by Nic Tall, General Synod Elections Coordinator – Inclusive Church
Voting works – change is happening!
In June the Methodist Conference voted to allow same-sex marriages. In September the Governing Body of the Church in Wales voted to introduce a service of blessing for gay couples. Both stories have been welcomed by LGBTQI+ Christians and their allies, demonstrating a grassroots desire for change. Crucially, both were as the result of voting, one where a two-thirds majority was needed in all houses.
Many changes need decisions by governing bodies, whether it’s promoting racial justice, supporting carbon neutrality, or the introduction of equal marriage for LGBTQI+ couples. There are meetings, conversations, much ink spilled on reports and briefing papers, but eventually it comes down to a vote. It’s clear that voting really maters! And how do people get to be part of governing bodies in the first place? Again, it’s usually down to people voting for them.
The Church of England’s General Synod is elected every five years, and voting in the 2021 election takes place between 17th September and 8th October. Elections are taking place in every diocese for both clergy and lay candidates, and by the end of October we will know the results. Those people returned will take part in the big debates and cast the votes that will guide the Church of England. This will include the conclusion of the Living in Love and Faith project, with any recommendations to General Synod likely to be voted on in November 2022.
Inclusive Church has been working in partnership with Ozanne Foundation and a broad coalition of church groups to encourage inclusive candidates to stand. We are delighted to be supporting over 200 candidates who have signed up to our inclusive election statement:
“I am committed to equality for everyone, at all levels and roles within the church, regardless of gender, disability, ethnicity, socio-economic status, mental health or sexuality.”
The full list of candidates is online at www.inclusive-synod.org. In 2015 Inclusive Church backed 108 candidates, today we have over 200. To have doubled the number of candidates shows the desire for a fully inclusive Church of England.
The candidates are in place and now we need people to vote for them. Everyone on a deanery synod can vote. That’s every licenced priest and every parish lay representative. It’s really important to vote – the opportunity only comes up every five years. In elections such as UK General Elections a marginal constituency would be around 1000 votes either way. With General Synod a small number of votes can make a big difference. In 2015 half of the diocesan elections would have had a different outcome if just five votes changed. One in eight elections were decided by just one vote. Electorates are small and turnout can be low, so with multiple candidates and a proportional representation voting system every vote counts!
When it comes to General Synod every inclusive candidate will matter. Really big decisions often pass by wafer thin majorities. The 2017 the House of Bishops sexuality teaching document was rejected by just seven votes. In 1992 the approval of women priests passed by just two votes.
In 2021 just five extra votes going one way or the other in each diocesan election could change around 40 seats in General Synod. With such close Synod votes on important matters the direction of the church will be decided by how people vote in this month’s elections. Inclusive candidates need your vote so that they can make a difference.
So please find out who the inclusive candidates are in your diocese by visiting www.inclusive-synod.org, and make sure if you are eligible you vote for them. Spread your top preference votes (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) around those on the list. If you yourself can’t vote then encourage people you know who can to do so, and share the inclusive candidates list with them. If you’re not sure who your local deanery reps are, ask your local Church of England priest. We have a real opportunity to make a difference by voting for a positive, open, forward looking and truly inclusive church. This is a vision that is definitely worth voting for!