that I don't for. Such is the Diocese of London.

Posted by Susan Cooper at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 10:05pm BST

Yes, you have to be 18 to stand for General Synod. You also have to be an actual communicant as well as being on an electoral (or cathedral) roll.

Posted by Peter Owen at Wednesday, 16 September 2015 at 10:22pm BST

I chaired the legislative committee of the General Synod for this series of elections. Some felt that we ought compel people to declare membership of groups, but generally we felt that this was a matter beyond the scope of legislation, although dioceses were encouraged to make it clear that people should make allegiances visible as much as possible. Ultimately, people can campaign more actively in dioceses if they want to draw attention to this sort of sleight of hand.

Posted by Simon Butler at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 1:55pm BST

In the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales ("Leeds" in the list here)the names of the candidates and their addresses are now on the diocesan website. Those looking for unequivocable affirmations of inclusion for LGBTQI people therein will have to search long and hard for clues, as even those whom one knows to be 'on the side of the angels' on such matters have mostly veiled their affirmations. The diocese is experimenting with a sort-of online hustings with a selection of identical questions being offered for comment by all the candidates. I'm not very good at framing the sort of question needed to elicit a clear response in such a forum (which is one reason why synods are not for me), so I hope someone can come to the rescue, please.

Posted by Jonathan MacGillivray at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 2:25pm BST

Susannah Clark---why are ordinary members of churches kept at arm's length in the process?

Because that is what the process is.

I recall Dr Kemp, much involved in the planning and design for synodical government, being absolutely explicit when he told me "this is not presbyterianism". General Synod members become ex officio members of their diocesan synod, even deanery synods. Deanery Synod members become ex officio members of their PCC. I think we are lucky that deanery synod members form the electorate, it might so easily have been diocesan synod members only!

This doesn't answer your rhetorical question, but it may make clear that this process was not set up by accident.

Posted by american piskie at Thursday, 17 September 2015 at 5:17pm BST

I hope that people will vote! In the past the turn out has been lamentable! At a General election Episcopal voices urge people to vote....I wish the same thing happened here!
Susan...it was explained to me ( by Bishop Brian Masters no less) that given the system it was important to list ALL candidates in order...and he was a consummate ecclesiastical politician.
Interestingly +Rob Wickham his successor but one will be consecrated the anniversary of Bishop Brian's death.

Posted by Perry Butler at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 9:04am BST

Susannah, I think cost may also have been a consideration. My back of envelope calculation gives an estimate of 50,000 as the current electorate size.

But posting out forms (and all the election sheets) to the millions on every church's Electoral Rolls would be a huge cost in itself and an administrative nightmare, given the dispersed nature of the ER lists. Deanery Synod lists are probably the largest official list held centrally.

If it's a consolation, most churches don't have much competition to be a Deanery Synod rep, so if you wanted to volunteer they'd probably be only to keen to let you do it!

Posted by Peter K+ at Friday, 18 September 2015 at 9:24am BST

I am disappointed, but not surprised, that Chichester is one of the last Dioceses to make this information available. I suspect I will only find out who I can vote for when the ballot paper arrives next week.

Posted by Peter at Saturday, 19 September 2015 at 2:13pm BST

Great work Peter in monitoring this. Thanks. At the time of writing this (01:40 on 20 Sept) the following dioceses appear to be in breach of Rule 20(4A) ClergyRR and Rule 39(6A) CRR in not having uploaded or caused to be uploaded election addresses:

Chichester
Durham
Hereford
Rochester
Winchester

No doubt their Diocesan Secretaries and/or Presiding Officers will ensure the addresses are available for the opening of business on Monday. I am conducting a complete analysis of them and am keenly interested to see those of these recalcitrant dioceses.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 20 September 2015 at 1:36am BST

Well said Anthony. At the time of writing, your hopes in respect of the diocese of Rochester have been met only so far as the addresses of the clergy candidates are concerned. Lay electors, like me, are directed to attend the hustings meeting next Saturday which, as I pointed out in an earlier post, clashes with an Ordination in the Cathedral, at which I shall be present supporting our lady curate. I'm tempted to go to the hustings first, make a noisy point of order, and then storm off to the Cathedral. But it's not quite my style!

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 11:17am BST

I can see nothing from Chichester though I now know that the addresses are available to some people.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 12:48pm BST

I received a ballot paper for Chichester today along with the candidates statements - so they do exist! I assume they will be on the website soon. Once candidate included the statement "I am the Vicar of All Saints" even though he had already had his farewell service before nomination forms were sent out. He acknowledges that he is "about to retire" in the final sentence of his statement but the rest of it implies he is still in licensed ministry.

Posted by Peter at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 4:31pm BST

I shall certainly be casting my vote, Perry, but I am perplexed by the view you passed on from +Brian Masters that it is important to list ALL candidates in order of preference. Having now received my voting papers for Rochester HoL, I find that I can only support 4 of them for the 5 seats available. I can see some advantage in choosing the least objectionable of the others as my fifth preference but, beyond that, I cannot see why I should allocate any preference. Surely it can only increase the chances of those undesirable (to me) candidates being elected?

Much outrage was expressed in 2012 when 5 of the 9 Rochester GS reps voted against the women bishops legislation, despite diocesan and deanery synods being overwhelmingly in favour. Someone (not me) described it in these pages as a 'rotten borough'! Having at last seen the full list of candidates, I can report that 4 of those 5 miscreants are standing again and, I predict, will probably be re-elected. (The fifth naysayer has subsequently been called to higher things.) If I'm right, it shows that people have very short memories.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 4:41pm BST

The Rochester page as of now (5.50pm) has all the addresses on, although it has to be said that it's not at all clear (until you click on each individual address) which candidates are clergy and which are lay.

Posted by Chris Routledge at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 5:51pm BST

When I checked this morning, the Rochester addresses were online so I emailed the diocesan secretaries of Chichester, Durham, Hereford and Winchester. In due course the addresses for all but Chichester and the Channel Islands appeared online. There will be no addresses for the Channel Islands. The presiding officer for Winchester informed me that the choice of their lay members is governed by the Channel Islands Representation Measure 1931 which does not require publication of election addresses. Their sole clerical member is either the Dean of Guernsey or the Dean of Jersey and the two of them decide between themselves which it shall be.

This evening 14 election addresses for Chichester clergy have appeared online, but they can only be found by going to the diocesan website and doing a search for "general synod" (with or without the quotation marks). One hopes that the addresses for the laity and an index page will appear shortly.

Posted by Peter Owen at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 8:33pm BST

Can I just gently say to Malcolm, that while I fully understand, and in many regards share his frustrations over the representative nature of the syndicalist system, to call miscreants, those with whom we disagree is a touch too much. This is especially so with one gone to God. I knew Jim and he was no miscreant.

Graeme Buttery

Posted by Graeme Buttery at Monday, 21 September 2015 at 8:49pm BST

The Chichester election addresses are now all available.

Posted by Peter Owen at Tuesday, 22 September 2015 at 3:02am BST

I too would share Graeme's objection and take exception to the use of the word "miscreant". I am sure that those who voted as they did were voting as their conscience dictated and conscience, as we all know, is the final arbiter.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 22 September 2015 at 8:10am BST

Thank you Graeme for gently calling me to order. Not for the first time in these pages, I have let my feelings get the better of me on this subject, and I apologise. I knew Jim too, and he was a good man, much though I disagreed with him on some subjects.
I know that those elected are representatives and not delegates, and that they are free to exercise their own judgement when voting (as I was reminded only last week when another of those who voted against was on my doorstep soliciting my vote). But the clue is in the title, and when the majority of our reps vote in a way so at variance with the overwhelming view of the diocese as a whole, they are being very UN-representative representatives, and must expect to receive criticism for it. But miscreant was too much, and I'm sorry.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 22 September 2015 at 11:18am BST

And "hustings" from Winchester (questions sent before addresses posted...)
http://www.winchester.anglican.org/about-us/general-synod-elections/general-synod-hustings/

Posted by RosalindR at Tuesday, 22 September 2015 at 5:20pm BST
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