Is the future for the Church of England’s General Synod…Dan Andrews?

The readiness of the English middle classes to sacrifice democracy on the altar of political correctness was evident at last week’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod.

It was during a debate on the dry subject of the CofE’s governance structures that the growing anti-democratic spirit on this largely democratically elected body asserted itself.

On the last day of its February sessions, Synod voted to ‘take note’ of a report from the CofE’s Governance Review Group (GRG). This means the GRG’s plan to reduce the number of National Church Institutions in the CofE and have fewer governance bodies can move forward to the legislative stage.

The report includes a proposal to set up a ‘nominations  committee’ which would ‘sift’ candidates wanting to stand for election to the CofE’s national bodies. 

The aim of the pre-election sifting would be to ‘verify that they (the candidates) have the appropriate skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to be able to perform their trustee duties responsibly and effectively’.

‘This pre-election sifting – whilst rigorous – should not be so onerous as to remove democracy,’ the report claims.

Save the Parish campaigner Prudence Dailey, former chairman of the Prayer Book Society and a lay Synod member for Oxford Diocese, smelt an authoritarian rat. She tabled an amendment to withdraw the proposal for the ‘too powerful’ nominations committee.

‘It will undermine the democratic processes of this Synod and replace them with something that is profoundly technocratic,” she declared.

She pinpointed the plan to sift out candidates according to their ‘behaviours’. 

‘I have a particular concern that those who might be inclined to rock the boat would be excluded. And we can all think of occasions on which the boat needed to be rocked in this Church and it was resisted by the establishment – for example, safeguarding is an obvious case in point.

‘Whilst attempting to promote demographic diversity, such a committee, I’m convinced, would risk impeding diversity of thought,’ she argued.

She concluded with a clear appeal to the principle of democratic accountability: ‘I want to ask you, members of Synod, do you wish to have the ability to elect whomsoever you wish to positions of governance within this Church?’ 

The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, who chaired the GRG, ‘cheerfully’ resisted the Dailey Amendment. He argued that ‘simply having elections’ would not ‘guarantee the sort of diversity’ that Lord Boateng, chair of the Archbishops’ Racial Justice Commission, had called for  in his address to Synod on the opening day of its February sessions.

In spite of the Christian common sense appeal from Deborah Buggs, a lay member for London Diocese, to ‘let democracy do its job rather than have it manipulated by a sifting body’, Bishop Baines carried the day and the Dailey amendment fell by 199 votes to 124.

The answer to Miss Dailey’s question was thus ‘no’.

So, largely middle class turkeys elected onto the CofE’s legislative body, or at least a majority of them, apparently voted for Christmas. But if events in Melbourne under its hard Left premier, Dan Andrews, are a guide to where rampant wokery leads, the future for the General Synod will not be Christmas but being cooked to democratic death in a politically-correct pressure oven.

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in the UK.

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