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Welsh discuss model for unified Church

19 October 2012

A VISION of a United Church in Wales, served by nine bishops, was presented in Aberystwth on Saturday at The Gathering, an event attended by representatives of the five covenanted Churches in Wales.

Seeking to bring to fruition a covenant for "visible unity" made in 1975, representatives from the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church (URC), the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the Church in Wales, and some covenanted Baptist congregations heard "ground-breaking proposals" set out in two reports, one on episcopacy and another on church governance.

The Revd Gethin Abraham-Williams, who chairs the Commission of Covenanted Churches, said on Tuesday that the the goal was "a level of understanding between traditions about oversight, the episcopal and non-episcopal model, and to see how much they had in common, and whether that was sufficient to enable non-episcopal Churches to consider becoming episcopal". Church governance would, "in a sense, follow on from that".

The model proposed is for the six Anglican dioceses in Wales to continue, alongside three new "cultural dioceses" representing the Methodist, United Reformed, and Presbyterian Churches. Nine bishops would serve the "United Church".

An interchange of ordained ministries is envisaged.

"The object of the exercise is to release energy for mission," Mr Abraham-Williams said. "How do we communicate to contemporary Wales?"

In July, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, called for "radical change" after the publication of a review of the Church in Wales by a group chaired by the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, a former Bishop of Oxford (News, 27 July). It highlighted challenges including the expected retirement of large numbers of clergy, the shortage of ordinands, and declining church membership; and argued that the parish system, "with a single priest serving a small community, is no longer sustainable".

Mr Abraham-Williams said on Tuesday that congregations would have 18 months to reflect on the proposals presented on Saturday.

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