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Male candidates outnumber female in Synod elections

25 September 2015


Walk and talk: members of the last Synod make their way to the debating chamber at York, this year

Walk and talk: members of the last Synod make their way to the debating chamber at York, this year

ONE third of the candidates who are standing for election to the General Synod are women, although the figure is higher for the laity than for the clergy.

Elections for the new Synod, which has a five-year term, began when the first ballot papers were sent out last Friday. The voting period will be open for at least 21 days in each diocese. The results will be announced in October, before the Synod’s inauguration by the Queen at its November group of sessions.

In total, 851 people (excluding candidates in the Channel Islands and the diocese of Chichester, figures for whom were not available online) are standing for election for the 406 places in the Houses of Clergy and Laity. Of those, 287 are women, 34 per cent of the total. Among the clergy, 28 per cent are women, while among the laity, 39 per cent are.

Some dioceses, such as Birmingham, Derby, Lincoln, and Norwich have an approximately 50-50 split of male and female candidates, whereas others are heavily skewed towards men. The diocese of Bristol has one woman but 14 men standing for election. St Albans has 25 men and six women.

Among the youngest candidates for the House of Laity are a 19-year-old student, Rhian Ainscough, in the diocese of Leicester, and Luke Falvey, a 22-year-old student, in the diocese of Gloucester. In his election address, he wrote that he wanted to represent the “lost generation” of people aged between 18 and 39, who are under-represented in the Church.

Joshua Etheridge, who is 18, is a lay candidate in the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham. He said in his address that he would have particular insight to offer on the issue of homosexuality, as it was very relevant to his peers.

Sexuality and same-sex marriage could prove to be one of the more contentious items on the Synod’s agenda, once the facilitated conversations being held in the dioceses have been completed next March.

Many of the candidates’ election addresses refer to their stance on the issue. At least one diocese (Chelmsford) asked everyone standing for election to answer a question on the topic.

Campaigners on all sides have been encouraging their supporters to stand for election, foreseeing potentially pivotal debates on whether to allow the clergy to enter into or officiate at same-sex marriages (News, 28 August).

Well-known names who are standing for election include the first two Church of England clerics to marry their same-sex partners, Canon Jeremy Pemberton (Lincoln) and the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain (London).

Jayne Ozanne, a former member of the Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, is also standing, in Oxford. She came out publicly as a lesbian last year, and renounced her former conservative Evangelical views on sexuality.

Also standing for election are three members of the group Living Out, who describe themselves as “same-sex attracted” but committed to upholding traditional teaching on sex and marriage.

Other well-known figures who are standing for election include the chief executive of the Church Army, Mark Russell; the former Conservative MP and Second Church Estates Commissioner Sir Tony Baldry; the historian the Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes; and the chief executive of the CPAS, John Dunnett, as well as Susie Leafe, the director of Reform, and the last quinquennium’s vice-chair of the House of Laity, Tim Hind.

Elections are taking place to a new clergy constituency for the universities and institutions of theological education. It replaces the six former constituencies for the clergy of the universities.


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