Friday, July 9, 2010

Idea for C of E to Try: Electoral Synods

Down Under we love England, the English, and appreciate the great heritage England has given us, including soccer, netball, rugby and cricket, which last three we regularly beat England at. One point to draw from sport is that the colonials may have something to teach England. To be fair to England's sporting administrators and coaches, they are willing to learn. But the Church of England, is it willing to learn from Down Under? Actually, willing to learn from a whole lot of churches in the Communion?

A simple and relevant idea at this point would be electoral synods as the means of nominating bishops to the crown for appointment. Such elections would, among other things, avoid the appalling and outrageous imbroglio of the last few days in which one reporter has been responsible for titillating the Anglican world with rumour that Jeffrey John was a candidate for Southwark and is now also responsible for catalysing liberal wrath and anger towards ++Rowan Williams that Jeffrey John is no longer a candidate for Southwark. Was he ever short-listed or merely one name of many on a long list?

Despite the fact that no one other than people sworn to confidentiality can possibly know what ++Rowan did or said, or not did or not said, the Archbishop of Canterbury is being hung, drawn and quartered in liberal Anglican circles without trial to determine the facts of the matter. I always thought liberals were as concerned about justice as any other Christian value.

Thanks to this reporter and whoever thought it funny/important/ego-boosting/savvy/whatever to feed him the rumour, both Jeffrey John and ++Rowan Williams are being subjected to public scrutiny, comment, judgment and consequent vilification (by some). Result Secular World 5 - Church of England 0. Three of the Secular World goals were self-inflicted by the hapless English defence!!

Two of the brighter sparks in C of E life, Nick Baines and John Richardson, have sensible things to say about this appalling media beat up. But neither proposes the simple possibility that dioceses might have more say by holding electoral synods. Chances are that Southwark would have elected Jeffrey John as its nomination.

Meantime, here in Christchurch we are appreciating very much the lessons being learned from England re Fresh Expressions of church from the acknowledged master, Bishop Graham Cray. I will try to say more over the weekend about his pearls of wisdom, but suffice for now to note the wonderful way in which everything he says is grounded in theology, centred on Jesus Christ, and embued with testimony of gospel transformation of people.


Andrew White said...

And (field) hockey! Why does everyone always forget hockey?

Paul Fromont said...

Hi Peter, pleased its going well with Graham. I agree with your summary of his approach, having spent three days with him as part of a working group in the US three-years ago. Pity the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki didn't get some quality time with him up this way.

Look forward to your posts about the weekend, and especially to what your diocese practically does in response to his input :-)


spicksandspecks said...

Hi Peter,
As I understand it, the nomination of Bishops in the Church of England goes hand-in-hand with its status as a state church. Therefore, if you want to head down the road of electing bishops, you have to deal with the far bigger issue of disestablishment (is that the right word?) of the Church of England. Unless perhaps you used an electoral synod process to nominate a single candidate which requires Prime Ministerial assent?
The other point I would make is that electoral synods are not without their problems too. While the elected bishop has greater legitimacy, we have had the situation in the diocese of Melbourne where the synod does not elect any of the candidates at its first meeting, and we have been without a bishop for 6 months or more. Further, there can be the most awful character assassination in both private discussion and public debate - similar to what Dr John and Bishop Rowan experienced this last week.
Having said that, in Melbourne we much prefer electoral synods to the old system of the nominations committee being elected by the synod to do the job. There is much greater opportunity for ordinary parishioners to have their say, and to convince people about the merits of candidates on the synod floor than behind closed doors.
God bless and best wishes,
Andrew Reid

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments here, Andrews and Paul.
Yes, hockey too.
Am working on a piece for the Taonga website re +GC's contribution here.
Yes, am suggesting CofE electoral synods to nominate name to crown; not trying to disestablish it ... yes, also, electoral synods have their ups and downs ... but it is a bit easier to make authoritative claims about the 'majority' of the diocese following one than is the case in England at the moment.

Paul Fromont said...

Great. Look forward to reading your +GC piece. It's been funny, no sense of what's been happening in ChCh... the web is unusually quiet :-)

Have a good week.