Towards the end of last year, Simon topped the poll among the diocesan clergy, becoming the longest-serving of our current General Synod members. But when the Synod met in November, it began electing its officers for the coming five years. Simon has now been elected to serve as the Chair of the House of Clergy for the Province of Canterbury (made up of the 30 diocese in the Southern half of England).
The title that goes with the role is rather long-winded: Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury. The Convocations are the ancient bodies going back at least to 1285AD, made up of upper houses (of bishops) and lower houses (of clergy). These were combined with a new House of Laity in 1970 to form the General Synod. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prolocutor of the Lower House share the chairing of the Convocation of Canterbury.
The role of Prolocutor is chiefly to speak for the clergy. The Prolocutor sits on the platform with the other officers of the General Synod and has an automatic speaking right as soon as he (or she – the Prolocutor of York is a female archdeacon) stands to speak. This is an influential position. Alongside that right, the Prolocutor also is an ex-officio member of various bodies, the most significant of which is the Archbishops’ Council, a relatively new body which serves as a sort of national executive committee or board of trustees of the national church. There are occasional possibilities of representing the Church of England at various places, including when the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament meets. Finally there are also some ceremonial responsibilities, the most significant of which is to lead in procession bishops who are about to be consecrated to the episcopate, although there are deputy Prolocutors who also can do this, which is rather important because the current Archbishop of Canterbury has rather taken to holding consecrations around the country and not just in London Cathedrals!
It sounds like a lot of work but, in fact, the majority of this work takes place within the existing timetable of the General Synod. Simon is very keen to play an active role, but everyone recognises that clergy are first and foremost in other positions – mainly as parish priests – and Simon is no exception in making the parish his top priority, especially after the difficulties of late last year.
If you would like to see Simon presented as Prolocutor, you can attend the (very low-key) ceremony at the beginning of the forthcoming meeting of General Synod. It takes place shortly after 2.30pm on Monday 15th February at Church House, Westminster.