by Chris Sugden in the Church of England Newspaper November 21 2008
In his CEN article last week, Stephen Kuhrt argued that the 57 member CEEC is not representative because 28 members belong to what he defines as one, conservative, stream. Stephen argues, as does Graham Kings in a parallel article in the Church Times last week, that there are three streams in the Evangelical Constituency and any organization claiming to represent that constituency needs to reflect them in proportion.
Arguments about proportionality encourage a particularly narrow view of ‘representation’. Like MPs and Bishops, CEEC members – drawn as Stephen’s piece shows from different types of ‘constituency’ – are there to represent the whole constituency. That should be common ground about how we understand the ‘Evangelical Constituency’ to be made up.
Stephen speaks of ‘three streams’: but why (only) three? How do we know their relative strengths? The usual way is by elections – to see which groups win support. Even accepting the argument for proportionality, applying it in the evangelical constituency is problematic. The categories overlap. Many, but not all, conservatives are charismatics. There are different kinds of charismatics and conservatives, just as there are different kinds of points of view in Fulcrum. Fuclrum itself illustrates the difficulty. Its strap-line refers to ‘The Evangelical Centre’. But what is the ‘centre’? Identifying the centre requires an agreed definition of the limits of the range – the meaning of ‘Evangelical’.
A representative organization like CEEC needs some means of establishing what makes it distinctive so that it can be seen who and what it represents. When an organization consists, as many do, of a number of viewpoints, defining its identity is difficult. This is particularly so when some who agree on some points but disagree on others find allies with those on the outside who are in fundamental disagreement with the view of other members of the first organization.