The role of the House of Laity

In our post on 8 December Laity attacked by Parliament we suggested that

“[i]n view of recent events, the current review of the present electoral system will probably receive as much attention as the proposals on the ordination of women as bishops.”

It is no surprise, therefore, that on 1 January 2013, Thinking Anglicans carried the item “Elections to the House of Laity: One member, One vote – now!” in which it outlines the arguments in Paul Bagshaw’s blog Not the same stream – Aspects of Anglicanism ~ and in favour of direct lay elections to Synod.  His posts to date are summarized here and the underlying argument is that the electoral college for General Synod should be all those on the parish electoral rolls, rather than the lay members of deanery synods who are elected by the Parochial Church Councils.

In his response to questions on 6 December concerning Women Bishops, General Synod (Reform), and Parish Weddings, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, described the current procedures regarding lay representation like this:

“[t]he membership of deanery synods has constituted the electorate for the House of Laity since the General Synod was created in 1970. The review of synodical government chaired by Lord Bridge of Harwich, [Synodical Government in the Church of England: A Review, “The Bridge Report”] recommended in 1977 that deanery synods should be abolished and that the lay members of diocesan synods and General Synods should be chosen by parish representatives, each parish to have one for every 50 people on the electoral roll. The General Synod decided, however, to retain deanery synods. In July 2011 the Synod decided to ask for alternatives to the present electoral system to be further explored. The review group’s report is due to come to the General Synod this coming year”.

We have noted earlier that considerations on changing or abolishing the role of deaneries as an electoral college for diocesan synods and General Synod will need  to address a number of issues, and the election of lay representatives only part of the problem.  As we await the outcome of the review group’s deliberations, it is perhaps opportune to revisit the Bridge Report and ponder the “very rough ride” it received at the November 1997 Synod –  the Prolocutor of Canterbury Convocation is reported as described it as “an attack on God’s gracious gifts to the Church of England: its parish clergy, its laity, its history, and its traditions”, and  referred to

“the Gadarene rush to turn the Church of England into the religious division of McDonalds or the National Health Service”

2 thoughts on “The role of the House of Laity

  1. I crawled over the Bridge Report minutely when I was writing my STh thesis and it always seemed eminently sensible to me: it’s only failing to my mind was that it didn’t go the whole hog and opt for one person, one vote – on the (admittedly not unreasonable) basis that Synod elections based on universal suffrage would cost a bomb.

    As to the abolition of the Convocations, however, presumably the Prolocutor of the Convocation of Canterbury was agin it primarily because, if enacted, he’d have had nothing left to prolocute. Simply to describe Bridge as “an attack on God’s gracious gifts to the Church of England: its parish clergy, its laity, its history, and its traditions” cuts no ice at all: it sounds suspiciously like mere uncorroborated assertion.

  2. Pingback: Questions for the House of Laity (and the Church) | Law & Religion UK

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