Thinking Anglicans

General Synod statistics

James Townsend has published some statistics on the age distribution and gender balance of the current Church of England General Synod.

They are well worth looking at in detail, but a couple of his conclusions are particularly noteworthy.

“only 28% of the convocations [ie clergy] being female”
“Even though 35% of the Synod are newly elected, the bulk of the [lay] membership has simply got older by five years”

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JCF
JCF
10 years ago

“Even though 35% of the Synod are newly elected, the bulk of the [lay] membership has simply got older by five years”

Ouch!

Father Ron Smith
10 years ago

Is this worrying trend of the greying of the Church of England have anything at all to do with its procrastination on issues of interest to modern youth – e.g gender and sexual difference?

Just asking.

Rosemary Hannah
10 years ago

I am of course just over the border, and my particular congregation is not greying – but generally speaking, I would say this is not true, no. The C of E attitude to gender and equality issues is not part of the solution, no, but the bulk of society are so unaware of the church that they would hardly know of these attitudes. Church is a foreign land in what is now a very secular society. I don’t like Carey’s attitudes, but I think he is right to say that in most circles there is an underlying hostility to religion… Read more »

Stuart, Devon
Stuart, Devon
10 years ago

How many people who are not retired can spend a week at a time sitting in Church House?

Paul R
Paul R
10 years ago

James Townsend describes what he calls the “serious problem of gender imbalance”. What would solve his problem? Proprtionate representation on the basis of gender, i.e., quotas? Is that what he wants? What about reserved seats in Synod for women, as in the boardrooms of all Norwegian companies? This obsession with representation based on membership of a collective group – gender, race, and so on – is demeaning. People should be elected to Synod on the basis of their views and abilities, not as ciphers to fill some absurd quota.

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
10 years ago

“The C of E attitude to gender and equality issues is not part of the solution, no, but the bulk of society are so unaware of the church that they would hardly know of these attitudes” I second this. When we had to explain to our non-Christian friend why we could not have a church blessing they were, almost without exception, completely surprised. They were so removed from everything the official church stands for that they genuinely knew nothing about it. Interestingly, many knew quite a lot about Christianity and were by no means confirmed atheists. They just didn’t see… Read more »

john
john
10 years ago

I largely agree with Rosemary and Erika. The fact is that in advanced western societies it is getting ever harder to make the case for Christianity (or any religion). That is why it is crucially important for intelligent and informed Christians to keep making the case as publicly as possible. ‘Intelligent and informed Christians’ rules out, I’m afraid, large numbers of the usual Church spokespersons, including many clergy and many bishops. On the other hand, I do think the Church makes itself look stupider (and worse) than it needs to over homosexuality and gender issues and that this has some… Read more »

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
10 years ago

Stuart: I think the short answer is, ‘clergy’.

Nat
Nat
10 years ago

John’s response is very well-put,and applies in great measure to the ECUSA. However, I would add that among my many gay friends there is great animosity towards religion in general and Christianity in particular, based on the experience of rejection(largely the result of the louder, non-Anglican preaching that tends to dominate). I contend that it is in “margianalized”, un-churched populations that the need is greatest, and to penetrate the hostility, targeted outreach is a necessity. To an extent, this must depend on the situation of the individual church; ours is situated near two populations: the retired, and the gay area… Read more »

Randal Oulton
Randal Oulton
10 years ago

@ People should be elected to Synod on the basis of their views and abilities, not as ciphers to fill some absurd quota.

I understand your point — so why hasn’t that happened, do you think, for the past 500 years of the church? Women had no abilities?

Randal Oulton
Randal Oulton
10 years ago

@ ‘Intelligent and informed Christians’ rules out, I’m afraid, large numbers of the usual Church spokespersons, including many clergy and many bishops. On the other hand, I do think the Church makes itself look stupider (and worse) than it needs to over homosexuality and gender issues and that this has some impact.

Agreed. I read someone being quoted the other day, I forget where, who said — oh, I found it!

“But Synod member John Townsend was more realistic, saying: “In my generation, we are not the national church, we are the nutters on the sidelines.”

Susannah
Susannah
10 years ago

If you look at the % of women in Synod, if you look at the % of women in senior posts in the church, if you look at the % of women on the recently announced ARCIC committee, if you look at the % of women almost anywhere in upper church structures… What you have is a continuing patriarchy, and inequality, and it’s simply unacceptable. Paul expresses the view which he’s entitled to: “This obsession with representation based on membership of a collective group – gender, race, and so on – is demeaning.” Well it’s demeaning that women are so… Read more »

Old Father William
Old Father William
10 years ago

In the USA, there are places like St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle and Christ Church, New Haven, where, on Sunday evenings, compline is sung expertly in a dark church, with candles and incense. The churches are packed with university students. In Seattle, I know, some of them have to sit on the floor. So the Church has something to “say” to these young people. In both locations, however, the clergy and congregation are not perceived to be hopelessly out of date on current social issues.

David Shepherd
David Shepherd
10 years ago

Yes, this 21st century Sanhedrin may be an out-of-touch embarrassment, but after dissecting the issue for some time, are we ready to make our own declarations of faith on this page that ‘the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginings and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God’. Surely, this verse is echoed in the thinking and speeches of Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce and so many others who abandon quiet comfort, to fight and think laterally and asymmetrically and believe… Read more »

David
10 years ago

Stuart nails the key issue. The way that the structure works actively prevents people who aren’t retired (or clergy) from attending. If people get five weeks holiday a year (maximum), how can we expect them to give up two or three weeks of that to sit in a Synod chamber?

Deal with the way they meet and you may well deal with a whole host of other issues because the make-up of the people in the room could be significantly different.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
10 years ago

Leaving aside the issues of gender and age imbalance for a moment, the other question is how far the House of Laity is representative of the person in the pew. The system of indirect election, whereby the electors are those on the Deanery Synods, means that the general worshiping congregation has no direct say in who represents them in General Synod. Indeed getting candidates for Deanery Synods is quite hard enough as it is and those who are elected to them know just what a thankless task their membership is anyway. The whole system is deeply flawed.

john
john
10 years ago

I would like to stretch the boundaries of this particular discussion, if Simon will let me. Because this discussion, like all others, is always eventually about the integrity/sustainability of the C of E or of international Anglicanism. Although we (on TA) must always fight for intelligent Christianity, full acceptance of women priests and bishops and of homosexual people, we should also (I believe) strive to keep with us Anglicans of good will and commitment who do not accept our views on these matters but who wish to remain Anglicans. The UK blogosphere now is full of mushrooming Ordinariates. It’s rather… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
10 years ago

John, a lot of what you have said here has a great deal of merit. However, how do you deal with a situation – vis a vis women clergy and bishops – where some in the Church decide for themselves that women are not allowed, by their perceived Scripture and Tradition measurements, to hold any teaching or sacerdotal role within the Church? Either God is calling women into these ministries in our day and age of the Church, or God is not. How can these two conflicting understandings of the Holy Spirit’s call (or not) upon the Church of today… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Laurence Roberts
10 years ago

What ‘sacerdotal’ role ? None in the C of E. This sort of excessive, flamboyant and inaccurate language doesnt help much.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
10 years ago

Why the objection to “sacerdotal” role, Laurence? Sacerdotal is simply the adjective from priest, and the 1662 BCP refers to the “ordering of priests.” Maybe the Archbishop of Sydney doesn’t hold with it, but it is Anglican terminology…

John
John
10 years ago

Fr Ron, As far as I understand it, you are a disobedient priest. So is Fr Mark. I am certainly a disobedient layperson. One of the greatest living Anglicans theologians once wrote to me: ‘Of course, I have always been a disobedient priest’. Pretty well everybody who contributes to this blog is disobedient in one way or another. We all think it right to be so. It’s called the exercise of individual conscience. I applaud it. I also believe it is a legacy of the Reformation, which is why we are Reformed Catholics. Trouble is: if we exercise this right,… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Laurence Roberts
10 years ago

No Mark ! You wan’t find it in the BCP + c of E formularies. It is a particularly insensitive and unnecessary word to me. Yes, there are various views of ordained ministry, but bandying this un-CofE and rather unpleasant word around is unhelpful. Requires a good deal of disingenuousness. Hint – many (unresolved) questions about Jesus’ life + death,+ what it means for us today (all of us!): then (if you or Ron)try to link (all) this with ministers + the Holy Communion you enter very difficult terrain. Let alone stuff to do with protestants; + the history of… Read more »

Rosemary Hannah
10 years ago

Indeed, we have priests -and should one have a low church theology, they can easily be accommodated by remembering Luther’s theology, which is that the Church in common participates in Christ’s priesthood. But in common it appoints particular people to exercise that role on its behalf, either congregation by congregation or as a larger body.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
10 years ago

Laurence: are you not rather overreacting here? Different Anglicans use different terms. “Sacerdos” (and the BCP has always been authorised to be used in Latin – I used to attend the BCP Latin Mass at the University Church in Oxford, for example) gives us “sacerdotal.” Interestingly, those jolly Scandinavian Lutherans with whom we’re so happily in communion avoided not just all that ghastly Puritan iconoclasm which so blighted England’s ecclesiastical and aesthetic history, but also their accompanying ideological assaults on traditional English religious language (glossoclasm, perhaps?). In Denmark, where I am writing this, the Protestant Lutheran word for a “minister”… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
10 years ago

John (on Wednesday) Yes, I am a sinner, there is no denying that. However, there is an accepted ecclesiological tradition – that of male only priests – that has now been questioned within many parts of the Church Universal. The way we get around that in the local Church situation is, I suspect, somewhat dodgy – but then, have we Anglicans ever been so rigidly ‘orthodox’ in such matters? The way we get around it in my parish is that, at the 8am BCP Mass on Sundays, only a male priest presides – in order to salve the consciences of… Read more »

john
john
10 years ago

Father Ron,

Well I approve of your arrangements.

It’s not about whether or not you are a sinner, but whether you disobey in good conscience. But I don’t want to prolong this discussion.

John.

Father Ron Smith
10 years ago

John – ‘Pax Vobiscum’ – Ron

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