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Like this one, only different. 19 March 2014

Posted by Dr Moose in Church, Life, Ponderings, University.
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After pondering our big, small world yesterday, I was surprised when a letter arrived for me this morning from a parallel world. Honestly! First I thought it had also come from the past, as the envelope had been previously adressed to the former Vice-Chancellor of the University, who’s been gone several years. But no, merely from a parallel universe.

Within? A letter concerning the General Synod of the Church of England and a Casual Vacancy in the Southern Universities Electoral Area. By now I know that you are simply agog with the excitement, but please, don’t go away!

The parallel universe of which I speak is that of the synodical government of the Church of England. I am not an expert in the matter (any more than I need to be), but basically the C of E is governed by layered structure of elected bodies with representation in three houses, bishops, clergy & laity. In this arcane body there exists a constituency of clergy of the universities of the Provice of Canterbury (other than Oxford, Cambridge and London) entitled to elect one of their number to the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury (forming part of the House of Clergy in General Synod). Still with me? Good.

Was I aware of any eligible Electors in the university (who would also, therefore, be eligible to stand for this post)? Just occasionally I am tempted… but rarely.

Once I checked the detail, as I’d thought previously, the answer was, unsurprisingly, “no”. Which means I will now, as I did for the October by-election for the constituency (for which no-one stood) have to return a declaration to that effect. Which is fine and fair. What is a little more worrying is the final sheet, an addition since the last enquiry, a list of Qualified Electors as of October last year.

I wonder if you would care to guess how many there were? Priests or Deacons in the C of E, appointed or recognised as teachers in a full-time capacity, or in a financial/admnistrative position employed full-time by the university. A couple of dozen maybe? Nope. Nine. That’s right, nine. From just four institutions!

I had thought that Rotten Boroughs were a thing of the past, and, in fairness, I had also thought that the last General Synod had been looking at measures to remove the post (and the equivalent for York). It looks like I was mistaken. I might even have to take to reading the Church Times again!

I hope that the lack of candidates standing for the post is part of a deliberate effort for reform. Compared to many of the day-to-day reforms quietly passing under the public radar, or the more visible process of sorting out when (not if!) clergy who happen to be women will be allowed to be bishops, it’s a small matter. But that makes it no less ridiculous, and continuing proof that in yet another way, the C of E really does occupy another world!

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