26/12/2012

2011 debate on lay representation - background paper 2

William Fittall, 
General Synod's Secretary General
William Fittall contributed a background note on the legal and procedural background to the debate on voting for the House of Laity of the General Synod.

Looking back
He cites the conclusions of the Bridge Report of 1997 (I've not been able to locate a copy on my shelves, which is annoying).

These were:
  1. That deanery synods should no longer be part of the electoral process. Therefore
  2. A new electorate will need to be created, "(a) to enable parishes to have a direct involvement in the electoral process and so to feel confidence in its outcome and (b) to establish an electorate who would act responsibly to ensure, so far as possible, that the wishes of the parishes were accurately reflected."  He recommended:
  3. "synodical electors". I.e. people elected simply to elect diocesan and General synod members. In about the same numbers as the current Deanery Synod membership.
It considered and rejected one member, one vote one grounds of cost, practicalities and the difficulty of keeping the list free from irregularities (which might then lead to legal challenges).

It also rejected the suggestion that members of the Diocesan Synod should be the electorate.

Looking forwards
Fittall reinforces my belief that change would be simple by stating that it would not need a Measure.

On the other had it would need a two-thirds majority by houses and that may be far from easy.

He then raises a series of questions:
  • what impact the use of the electorate concerned would be likely to have, respectively, on the roles of deanery synods, diocesan synods and the General Synod in the life of the Church; 
  • whether the electorates for the House of Laity of the General Synod and houses of laity of diocesan synods should in principle be the same; 
  • whether the use of the electorate concerned would mean that the lay membership of the General Synod and of diocesan synods would better reflect the views and concerns of the laity of the Church of England; 
  • what impact the use of the electorate concerned would have upon the ability of  those elected to fulfil their responsibilities as, respectively, members of the General Synod or a diocesan synod; 
  • the cost of operating any new system; 
  • any other practical issues to which the use of the electorate concerned would give rise, including from the point of view of identifying its membership (a) in sufficient time to enable elections to proceed at the prescribed point and (b) with sufficient clarity to avoid legal challenge to their result; and 
  • the extent to which the use of technology might alleviate difficulties of either kind. 
Can technology help?
I sometimes wonder whether Mr Fittall has a thoroughly dry sense of humour. That, by way of just seeing what will happen or if anyone will notice, he can slip in a little something without changing the tone of the text. Misspelling his own name (as fit-all) was no doubt just a typographical slip. But where (bullet point 2 above) did the question of separating the electorates for diocesan and General synods come from?

Amongst what's missing:
  • How on earth can the Church of England justify an indirect electorate?
  • What is the proper place of the laity in the government of the Church of England?
  • Are lay people 'members' to the extend that an account should be given to them of the activity and achievements of those who govern?
One member : One vote

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