ARE there any recommendations from the recent review of the
Church in Wales that might apply to the Church of England? The
review makes several points that apply only to Wales, such as the
location of the archiepiscopal see. Also, the Church in Wales is
facing a particularly severe challenge now, because of the
retirement of large numbers of clergy in the next few years, and
too few ordinands. Nevertheless, some of our more radical
suggestions do, I believe, have implications for dioceses in
England - especially rural ones.
We came to the clear conclusion that the parish system, which
has been known and loved for more than 1000 years, is no longer
sustainable. What has happened in Wales, as in England, is that
parish is joined to parish until a single priest may have to look
after half a dozen or more. The administration that this involves,
running separate PCCs and helping to raise money for several
buildings concurrently, detracts from the time and energy available
for his or her core tasks.
To meet this situation, parishes have often been put together to
form team or group ministries, or large benefices. This is often
not a great success, however, either because of a failure of clergy
to co-operate properly, or because, even if they are, in principle,
willing to work together, both clergy and laity are psychologically
still too fixated on the single-parish system.
WE BELIEVE that a radical rethink is necessary in Wales; so
that, instead of being appointed to a parish, a cleric would be
appointed first and foremost to a small leadership team serving a
much wider area.
It has been suggested that the size of this could be the
catchment area for the local secondary school. It might be larger,
for it would be necessary for it to be fully financed by the
congregations in the area that it served. These area ministries
would be served by a small number of stipendiary ministers, but the
leadership team for them would also include the designated leader
of each congregation in the area served.
THIS points to the next significant conclusion that we came to.
For area ministries to work properly, it is essential for there to
be far more non-stipendiary ministers and licensed lay ministers
than the Church in Wales has at the moment.
In our vision for the future, every congregation would still
have a designated leader, but the vast majority of these would be
NSMs, or trained lay people. Stipendiary clergy would, indeed, also
be appointed to a congregation in the area, but this would be
secondary to their taking their place in the leadership team, which
would be made up of people with different gifts and expertise.
THE idea of ministry areas, or something like it, is not new.
Some dioceses in Wales - Monmouth, in particular - are already
moving in that direction. But, to make it a reality, there needs to
be a fundamental shift in perspective across the whole Church.
The parish system has served the Church well, but it is good to
remember that, before it existed, England and Wales were
evangelised by small teams of clergy who lived together in one
place and went out to serve a large area, either from a minster or
This highlights another related recommendation that is highly
relevant not just to rural dioceses, but to the whole Church. We
recommend that, in due course, every leadership team should contain
one full-time person with the vocation and training to reach out to
those for whom the Christian faith has become a foreign language -
especially young people. That is now the majority of people in both
Wales and England.
This person, who might well be lay, would concentrate on
reaching out and trying to build up different kinds of worshipping
communities, perhaps in schools, perhaps on a weekday, depending on
the pattern of life in the neighbourhood.
We suggest that, as other stipendiary members of the team are
financed by the congregation in the ministry area, money from
historic sources should be focused on financing such a ministry as
a matter of urgency.
ALLIED to these recommendations is the suggestion that all
bishops and clergy should together engage in some serious training
for collaborate leadership. Releasing the energy which is latent in
laypeople is fundamental to our vision for the Church in Wales of
the future. The same point is applicable in many parts of
There is a particular kind of leadership that can help to do
this, and another kind which, with the best will in the world,
blocks it. I have to admit that this particular recommendation
arose out of my experience in the diocese of Oxford a few years
ago, where it was organised by our training officer, Keith Lamdin
(author of Finding Your Leadership Style, SPCK, 2012), and
found to be both salutary and helpful. It involves, among other
things, a 360-degree appraisal by colleagues and others.
In some ways, the Church of England is in a stronger position
than the Church in Wales at the moment. But its serious situation,
and the urgent action it needs to take, suggests a pattern of
ministry that is increasingly appropriate for the Church of
Lord Harries, a former Bishop of Oxford, conducted the
review with Professor Charles Handy, and Professor Patricia