04/12/2012

One member, One vote - now!

It's time this blog either packed up its briefcase and went home for tea, or took a different tack.

With the Covenant (almost) dead, that focus has gone. 

But I came to oppose the Covenant through earlier studies which strongly suggested that attempts to determine doctrinal difference through (semi-) legal processes were both doomed and destructive of the Church. 

Related studies had long ago brought me to the view that every member of the Church of England should  have a vote for its representatives in Church government.

When General Synod defeated the proposal for women bishops despite 42 of 44 dioceses voting for it, some people raised their voices in favour of reform of Synod, and not least of the method of electing lay members. I would like to see that voice grow louder and for longer. 

The present system
At the moment those on the electoral roll of a church vote for Deanery Synod members. These people then vote for Diocesan and General Synod members. 

This system of indirect voting means that there is no accountability from governing bodies to the people in the pews - the people who very largely pay for the Church. Where there is no accountability, the people don't count.

The consequences of change
It isn't possible simply to change the voting system as though it was a technical matter with no other implications.
  • The marginalization of the laity is a cornerstone of our present synodical system.
  • To change the franchise would be to change the whole set of relationships which currently structure the church - clergy:laity, diocese:parish, General Synod:parish.
  • Inevitably too the present kingpins in this structure - bishops and parish clergy - would also have to modify the ways they work and their relationships with the people around them.
The fundamental change will be to treat each enrolled member as a fully adult member of the Church. I think such change will be beneficial - and equally that it will be resisted.  

From first debate in Church Assembly to the instigation of General Synod took some 15 years. I don't doubt that change now will take something like as long. So there's no reason to delay.

5 comments:

  1. Glad to see that this blogsite is up and running again. Paul your comments and analysis have been excellent in the past. Followers like me have occasionally tried the site again and you haven't been there - now you are and welcome back!

    You're right of course in your current blog.

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  2. Observer,

    Thank you for your comment, and your forbearance.

    I expect, and hope, to have a bit more time in the next few months (famous last words) and so I've started up again. I've just not been able to keep up recently - and belated observations are of little value in this media.

    And flattering comments feed my ego and encourage me. Thank you,

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  3. Paul, I am totally unaware of CofE polity or governance. In the US we are freer to make changes in our governance than in established situations. It is one of the stepping stones in our Constitution. But at the same time I understand that if the CofE did change to a one person-one vote system, it would change the character of the Church in the UK. It cannot happen quickly and it cannot happen in one fell swoop without changing Anglicanism in its entirety. With that said, I am not opposed to the change. It is needed if the CofE is not going to go with Rome in becoming so irrelevant that no one will be able to find faith within her.

    The conversations that this issue will raise have been raised before, I am sure. It might be good to see where that type of governance has worked and where it has not to learn what might be envisioned for the express governance in the UK. I will continue to follow this discussion, but we need to hear from the younger ones what is needed for faith to be supported.

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  4. Definitely a change between those in the pews who feel disenfranchised and the clergy would be a welcome one. But, I wouldn't want us to move to a place where we start talking about 'paying' for the Church of England. We don't pay we give. In a retarded capitalist culture, maintaining this distinction is as important as any moves to reform.

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  5. Keith, thank you for your support.

    Whatever term is used it remains a fact that lay people (past and present) fund the church. In past debates about lay representation this has always been a present but minor thread in the discussion, usually along the lines of no taxation without representation.

    Though I agree it is very important that the Church is not swallowed into the prevailing individualist ideology of capitalism.

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