CHURCHGOERS who represent "the inclusive instincts of most
people in England" are being urged to stand in the forthcoming
elections to General Synod.
With seven months to go until the closing date for nominations,
Inclusive Church has already published a strategy that includes
advice on how to write an election address and, for members of
deanery synods, how to use their vote. It was launched on Saturday
at St John's, Waterloo.
"It's an attempt to increase the number of people on General
Synod, both lay and clergy, who would take an inclusive line
against discrimination on areas of gender, race and sexual
orientation," said the Revd Stephen France, the campaign's
coordinator, on Monday.
He believes that the vote on the women-bishops Measure of
November 2012 illustrated that the existing membership of the Synod
is not representative of the wider Church.
"What tends to happen in dioceses is that, for fairness and
balance, they seem to elect parties from traditional Catholics and
conservative Evangelicals, and some more moderates.
"That does not necessarily reflect the constitution of that
diocese. It is an even-handed approach, but not necessarily
representational by proportion."
The campaign pack argues that the Church of England "needs to
revise many of the positions it takes on gender, sexuality,
ethnicity, and equality, which reflect an earlier age". The aim is
to get three to five lay candidates to stand in each diocese. As
the election approaches, more advice will be given to voters, who
will be given the names of candidates supported by the
There is a warning, in the pack, that "people sometimes use
misleading language in their election addresses." It gives the
example that "'in favour of women's ministry' which omits the word
'ordained' looks as if it is supportive of women priests/bishops,
but often means 'I do not accept women priests'."
The terms "faithful", "orthodox", and "Bible-based teaching" are
also highlighted as requiring scrutiny. "It can be very difficult
to extract the truth," it warns. "So be clear and truthful. We
don't play those games."
Mary Johnston, who has been a member of the Synod for 20 years,
and gave the keynote address on Saturday, said on Tuesday that she
fears that the Synod has had "a pretty bad press", and was regarded
as "a talking shop of argumentative people".
But she is confident that the Church has learned its lesson and
will "studiously avoid" repeating its mistakes as it debates issues
including sexuality. She believes that synodical governance is "a
precious aspect of Church", that the bishops could do much more to
Forward in Faith is also well-organised. In November, it
appointed an election officer, Anne Gray, and each diocese has a
local elections co-ordinator.
Sixteen regional meetings are planned to explore ways of finding
new candidates, who will be provided with support throughout the
In an address to its National Assembly in November, Mrs Gray
sensed that people felt "battered, bruised, and battle-weary, . . .
I do know how it feels to be isolated in a large rural diocese
miles from another kindred spirit and where the establishment
considers us to be beyond the pale and, yes, I have witnessed
systematic eradication of good Catholic parishes."
But, she argued: "Let's at least show we are willing to flourish
within its structures. If we don't, we've only ourselves to blame
if things get worse."
She added: "For the first time in over 25 years we won't be
entering these elections labelled as being anti-everything. Let's
take up the opportunity to be constructive, positive, and let's be
proud of who we are."