From Canon Christopher Hall
Sir, - Deanery-synod members'
ignorance of the candidates is the main reason for the low turnout in General
Synod elections. (This lack of knowledge would be even worse if all
electoral-roll members were to be enfranchised, as some argue.)
Electoral officers are so nervous of costly challenges to elections that
before each election the rules about canvassing have been drawn ever tighter.
Diocesan journals are warned not to include even the names of any candidate in
their columns during the poll. As in parliamentary elections, this damages the
credibility of the Synod, undermining its mandate. In a low turnout, the last
elected can get in with a meagre bundle of votes. At least the single
transferable vote ensures that the views of those who do vote are more fairly
reflected, compared with the Commons.
The danger is that, without any national or diocesan provision of
information to voters, the vacuum is filled by the strongly motivated and those
with deep pockets.
In 2000, a cross-party website pioneered a solution. By 2010, the internet
could well provide voters with an open and balanced exploration of the issues.
The address of such a site should be publicised in diocesan notices calling the
If this provision is to command wide acceptance, the Business Committee
should initiate exploration of the logistics now, while memories of the 2005
elections are fresh.
The Knowle, Deddington, Banbury OX15 0TB
From Mr Paul Cooper
Sir, - The results of the elections of the House of Laity of the General
Synod revealed that the percentage of the electorate voting ranged between 37
per cent and 61 per cent of the electorate, with an average among dioceses of
48 per cent.
In the elections to the House of Clergy, the overall percentage of clergy
who voted was 61 per cent. This higher but scarcely enthusiastic figure might
reflect the fact that some clergy disapprove of the synodical system; for some
still have difficulty in coming to terms with democracy in the Church. That
reason, however, can hardly apply to the lay electors, who are all members of
Perhaps one or two of the many lay deanery-synod members who abstained from
voting (in most dioceses, the majority) might care to explain why. Or are we to
assume that apathy is not just outside the Church, nor even just in our
congregations, but firmly embedded within its very government?
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