THE meeting of the Governing Body (GB)
of the Church in Wales last week began with a presentation from the
independent review panel that was helping the Church look to the
Comment, 27 July). It consisted of the former Bishop of Oxford,
the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth; Professor Charles Handy,
formerly of the London Business School; and Professor Patricia
Peattie, who once chaired the standing committee of the Scottish
Lord Harries thanked
those who had taken part in the consultation process for "a real
willingness to face up to the situation". The panel's "radical
suggestions", he said, included replacing parishes with larger
ministry areas, and training lay people to take on more
"The parish system is no longer
sustainable. . . We have to start the other way around with the
formation of a team ministry: a leadership team serving an area
ministry." But this should not mean "that the good in the parish
system goes out of the window."
Professor Handy said:
"You have a great opportunity at the moment to reposition yourself
for the huge task that we have in a changing society: to be the one
stable organisation while everyone else is crumbling around
THE panel took questions from the
floor for more than an hour.
Dr David Causton (St
Davids) challenged the proposal to sell off parsonages, requiring
clergy to find their own accommodation.
The Revd Haydn
England-Simon (Llandaff) said clergy stipends were such
that they would "not be able to get a mortgage for more than
£70,000". He said: "This is a huge worry - not more so when it is a
clergyperson with family." He suggested that price variations in
different parts of Wales could make it difficult for the clergy to
Lord Harries replied: "This is not one
of the recommendations that we see being implemented straight away,
or even as a matter of urgency, but we think it is worth seriously
The Revd Richard Wood
(St Davids) said: "We have a vocations crisis already." He asked
where the additional leaders would come from to fill the
area-ministry teams. "If they are not called at the moment, why
would they suddenly be called with a change of strategy?"
Lord Harries said: "There is a lot of
unused energy in the Church in Wales at the moment. There are a
good number of Readers who told us they were under-used; and there
were many lay people who told us they wanted to do more, and there
seemed to be a kind of block on it."
Canon Joseph Griffin
(Swansea & Brecon) was concerned about the proposal that the
archiepiscopal see should be fixed on Llandaff, based in
The panel had come to their conclusion
"only reluctantly", Lord Harries said, "because we recognise the
strength of the present system. . . . But, from the outside, for
all the obvious reasons about somebody needing to be a spokesperson
for the Church in Wales as a whole where all the centres of
communication are, we were persuaded."
THE Archbishop of
Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, moved a motion welcoming the
report, commending it to the Church for "study and action", and
appointing the standing committee to "co-ordinate consideration of
the report and action on its recommendations", and to report to the
GB. "We're not asking you to agree to the report, or even to
receive it or accept it, but to welcome it."
The motion called for initial
responses by 9 November. "There is urgency to this work," he
The motion was seconded by the
chairman of the standing committee, His Honour Judge Philip
Price QC (Monmouth), who said it was important to build up
momentum behind the report. The committee would welcome suggestions
about improving GB procedures, he said. "Come and tell us what to
get rid of. . . Let's remove the obstacles from the constitution
which will release the energy."
The Revd Jan Gould
(Llandaff) welcomed the report's emphasis on collaborative
leadership. "The hierarchical structure of the Church in Wales is
stifling, and completely out of touch with the way young people
live their lives."
(Monmouth) urged the appointment of a project manager to implement
the report. "I'm not convinced, in my experience of the Church in
Wales, that we have the leadership skills or competencies in the
right place to bring about management of change."
The Revd Philip
Poyner (Ecumenical Representative) said that the Methodist
Church had considerable experience of ministry areas through the
circuit system, which had existed since the early days of the
Church "by necessity". He said that many Methodist ministers placed
a high value on community pastoral care, and he suggested that the
new area teams would need to set up a "highly developed system of
pastoral visitors". Also, an ecumenical approach should be adopted
when allocating pastoral provision to new housing estates, to
prevent duplication of effort.
(Bangor) said that the report was "seriously mistaken" in
suggesting that "each ministry area should be expected to cover at
least the cost of its ministry team". He said that the report
tempered that suggestion by recognising "this would not be
possible, at least in the short term" in some rural and deprived
areas. "That suggests an interim subsidy to those areas that are
not seen to be pulling their own weight."
Rosamund Crawford (St
Asaph) questioned whether the standing committee was "really
representative of the Church in Wales. The hierarchy is certainly
well represented with all the bishops and archdeacons and the dean;
but where are the under-50s?"
The Revd Richard Wood
(St Davids) also questioned the representative nature of the
steering committee, and asked: "How much emphasis is there going to
be on evangelism, conversion, and filling with the Holy Spirit, as
the report's recommendations are put into practice? Can we please
stop trying to save the Church, which we are not called to; and
instead work with God in saving the world, which we are called
The Revd Canon Dennis
Wight (Co-opted, St Davids) said that there were
inequalities in the way that lay ministers were cared for and
remunerated compared with the clergy. "A lay worker appointed to
the team should receive similar benefits as a priest," he said.
The motion was put to the vote,
and was carried unanimously, with no abstentions.
THE Archbishop of
Wales returned to the independent panel's review in his
presidential address. It had "required us to look inwards . . . to
ask difficult questions of ourselves as a Church", while also
encouraging "people on the fringes of the Church to have their
"That is as it should be, because, in
the end, we are here as a Church not only to deepen our own faith
and live as a new community, but also to draw others to follow
Jesus. . .
"'The Spirit blows where it wills.' So
it is the Spirit, and the presence of its fruits, which validates
any particular structure. . . The real question is not whether we
need a structure, but how do we prevent structures stifling the
gospel, or becoming ossified, or ends in themselves, instead of
being vehicles for the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus, of
being open to the Spirit?
"But if the images of the Church in
the New Testament are structural ones, it is also worth remembering
that they are not static ones."