THE General Synod's electoral processes were under discussion on
Canon Sue Booys (Oxford), who chairs the
Elections Review Group, introduced the group's first report, about
the representation of clergy on General Synod, by outlining some of
the proposed changes.
She explained that the current allocation of seats between the
provinces of Canterbury and York, based on a 70-30 split in favour
of Canterbury, resulted in a slight weighting in favour of the
Northern province, as the actual split would be 73-27.
She said that the Business Committee had decided that it was up
to the Synod to decide whether the practice should continue.
Moving on to the universities' constituencies, she said: "I've
been made aware that some university proctors believe the report is
inaccurate and lack the promised consultation," she said. "This has
left them feeling aggrieved, and I apologise."
The committee had rejected proposals from the Committee on
Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) that minority-ethnic
Anglicans should be co-opted on to the Synod to ensure a minimum
number of 24. She explained that the Clergy did not appear to be
under-representative, but there was "a degree of
under-representation" in the House of Laity.
Rather than co-option, however, the committee thought that other
groups, including dioceses, "could actively encourage
minority-ethnic Anglicans to stand for election".
The Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd David Walker
(Worcester), spoke as vice-chair of CMEAC. He said more should be
done to increase the number of ethnic minorities on the Synod. "It
isn't for their benefit, but for ours."
The Archdeacon of Rochdale, the Ven. Cherry
Vann (Manchester), expressed concern about the "general drift of
resources and influence from the north to the south". The proposal
to reduce the number of allocated seats would result in the
Northern province's losing members. This was "serious, not least
because of the inaccurate perspective of the north and northerners
by southern members who haven't been further than Watford Gap".
Heather Pritchard (C of E Youth Council), said
that the Youth Council also struggled to attract members from
minority-ethnic backgrounds: "We are a white, middle-class bunch."
It was launching an "engage campaign" to encourage young people to
take up leadership.
Tim Allen (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich)
questioned the recommendation to abolish university constituencies,
calling for reform rather than abolition.
Brother Thomas Quin OSB (Religious Communities)
spoke against the abolition of the university constituencies. He
said that, in diocesan elections, "I'm not sure that we can rely on
the electorate to seek out theologians."
He warned: "University fosters an attitude of mind and inquiry .
. . and all people are eager to learn from one another. We need
more, not less, of that attitude" to avoid "blind
The Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett
(Southwark) noted the very low number of Synod members from
minority-ethnic backgrounds, and wondered about the decision to ask
CMEAC to encourage more minority-ethnic people to stand for Synod.
The task should be spread more widely. "This is our
The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Dr Geoffrey
Rowell, gave examples of the way in which the diocese had grown,
including the "thirsting for baptism from those who have fled from
Iran". He reminded the Synod that there were clergy teaching in
European universities and religious communities.
Canon Judith Maltby (University of Oxford)
spoke as the representative for the largest of the university
constituencies, about 50 clergy: "If that is a rotten borough, then
other constituencies like deaneries better beware." She complained
that the report was "full of errors and misunderstanding". Would
the 50 clergy at Oxford all become members of the deanery? "That
would distort the deanery."
The Revd Charles Razzall (Chester) spoke as the
only northern member of the 12-person Business Committee. He argued
that the reform of universities was "doing something for"
university theologians. He said: "Paula Gooder is in no way
diminished for her membership of the Birmingham diocese; the same
would be true of our university theologians in a new
A few years ago, the proposal to get rid of archdeacons had led
to their "practically chaining themselves to this chamber and
throwing themselves into the lake". But most diocesan archdeacons
had been elected, "almost without exception. The same would be true
of our great university theologians."
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, referred to
the recommendation that the House of Bishops be enlarged by one
seat "in order to increase the representation of the southern
suffragan bishops". This was "perverse" (to "Hear, hear" from the
floor). He urged: "Please reject this nonsense."
Canon Booys responding, said that the proper
place for consultation was the revision committee, and urged the
Synod not to vote down the motion, as this would mean denying
people the opportunity to consult.
The Synod took note of the report.
The Revd Professor Richard
Burridge (University of London), moving his following
motion, said that there had been a lack of consultation, and the
report was "full of inaccuracies and based on wrong
The university representatives agreed that their situation was
"not only untenable and unworkable, but indefensible".
Nevertheless, the mistakes in the report were so indefensible that
they could be open to legal challenge.
Professor Burridge offered a number of justifications for the
university representatives. There were many clergy in university
theology departments who did not hold a bishop's licence. Also,
university representatives brought to the Synod academic
professional theology. He also argued that university
representatives were in touch with young people.
The Revd Mark Ireland (Lichfield) questioned an
imbalance in the current system. In his diocese, it took 506
electors to elect six proctors; but it takes only 100 electors to
elect the same number of university proctors.
He referred to the abolition of the constituency for
archdeacons: but: "archdeacons haven't become an endangered
species" in the Synod, he said, because "the cream always rises to
The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd
Christopher Chessun, said, in answer to a question posed by
Professor Burridge, that he would not want him to have one of the
Southwark seats, "as much as I love and respect" him.
He said that universities had a historic place, to guide the
theology of the Church of England, and "we need to guard this
Canon Simon Butler (Southwark) chairs the
steering committee for the legislation arising out of the Elections
Review Group's report. He said that the committee would listen to
what the Synod had to say: "You should see me as Father
Fr Thomas Seville CR (Religious Communities)
supported the motion. Applying one-person, one-vote "too rigidly .
. . militates against the Church and society hearing everything
that God wants to say."
The following motion was overwhelmingly carried:
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
THE SYNOD moved on to legislation.
Canon Butler set out the contents of the business now before the
Synod. There was "plenty of time to amend in the revision committee
and Synod before final approval".
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete
Broadbent, had not thought that the issue of suffragan bishops was
contentious until the appearance of the "ecky-thump factor" in the
debate. He suggested that the issue was not the provenance of the
suffragan bishops, but their lack of voice overall. Their number
had been "reduced significantly".
Suffragan bishops brought a "different kind of edge" to the
Synod. Also, if there were only a few suffragan bishops, the
minority voices, such as those not in favour of women bishops,
tended to get "drowned out".
The Revd Paul Ayers (Bradford) told people back
home that he had to modify his accent at the Synod, "as quite a lot
of people from the south can't understand when I speak". Life in
the north was "very different in many ways". He encouraged members
to write to ask the committee to look again at the question of the
north and south.
Tom Sutcliffe (Southwark) disagreed with the
advice from the Business Committee to vote in favour so that
problems could be ironed out in the revision committee: "We ought
to vote against this if they have made a bit of a cod's ear of
The Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford) noted that Oxford
deanery already had some 80 clergy members. "To add another 50 to
Oxford deanery would make it extraordinary indeed." He also asked
why the secretariat should go out and find who voters were. Why
shouldn't voters self-register?
The Revd Stephen Trott (Peterborough) said that
there were no fewer than 13 ex-officio members in the House of
Laity, with one more to be added. "Could consideration be given to
those who are ex-officio being given voice, but perhaps not a vote,
so as to remedy the democratic deficit of being on Synod but not
The Synod referred Amending Canon No. 32, the Convocations
(Elections to Upper House) (Amendment) Resolution 201, and Clergy
Representation (Amendment) Resolution 201 to the revision
The Synod moved on to consider Church Representation Rules
(Amendment) Resolution 201.
David Ashton (Wakefield) had voted for the
creation of a single diocese in West Yorkshire and the Dales, but
expressed concern that the proposals meant that the Northern
province would lose representatives on the House of Laity.
Clive Scowen (London) said that it was his
understanding that there would continue to be 59 seats in the
Northern province; there would not be any loss of lay seats as a
result of the diocesan reorganisation.
The resolution was referred to the revision committee.
THE Synod then moved on to debate the motion that it "request
legislative proposals to be brought forward to: (a) establish an
electoral college for elections by the laity to the General Synod
and diocesan synods; (b) make provision by 2020 for elections to
the General Synod to be undertaken online; and (c) make provision
by 2015 for nominations for elections to the General Synod to be
undertaken by email".
The Archdeacon of Dorking, the Ven. Julian
Henderson (Guildford), who chairs the Business Committee,
introduced the second report of the Elections Review Group,
focusing on elections to the House of Laity. This final item of
business for the group of sessions "is not one which immediately
enthrals the heart and excites the mind", he said, but it has
The Business Committee had come to the view that "our electoral
system for this House of Laity needs to evolve". Three options were
on the table. The current system, whereby members of deanery synods
elected diocesan and General Synod members was described as the
The "widest base" would be offered by universal suffrage,
extending the electorate to all members of parish electoral rolls.
In between was the idea of an electoral college, for which electors
would be elected at annual parochial meetings. "The Business
Committee concluded that this is the best of the three
The report also called for elections to be conducted online.
William Seddon (St Albans) said: "My fear is
that changing the electoral system will do little to change the
system unless more is done to educate church members."
Pamela Bishop (Southwell & Nottingham), a
diocesan lay chair, said that such chairs would welcome being
consulted. Rather than look to change the system, it was important
"to make whatever structure or system work."
Philip French (Rochester) spoke to his
amendments. He spoke of how out of touch the House of Laity was
with the electorate. His first amendment would introduce universal
suffrage. His second amendment would address "the pitiful lack of
urgency in proposing to do nothing significant until 2020. What's
wrong with 2015?" His third amendment addressed the need to be more
transparent, open, and accountable. Publishing election addresses
online would be a good start.
Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) agreed that the
House of Laity was unrepresentative, but the root cause was not the
electoral system, but its implementation. Electors required access
to literature that was "transparent, and honestly described the
TheVen. Christine Hardman (Southwark), was
concerned that none of the three options was "quite fit for
purpose". She urged a return to an earlier option: that electors
come from the lay elected members of PCCs. This idea should be
expanded to all lay members of the PCC, including churchwardens:
the "treasure of the Church of England".
Debrah McIsaac (Salisbury) opposed Mr French's
first amendment. The idea of local churches' having to put together
reports was "mind-boggling".
The debate was adjourned, and will be brought back "in due