- Licensed or beneficed Clergy all get a vote — fish and chips common or garden democracy. The sort of thing they did in ancient Athens. One Person One Vote. Radical Stuff.
- Laity are elected indirectly (making it possible to be a candidate whilst not being an elector). Such a system was used for the US Senate before the 17th Amendment (1913?)... Curiously enough, primitive Anarcho-Syndicalists were keen on indirect elections too.
- Diocesan bishops are elected by Cathedral Chapters instructed to elect them by Her Majesty the Queen. This ardently Royalist elective system, which fills the majority of the upper house, will renind some of Mogens Jallberg’s pithy comment: “In Democracy: it's your vote that counts. In Feudalism it's your count that votes.”
- Southern Suffragan Bishops like me have our own clergy-style mini elction, with a tiny electorate of around 50 and 9 candidates for 4 places, so anything could happen. This is a grassroots kind of election appropriate to, say, a smallish parent teacher association.
The Bishop of Fulham has been telling the New York Times what this all adds up to –“The trouble with the Anglican Church is that it has adopted a parliamentary model and one that presumes change and presumes everyone can have a say. I think it’s become a kind of fascist democracy.” After years of being rather snooty and invertedly snobbish about the General Synod, I observe that change does happen, and God is usually in it somewhere (but where?), and I believe to the bottom of my boots that everyone should have a say, because to deny them really is a kind of fascism. Was it time to climb off the fence and get involved?
As Her Majesty has not instructed a Cathedral Chapter to elect me on pain of imprisonment for prae munire, the only way to find out out what it would be like to be part of a fascist democracy has involved asking my colleagues to vote for me, among others. Mind you, this is pretty much what happens in most elections. This involved producing an election address. If you're not a suffragan bishop you haven't a vote anyway, but if you are, vote early! vote often!
Before becoming bishop of Buckingham is 2003, I worked for 23 years as a parish priest, with some prison ministry, teaching and design work. This summer I found myself encouraging friends to stand for General Synod, feeling a hypocrite because of my own long-standing cynicism about it; There’s an obvious answer, and I’m very grateful to +Lee Rayfield of Swindon and +Christopher Chessun of Woolwich for kindly proposing and seconding me. What are my issues, and what might I bring, as a new member, to the General Synod?
I have played a leading role in the implementation of Common Tenure in our diocese. I believe we can work out our procedures in a helpful way, but I hope it’s done within a theological vision for Christ-centred servant ministry. CT must promote vocation in ministers. Beyond the clergy, many parishes are feeling poor and downhearted. All kinds of growth happen when churches seek out the energy around them and work with that — an analogy with air source heating comes to mind.
I am not techie for the sake of tech, but really enjoy being part of the C of E’s discernment process about new media, as well as having my own blog, which has had over 380,000 hits. Social media can painfully expose our weaknesses, especially if the Church is boring, weedy and faithless. People in a flatter, globalised social order seek loving service, not conventional authority figures. Authenticity and Interactivity count for more than the effortlessly superior Olympian heights which past Anglican bishops have commanded. People are often surprisingly open, and we can exercise real influence, but it must be earned not assumed. Christians often have real depth and authenticity, but I also encounter fear and denial among episcopal colleagues and others. We need to learn how to change, not only to engage more clearly with people for the gospel, but for our own souls’ health.
At a time many in the schools trade are casting around for a vision, anyone with a clear idea of what it means to be truly child centred, anchored in confidently held values, has much to contribute. As chair of one of the largest Boards of Education in the country, I can see in our 288 schools everything to play for, and much to gain... or lose!
With deep Evangelical roots, I wrote a doctorate on Anglo-Catholic Ecclesiology. My view of the Church, Catholic and Reformed, is shaped by spending regular time over many years with a French Benedictine Community. Conversion, Stability and Obedience strike me as vital tools in discipleship and community building. I’m a historian. I think our tradition is often fuller of resource and hope than we realise. Covenant? I can see why the Archbishops want some basis for the Communion better than the fading Cheshire-Cat smile of the British Empire, but wish it would go on one side of A4.
The next Synod is about far more than the ordination of women to the episcopate, which I joyfully support. Christ transcends gender. The sociological geometry of Christian ministry has always reflected the society we serve, and I see this as part of our incarnational calling. A two-speed episcopate seems to me a long way from Catholic order. It’s embarrassingly obvious that further wobble and faff will just annoy everyone and make us look even sillier than we already do.
If there’s anything you’d like to check back with me about, please do. I’m delighted that many much-liked and valued colleagues are standing for GS this time round. If you think I can bring anything particular that you value to the party in a helpful way, please vote for me.