Synod Stats

12 02 2011

The Church of England is said to be ‘Synodically governed, episcopally led.’ Consequently it is important that we take General Synod seriously, and give it the scrutiny that any other legislative body could expect. This includes its membership. Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) recently asked a question to the Clerk of the Synod about the make-up of the Synod’s membership.

Using the Written Answer (and a little help from the Synod office), I have put together some charts. By combining the gender data with an age profile, one can see some dramatic differences between the Clergy and the House of Laity. Clearly the Clergy have an age-profile that might be expected of any governing body – late forties through to mid sixties. Clearly if we want to improve the numbers (and representation) of ordinands in their twenties and thirties, this needs to be addressed. A far more pressing issue is the gender imbalance, with only 28% of the convocations being female. Of course, this represents an imbalance in the priesthood generally, but I wonder how we would feel if these figures were replicated in the House of Commons?

The House of Laity clearly has a very different problem. The gender balance is roughly fair, but the age profile is quite disturbing. Again, one might say that CofE congregations tend to follow this pattern, but to do so would be to accept the church as an institution in terminal decline.

The seriousness of the situation is underlined when this profile is compared to a similar chart put together by Peter Owen in 2005. Even though 35% of the Synod are newly elected, the bulk of the membership has simply got older by five years. There is some hope nonetheless – thanks to considerable efforts from a number of individuals (and the Business committee), the numbers under 35 appear to be on the increase.

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4 responses

12 02 2011
Russell

Following the 2010 General Election, 22% of MPs in the House of Commons are female, so even the Convocations have a “better gender balance.” than the Commons.

12 02 2011
Synod getting older: Youth Regeneration matters « Bishop's Blog

[…] Townsend, one of General Synod’s younger members, has published an analysis on his blog of the age and gender profile of the new Synod. First here is an age analysis of the last Synod by […]

12 02 2011
Ian Paul

James, two big factors in this are: the times Synod meets (when many lay people would have to take holiday from work and cannot, especially if they have kids); and the asymmetry on eligibility by age. For laity, you either have to be rich or retired to give the time; clergy are not allowed to be elected once retired. Both of these seem less than wise, and relatively easily amended.

13 02 2011
Ian Paul

also, not everyone believes that Synod ‘governs’; some argue that the Church is episcopally lead and governed, and Synodically ‘administered’

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