General Synod Elections 2021


Though the elections to General Synod took place last month and awareness of them was high over the summer, a huge amount of effort went into them for many months prior including campaigning, supporting candidates and getting the vote out. This applies not only to candidates of our tradition but those who supported the liberal and evangelical groups on Synod and also those candidates who choose to be non-aligned.

For our part, we knew from the outset that we would have one traditional catholic member of General Synod in Bishop Martin Warner of Chichester and a member of The Society’s Council of Bishops who is an ex officio member of the House of Bishops as a diocesan. The question was then what we could do to build on that across all three Houses – of Bishops, of Clergy, and of Laity. 

The answer was that, after much effort, we have ended up with a Catholic Group sufficiently large in number to be an effective force on Synod, with Fr Paul Benfield continuing as its Chairman. Comment and analysis of the results are included in Tom Middleton’s article on page 16.

Profound thanks go to all those from our movement who stood for election, to their supporters and most especially to Anne Gray, Clare Lees, and Vicky Cole, who worked tirelessly to get as many of our candidates elected as possible, often in trying circumstances during the pandemic.

We pray for the Catholic Group, its officers and its supporters, as a new session of General Synod begins. We also pray that General Synod will proceed with its business wisely, mindful of the history of the Church, both East and West, and of its carefully developed doctrines over many centuries.


Q&A with Synod members


Clare Williams (Norwich)


What led you to stand for General Synod?

For a lot of people, the pandemic has led to a reassessment of what’s important. I’ve seen the debates within the Church of England and had strong feelings that this moment, and the decisions made now, are crucial. 


Which issues do you feel strongly about?

Ministry with children and young people is so often last on the agenda, if at all, and unfortunately often the first to go when finances are tight. I am passionate about representing young people’s voices. I believe in the strength of rural church ministry and the importance of the parish system for building community and strengthening our sacramental life. 


What are you looking to do on Synod over the next five years?

In a word, serve. It’s not going to be easy and it’s simply my hope that I can serve those I represent in the best way possible. As well as being a prayerful and peaceful presence in what may well be a tough five years. 


How will you look to balance your professional and other commitments with being on Synod?

That’s going to be difficult! As well as leading Schools and Family ministry at Norwich Cathedral, I’m training to be an arts therapist to work with children and young people so spare time is not easy to find. I will always seek to prioritise Synod where I can. 


What aspects of Norfolk life are you most enjoying?

I love walking the coast path and the vastness of the landscape here. It’s also wonderful to see fellow pilgrims again after a very quiet 2020.


Michaela Suckling (Sheffield)


What led you to stand for General Synod?

My parish priest, Father Naylor! It wasn’t on my radar at all but several conversations and lots of prayer led me to put my hat into the ring. What a privilege and responsibility – I ask for your prayers as I set out in this new role.


You have a very interesting role in your parish. Can you tell us a bit about it, please?

I am the lead parish nurse at St Matthew’s, Carver Street in the centre of Sheffield. I have a small team of fantastic volunteers. We have a market stall and people can drop in to discuss their health, ask for prayer or just have a chat. We also spend time on the streets, catching up with those who are homeless or finding life difficult. 


How did you come to combine your medical expertise with your faith?

Nursing aims to help people live their lives to the full and this is also true of the gospel. During the parish nursing course, I was reminded that we cannot have healing without cure and cure without healing. 


What developments do you foresee in your line of work in parishes and in the faith sector more generally?

Covid has highlighted the positive impact that the faith community can have. Many of my colleagues were pivotal in setting up support services and supporting the most isolated in our communities. I would like to see a significant investment in these roles. 


How do you intend to manage your time so that you can meet your various commitments?

I spoke about burnout and compassion fatigue in my election address. This is a very real threat to us all. I suspect this will be the topic of discussion with both my clinical supervisor and spiritual director in the coming weeks. 


Emma Gregory (née Forward, Bath & Wells)


Congratulations on your re-election to General Synod. What’s the secret of your success?

It’s mainly luck and fortunate timing. In fact, I had thought that I probably wouldn’t be elected this time around and had mentally prepared for that. There were many other excellent candidates standing all over the country who definitely deserved a place and who would have been a real asset to the Synod. Some were elected, others weren’t; but it’s still vital that people put themselves forward when the opportunity arises.


It is a particularly impressive result given that you have stood in a different diocese this time around. How did you counter not being so well known in your new diocese?

Having looked at the voting results, it seems that gaining a good quantity of second preference votes helped push me over the line in the end. Obviously, first place votes are better, but less likely if you are not known. One never knows what appeals to voters, but I was keen to prove how well I know the area and its needs, so I made reference to this in my election address. I also sent out two extra canvassing emails to remind people of who I am and offer a little extra information. In the second one, I offered guidance on precisely how to vote, as I thought some voters might need help with how to go about it.


Were there any specific issues you decided to focus on during the election and, if so, what was the thinking behind that?

I mentioned a broad range of topics and didn’t particularly focus on one over any others. In my election address I made mention of ministry to young people, the decline in church attendance, the Mission and Pastoral Measure, the Clergy Discipline Measure, and Living in Love and Faith. 


What do you imagine to be the dominant issues for General Synod over the next five years?

Obviously Living in Love and Faith is a wide-ranging topic to be discussed, but it is unclear when, how, or in what form this will be brought to Synod. I hope that the Clergy Discipline Measure is seriously reviewed and improved as a matter of urgency. I would also like to see some attempt to learn from mistakes made in the Church’s heavy-handed reaction to the pandemic. GS2222 Mission in Revision has hit the headlines and is being countered by the Save the Parish movement. No doubt this will feature heavily in future debates.  


What role do you see the Catholic Group playing in responding to that emerging agenda?

Contributions from the Catholic Group are respected for being clear, measured, intelligent, and founded on good theology. We want to speak up for the faithful clergy and laity in our parishes across the country who may not have a voice. The Catholic Group have a heart for the poor and stand firm on the centrality of the sacraments to Christian life. We also understand the necessity of legislative work of the Synod and make sure that we take full part in those votes as well. We say Compline together each evening and make sure that our work is rooted in prayer. 


Finally, would you mind telling us a bit how you manage your professional life alongside your other commitments, including General Synod?

I am the type of person who likes to be busy, so I don’t mind using up evenings and weekends to keep up with Synod-related matters. Some times of the year are more pressured than others and everything seems to come at once. Synod needs more young lay professionals, so I would encourage others to put themselves forward in future even if they work full time. It helps to be up front and honest about whether you can attend meetings and remind others of what you have going on.


Fr Luke Irvine-Capel (Chichester)


What led you to stand for General Synod? 

I have a deep love for the Church of England! The General Synod, whilst it has its share of frustrations and challenges, is a part of our life and governance that demands attention and engagement. 


How did you find the campaign? 

We were blessed in this diocese by the way in which the campaign was facilitated and overseen. This ensured that those of us who were candidates locally had confidence in the process and were free to engage with those who wanted to explore any of the issues that we set out in our election addresses, or more widely. 


What are the main issues you see as likely to arise over the next five years? 

The first issue, I suspect, is going to be learning to relate to one another as a Synod: entering into discernment and debate, being attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to one another. As we look to the future that God is calling us into, ensuring that the most vulnerable and deprived communities that we serve remain at the heart of our mission and ministry is vital. The fostering and nurturing of vocations, both lay and ordained, and how we resource this must be a priority. With the vital work that still needs to be done with regard to safeguarding, CDM and the simplification agenda, it might be tempting to feel overwhelmed. 

I will want to test the debates about sacramental life and ministry, and the Living in Love and Faith conversations, against my belief that the Church of England is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church.


What are the highs and lows of being an Archdeacon? 

I absolutely love being involved in the life of the parishes across my archdeaconry, supporting and encouraging them as best I can in their mission and ministry. Each Sunday, celebrating and preaching in one of the churches in the archdeaconry, is the real highlight of the week. Being involved in a vacancy process, working alongside the Bishop, Patron and parish representatives, in the process of discernment is a wonderful privilege. There are, of course, challenges that can be very demanding. I would not be honest if I didn’t say that sometimes the prospect of another Zoom meeting didn’t bring on a sense of impending doom!


How do you balance the pressures on your time arising from your ministerial responsibilities and other commitments? 

I’m not sure that I always do. My spiritual director once reminded me that God does not give us contradictory vocations, and that my vocation to the priesthood is not distinct from my vocation to be a husband and father, brother, son and friend. That was good advice, and an encouragement to remember the goodness of God in all my relationships. Sometimes, of course, there is an imbalance, and I know that my family and friends have put up with a lot. The family diary meeting and putting holidays, retreats and days off in ensure a better chance of getting the balance right – sometimes!


Pam Davies (Manchester)


What led you to stand for General Synod?

To be honest, it wasn’t something I planned to do. I was asked to stand for the casual vacancy that came up last year, due to the untimely death of Mike Heppleston. It was whilst I was preparing for that, that I realised I might have something to offer. I found, to my surprise, that I actually wanted to be elected.


What do you see as the main issues arising in General Synod?

There are quite a few issues that I think will be coming up in General Synod in the next five years. I think that among the main ones will be (in no particular order): the decline in both clergy numbers and parish income, human sexuality and same-sex marriages, and racism and barriers to UKME members of the community exercising ministry in the Church.


What did your career involve?

I was a laboratory research technician for nearly 30 years. I had to be hands-on for a lot of the work, but able to teach others varied techniques. I have also had to liaise with other groups and call on their experience when I didn’t have the necessary experience myself. Working in hospitals meant that I had to be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, from hospital porters to consultant surgeons. 


How do you seek to contribute to parish life?

I am currently a member of our PCC, the choir, the Mothers’ Union and am the Gift Aid Secretary. I help with our Brownie pack and assist with tea and coffee on Sundays after Mass. I have close connections with lots of people and involving the laity more in the lives of our parishes means getting to know them and their abilities better.


Fr Adam Gaunt (York)


What led you to stand for General Synod?

I first stood for election to the General Synod back in 2010 coming in a respectable seventh place, missing out on election by just one vote. I stood again in 2015 and was duly elected by my colleagues. I was motivated to stand in 2010, 2015 and again this year as I genuinely believe that we, as traditionalists within the Church of England, must actively engage in all the structures of our national church.  


How do you think it fits with your ministry in a parish?

It is essential that parishes and parish clergy are represented in the General Synod, and this is especially so in the new General Synod where there shall be considerable debate about the future shape of parish ministry. Consequently, I regard being elected to General Synod as a part of my parish ministry! I genuinely believe that our church’s greatest asset is our network of parishes and benefices. However, we must be realistic, the Church of England was, is, and always will be a mixed ecology of ministry, from our parishes and network of schools, to our cathedrals and extra-parochial chaplaincies.


Could you tell us about your involvement in the Prayer Book Society and where your appreciation of the Prayer Book stems from?

I am honoured to have been elected as a trustee for the Prayer Book Society, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary next year!  My first experience of the Book of Common Prayer was attending services in Durham Cathedral as a child; my aunt lived on the outskirts of Durham City and, when we stayed for the weekend, we would attend services together at the Cathedral. The parish in which I grew up also had Prayer Book Evening Prayer with hymns, and a Prayer Book Holy Communion service on Wednesday mornings which I could attend in the school holidays. I believe we should celebrate the rich Prayer Book tradition. 


What do you see as the main issues arising in General Synod over the next five years and how will you seek to address them?

There is undoubtedly a great deal of work for the new General Synod. Firstly, we will need to work together to rebuild church life post-pandemic. Secondly, General Synod will be asked to consider what greater pastoral accommodation can be made for all within our Church through the work of the Living in Love and Faith. Thirdly, General Synod cannot take its eye off of safeguarding – I wish to see the Church of England at the forefront of best practice. Fourthly, General Synod will be tasked with the reformation of the Clergy Discipline Measure – I will work for a more balance clergy conduct procedure.  


How do you intend to manage your time in order to meet your various commitments?

Having served in this benefice for over twelve years, I am fortunate to enjoy a great working relationship with members of my parish community. I am supported by members of my parish, my churchwardens, my parochial church councillors, and my excellent Reader. 


Luke Appleton (Exeter)


What led you to stand for General Synod?

There are two main reasons I stood and a third one that emerged in the run-up to the elections. Firstly, it was the demographic time bomb facing the Church and the lack of any plan to tackle that. I want my young daughter to have a parish she can attend. Secondly, it was the attempt to change our marriage canon without a biblical basis for doing so. Looking to America we can see the crisis that this caused and I worry greatly it could cause the Church of England to split, not to mention all the legal battles. The third reason was the threat to the parish. Parishes are the lifeblood of the church and I see no way of saving the institution without them. Yet the threat to them is very real. 


What are the main issues arising from your perspective and how do you propose to address them?

The biggest issue facing us is the threat to the parish system. There are proposals to strip parishes of their right to appeal closure. While I am sure no diocese actively wants to close churches, the point is they may not be fighting to save them. Unless a diocese can say to churches which are under threat “We have your back 100% and will fight for you,” people will feel that their church is under threat.


How did you get into church life and what do you most cherish about it?

I was an atheist who walked into an unlocked church in Exeter. That’s how I first encountered Jesus. But I got seriously stuck into church life when worshipping at St Mary Steps in Exeter. It is a very small parish, but that is when I really got a calling to serve God in the Church. For me, the thing I most cherish about the Church of England is daily Eucharist and our unlocked buildings. Without those two, I don’t think I would have become a Christian.


What is your connection with Devon and what are your favourite places to visit there?

I moved here in 2009 as a student and then have lived in a few different places before settling in Paignton. I once lived in a small town called Bideford which I loved. My wife and I enjoy visiting Lundy Island, which is a beautiful, isolated island off the coast of North Devon. We also love the different beaches, including the one that is ten minutes from our house. My favourite place in Devon is Exeter Cathedral, somewhere to which I make a regular pilgrimage.


How do you intend to manage your time so that you can meet your various commitments?

I am one of the churchwardens at our parish, I have an ill wife, a toddler and a full-time job. So time is precious. I have learned to be very efficient. My grandmother has a saying which is if you need something done ask a busy person. My family are so important to me, so we will be travelling together to Synod. I can be there committed in the day but then spend quality time with my daughter in the evening. They keep me grounded. I also am sustained by a daily cycle of prayer and worship and a really useful computer programme called ‘Remember the Milk’ which manages all of the things I need to do so I never forget.


Departing members

We wholeheartedly thank the following from our tradition, who were elected to General Synod six years ago and who were not successful in getting re-elected, for their service to our cause and we commiserate with them:


House of Bishops

+Jonathan Baker


House of Clergy

Fr Mark Gilbert 

Fr Christopher Smith 

Fr Howard Stoker


House of Laity

Philip Geldard

Robin Whitehouse


Elected members

From among those elected to General Synod from our tradition, we congratulate the following (this list is not exhaustive):


House of Bishops

+Philip North


House of Clergy

Fr Paul Benfield, Fr Michael Brydon Fr Paul Cartwright, Fr Damian Feeney, Fr Adam Gaunt, Fr Luke Irvine-Capel (Archdeacon of Chichester), Fr Mark Mawhinney, Fr Luke Miller (Archdeacon of London), Fr Thomas Seville CR, Fr Christopher Trundle, Fr Gary Waddington, Fr Tom Woolford


House of Laity

Luke Appleton, Pam Davies, Vivienne Goddard, Andrew Gray, Neil Logan Green, Emma Gregory, Aiden Hargraves-Smith, Stephen Hogg, Susan Kennaugh, Rosemary Lyon, Richard Mantle, Mary Nagel, Bradley Smith, Helen Smith, Michaela Suckling, Clare Williams, Glynne Williams


Synod Special