Thursday, 23 September 2010

General Synod Election Address

It's taken me long enough, I know, but here is the text of my election address...
In your situation as someone reading these election addresses, there are three main questions that I would hope an address to answer, so that is what I shall try to do here.

Who am I?
My name is Justin Brett. I am a teacher, and I live just outside Brighton with my wife and seven year old daughter. I was born in 1971 and brought up in rural Gloucestershire. I went to boarding school in Cheltenham, and it was there that I became a regular churchgoer when I was 13, and was confirmed about a year later. I went from school to Exeter College, Oxford in 1989 to study Classics. At Exeter I sang in the Chapel Choir, resulting in a lasting love of the words of Prayer Book Evensong. I worshipped in a variety of churches as
I moved around Oxford, but spent most time at St. John the Evangelist, the church attached to St. Stephen's House. Following my degree I qualified as a teacher at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill.
My first permanent post was at a prep school near Slough. I was very much involved in worship there - preaching, leading services and still singing. During holiday times I worshipped at the local parish church. In September 2001 my wife and I moved to Berkshire, where I spent some time working in the secretariat of the local council, and taught in two different local schools. It took a while to find a church where I felt at home, but from 2002 onwards I worshipped at St. John the Evangelist, Newbury. At St John's I became Treasurer, Child Protection Officer and a Deanery Synod representative. I was elected as a lay member of General Synod by Oxford Diocese in 2005, and for three years was Lay Chair of Newbury Deanery. I also held a Bishop's licence as a lay preacher. In September 2008 my wife was appointed Deputy Head at Roedean School, so we moved to Sussex. I am currently teaching at St Aubyns School in Rottingdean, once again involved with Chapel services as preacher and worship leader, and worshipping at St. Margaret's Church, Rottingdean, where I have been elected to the PCC as a Deanery Synod representative. In my spare time I am studying for an MA in Social Policy and Criminology with the Open University, and my wife tells me I spend rather too much time on the Internet.

Why am I standing?
It looks as though there will be two issues over the next Synod that will attract a great deal of media and public attention. One is the consecration of women as bishops, and the other is the continuing question of how the Church deals with homosexuality - further complicated by the development of the Anglican Communion Covenant. As far as the first is concerned, although the legislation could be rejected at final approval, my best guess is that within the next decade women will be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England, and personally I would be delighted by that outcome. My real concern with this issue is how we keep the Church united throughout the process. I do not want to see women bishops at the cost either of losing the Anglo-Catholic heritage so important in this diocese or of compromising the orders of the women who are consecrated. The second issue, that of sexuality, is one which is current in this diocese - for example in the survey on attitudes to same-sex relationships now in progress in Sussex. While I am aware that the theological issues surrounding sexuality are complex and sometimes contentious, I am certain that committed and loving relationships deserve in some way to be celebrated by the Church. Again, my hope is that we can find a way to keep the Church united as this issue is inevitably dragged through the media over the next few years. I am convinced, however, that the only way we will reach any resolution of either of these issues is by continuing to be open to different views and opinions, even if we find them at times disturbing. It is for this reason that I am concerned about the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant. It seems to me that the Church of England, as a national church, is called to be welcoming, open and available to all people, regardless of their situation in life. I cannot see how the constraints of a covenant designed to exclude those deemed to be 'unsound' can help us in this important mission.
Although these issues might cause the greatest publicity, they are not the greatest challenges we face. The current financial crisis is forcing us to ask ourselves what the Church of England itself is going to look like in the future. The next Synod may well need to take a view on just what our churches are for, and whether our current structures are correct and sustainable. As with the other issues I have mentioned, this is bound to cause some divisions, and the way forward might not be immediately obvious. I am not pretending to have any easy answers, but I am willing to keep an open mind, and look to solve problems by consensus.

Why should you vote for me?
I am not offering myself as a candidate in favour of any particular issue, nor am I a member of any particular church faction. I do, however, have a deep love for the Church of England in all its diversity, and I believe that it has a continuing role to play in our society. Over the past five years as a representative for Oxford diocese I have done the best I can to fight for the principles outlined in this address. It was my amendment that encouraged the Church to take a more definite moral line on Trident, and I have intervened where possible to speak in favour of openness, tolerance and diversity. I was also appointed to the Steering Committee for the Ecclesiastical Fees Measure. I have tried to report on Synod proceedings as clearly as possible online and to my former deanery and diocese, and I will continue to do the best I can to act as a link with my own deanery and any other to which the diocese might assign me.
If there is a simple summary of what I have written so far, it is that I believe that the greatest need in General Synod over the next five years will be for members who are prepared to be open minded, creative and accommodating. As a self-confessed Liberal who has nevertheless worshipped happily in a parish under alternative Episcopal oversight, and whose roots are in the traditions of the Oxford Movement, I have sympathy and respect for a wide range of views within Anglicanism. Too often elections such as this one result in the establishment of opposing camps - whose side are you on? My position is that rather than being on any side, I am committed to a united and inclusive Church which values all its members and treats their beliefs with respect. I believe that its diversity has always been the strength of the Church of England, and I am very suspicious of any attempts to remove that diversity by imposing one particular set of values, however sincerely they may be felt.
I am under no illusions that one lay member of General Synod can change the world, but if, like me, you feel that to be an Anglican is to be part of a community that is welcoming, inclusive, caring and tolerant, I would urge you to give me your first preference vote.
If there is anything I have said here that you would like to discuss, or if you would like to know about anything I have not mentioned, please feel free to contact me. You can e-mail me at or telephone me on 07876 746074 and leave a message on the answering machine for me to call back. You can also find my reports from the previous General Synod on Alastair Cutting's General Synod Blog
Thank you for reading this address.
If you want to see it in all its properly typeset glory - thanks to my friend Graeme who is very talented at all things typographical - then you can find the .pdf here.