What will the new General Synod look like?

Peter Ould writes: The General Synod Elections 2021 are over and the results are in. Sadly we didn’t get David Dimbleby or Huw Edwards bringing us an exit poll and wall to wall coverage, but there are still plenty of things for psephologists to get their teeth into.

I have spent the last week analysing the election results as they have come in for the Houses of Clergy and Laity. As new members of Synod have been announced, I’ve been able to categorise them on the basis of their stance on same-sex blessings, not least because many of the candidates were on one of two official slates from the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and Inclusive Church (IC). By looking at these lists, by reading election addresses, watching hustings videos or looking at voting records, it is possible very accurately to assess who sits in which camp and what the balance of power is in the new Synod (at least in the House of Clergy and Laity).

So here it is—Peter’s preliminary analysis of the elections, broken down into a number of categories.

Turnout

Almost uniformly, turnout is up in both Houses, particularly amongst the Clergy. This is obviously good news for the democratic process, but it’s worth reflecting why it happened. The primary reason was that two large campaigning organisations did their best to run an effective “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) campaign, motivated by the one major issue that divided them. Yes, other campaigning groups also tried to stand on particular platforms, not least the “Save the Parish” movement, but they were on the whole swept aside by the two main groups.

For over half a century the Church of England has tried to present Synod elections as being devoid of party politics, but with the 2021 election that pretence must be consigned to the dustbin. The majority of elected members are going to associate with the two largest groupings in Synod (Evangelical Group on General Synod, ‘EGGS’, and the Human Sexuality Group) which mirror pretty much the two pressure groups, CEEC and IC, who recommended slates of candidates. Turnout was up simply because electors knew exactly where their candidates stood on the key issue of the day, knew who they agreed with and didn’t, and were advised by the “party” they agreed with how to cast their vote.

Like it or not, Synod is now dominated by two main parties, much in the same way our Westminster politics is. One of the things that General Synod should consider is whether in 2026, candidates should be able to provide an official allegiance or party loyalty in order to further educate the electorate where they stand. They can still have a personal address, but knowing that particular candidates officially belong to a certain grouping would make it even clearer what they were (and weren’t voting for). And wouldn’t it be fun if next time round I could even provide you with a swingometer to show you how voting patterns have changed since 2021?

Results

And so to the results. As I wrote above, I was able to analyse the loyalties of elected members, which gives us the following results. The labels Orthodox and Revisionist refer to the member’s position on blessing same-sex unions.

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