Rhubarb; reflections on electoral ‘failure.’

In common with the vast majority of those standing for the House of Clergy in Oxford Diocese I was ‘rejected’ at the ballot box. C’est la vie.

In truth I always knew that electoral success was unlikely and, this is presumably true for anyone who subjects themselves to any form of democratic process?

But, nevertheless the cognitive and the emotional don’t at first operate in sync. So, yes, I feel gutted. For now.

But, I also feel slightly relieved.  I feel relieved because I think it is going to be a contentious synod with hand-grenades going off everywhere. At least I might now be able to avoid a direct hit!

‘Good disagreement’ might be the aim on several issues, but many, perhaps most of the elected representatives, are there because they represent a ‘narrower’ constituency of (self) interest. And few of those who represent a ‘narrower constituency’ are in the mood to give way. So many synod members will experience deep hurt over the next five years, and, if ‘we’ can’t hold everything together maybe even guilt and, a sense of failure.

Can ‘we’ hold everything, and everybody, together? Probably not.

I think we can be sure that the Anglican Communion will not hold in its current form. I don’t think that the Church of England can expect to operate in vacuum isolated from decisions made in the political and judicial spheres. Shifting societal norms can not simply be wished away.

There is a going to be a lot of external systemic pressure on the Church of England and yet  I sense that an overall feeling exists that, in some way, the Established Church remains in control of its own destiny. This, I fear, is pure myth.

I am also slightly relieved to be freed from the potential of acquiring ICS (Institutional Conceit Syndrome). Institutional conceit takes root when the institutions that represent the wider body (corpus, polis, society etc) mistakenly believe that they are the very thing they represent.

Synod is not the Church. At its best it is a representation of the Church.  At its worst, and democracy can lead to poor results, its a distortion of the corpus it seeks to represent. And yet many in all sorts of institutions forget that they, for a short period of time only, represent the constituency that comprise the entity itself. I suspect that I could (not would), if elected, have confused synod and church.

So all the best to those who have been elected. You have an unenviable task. Will you succeed?

Well that all depends on your definition of success! If success means satisfying the short-term needs of a ‘narrower constituency,’ a ‘constituency of self-interest’ then some groups will, in five years time, believe that they have succeeded. But, if success means satisfying the requirements of the widest possible constituency then I fear that ‘success’ will remain out of reach. Unless………..

And, so here is my penultimate point: understanding what ‘unless’ means might be the most important task facing this synod and, this will require flexibility and creativity.

Finally, you might ask, what on earth this all has to do with rhubarb? And, the honest answer is not much, other than I experience rhubarb as a subtle combination of the sweet and sour, a bit like how I feel today!


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