Parish system strained to breaking point, review group tells Wales
"RADICAL change" is required, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry
Morgan, said on Friday, after the publication of a wide-ranging review of the Church in
The review, commissioned a year ago, was chaired by the former
Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries. He was assisted by Professor
Charles Handy, a former professor at the London Business School;
and Professor Patricia Peattie, a former chairwoman of the
Episcopal Church of Scotland's standing committee.
The review team consulted widely: it held meetings in all six
Welsh dioceses, which, together, were attended by more than 1000
people. It received written submissions; and it held meetings with
senior clergy, bishops' advisers, ordinands, and staff from St
Michael's College, Cardiff. It also met a delegation of young
The report's recommendations include: replacing parishes with
much larger "ministry areas" served by a team of clergy and
laypeople; using church buildings for multiple purposes; training
laypeople to take more leadship roles; and increasing the range of
worship, in order to "resonate with those unfamiliar with church
Dr Morgan said that many "internal reports" had already been
conducted about the state of the Church in Wales, but, "because
they come from inside, the Church has taken them seriously but
refused to act on them". The three people who conducted the review
come from outside the Church, "with no axe to grind, no vested
interest". The review's authors are "only reflecting back what
they've heard", he said.
Dr Morgan said that "it is up to the Church to act" on the
report's recommendations. Lord Harries will speak to the Church in
Wales's Governing Body in September, and be questioned about the
There are no plans yet, however, to vote on whether to implement
its recommendations. But Dr Morgan said: "I sense our Governing
Body has reached a point where it knows that things can't stay as
The reasons for a review, listed in the report, include "the
expected retirement of large numbers of clergy in the next few
years, the shortage of ordinands, the joining of more parishes than
can be adequately ministered to by a single priest, declining
church membership, and the almost total distance of young people in
Wales from the Church".
The report continues: "One overwhelming impression we have
received is that the Church in Wales continues to have the
structure and organisation appropriate to an established Church 100
years or so ago, but which is now stretched beyond what it can or
should properly bear now."
The review team argues that the parish system, "with a single
priest serving a small community is no longer sustainable. . . A
change of perspective is needed: from parish to a much larger area,
and from a single priest, to a team with different gifts."
The report proposes replacing parishes with larger "Ministry
Areas", led by a "leadership team containing laypeople as well as
clergy". Each Ministry Area might contain "25 congregations or
churches", each of which should have "a designated leader and
To address the serious shortage of young people in the Church -
in 2010, just 5067 people under the age of 18 attended services on
a Sunday - "there should be one trained worker appointed in each
leadership team with a particular ministry to reach out to young
Also, in each Ministry Area there should be at least one service
a week "in which the form and style of worship is such as will
resonate with those unfamiliar with Church culture".
The congregations in each Ministry Area, should be
self-sustaining, "responsible for raising enough money at least to
cover the full costs of its own ministry team, and an appropriate
proportion of diocesan costs".
Dr Morgan said: "We need to give the laity more confidence that
this is their Church. They are the majority. Let's think a bit
bigger; let's not be so parochially minded."