AFTER speeches calling on the C of E to “grow up”, and opining that “the only safe space is in Jesus Christ,” the General Synod voted to reject a call to remove the requirement for the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) to vote by secret ballot.
The proposed change to standing orders was advocated strongly by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and fell only in the House of Laity.
The recommendation to drop the requirement appeared in the theological review of the CNC carried out by Professor Oliver O’Donovan (News, 16 February 2018). This proposed retaining confidentiality, but suggested that the secret ballot “appears merely to create a veil of mystery dividing those who need to be able to co-operate more”, and “may actually encourage the dysfunctional syndromes it is meant to guard against. . . It may also be a better defence against the temptation to breach confidence, simply because it allows members to talk more openly to one another.”
The proposed change was “a demanding call to make ourselves vulnerable”, Dr Sentamu said. “If we are unable to be open in sharing how we are voting . . . are we not failing in out vocation to stand in relation to each other as we are with Jesus Christ?”
The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, suggested that secrecy “enables people to say one thing, then do another. And that is not right if we Christian brothers and sisters trusting one another in a process. . . The Church needs to grow up.”
The General Director of CPAS, the Revd John Dunnett, who had served on 20 CNCs, spoke of the danger of “group-think” and the need for a “safe space”.
“The only safe space is in Jesus Christ,” Dr Sentamu said. “Other spaces are never safe.”
In a vote by Houses, the proposed change was approved in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy, but fell in the House of Laity.
Also rejected was a call to lower the threshold that a candidate would need to pass, from a two-thirds majority in favour of his or her appointment to two-thirds of those present and voting. Speakers defended the value of being able to abstain on a vote. Dr Sentamu suggested that the C of E was “bedevilled by politeness”.