From the Bishop of Sodor & Man
Sir, - Your articles (
Comment, 27 July) on the report by Lord Harries of Pentregarth
concerning the present and future of the Church in Wales is
fascinating, particularly for someone who spent 33 years in its
In the early years of the 21st
century, the Church in Wales Council for Mission and Ministry (of
which I was principal officer) was highlighting exactly the issues
now raised by Lord Harries, and pointing the way towards the
proposals he makes. It is encouraging to know that, the best part
of a decade later, a similar course is being proposed by an
entirely different source.
This diocese of Sodor & Man has
been implementing similar changes gradually over the past four
years or so, and we are beginning to see the transformation in
terms of real growth: in depth, understanding, service, numbers,
youthfulness, and unity. For two years, we have worked with our
ecumenical partners in a Covenant for Mission, and in January 2013
our new "mission partnerships" will replace our rural deaneries as
primary units of mission.
We join our prayers with many that a
renewal of spiritual life alongside the renewal of structures will
lead to fresh growth in Wales, in the rest of the UK and on the
Isle of Man.
ROBERT SODOR AS MANNIN:
Thie yn Aspick, 4 The Falls, Douglas, Isle of Man IM4 4PZ
From Mr Nigel Holmes
Sir, - Perhaps Wales will be a
watershed. Until now, the Church of England's leaders have appeared
unwilling to think radically about ministry in the future. That
future will be very different even from the recent past.
Four years ago, as a member of the
General Synod Reader Review Group, I was frustrated that it failed
to face harsh facts - facts similar to those that Lord Harries,
Professor Charles Handy, and Professor Patricia Peattie confront so
clearly (Church in Wales Review, 2012). They are to be
commended for their sense of urgency. Denial is no longer an option
for church leaders in either country.
As Frank Field MP said in his preface
to The State of the Church and the Church of the State by
Michael Turnbull and Donald McFadyen (2012), "The ability to see
the ball, scoop it up and run with it in their own direction is a
skill the Church is badly in need of."
The authors say that the facts of
widespread numerical decline are undeniable, and criticise stop-gap
measures such as house-for-duty posts, suggesting that a radical
new approach to available resources of both people and money is now
Like the Church in Wales report, they,
too, point out that the present path of amalgamations will lead to
disaffected, exhausted clergy and church people generally, and they
quote the former Dean of Winchester, the Very Revd Trevor Beeson:
"The Church of England's problem is not vicar shortage but the lack
of a strategy that would ensure the proper deployment of the
considerable resources already at its disposal."
The Methodist Conference last month
extended the range of circumstances in which local preachers can
preside at holy communion. It values these people who are integral
to its culture and thinking. Is it not time its Covenant partners
looked to their 8500 Readers, many of whom feel marginalised?
Almost one third say they are under-used (Reader Upbeat,
GS 1689, 2008). If the Review is adopted, greater
flexibility will encourage unpaid ministers to move more easily
I know the House of Bishops do not
like to be lectured, but when two of their own recent colleagues
are speaking so authoritatively, perhaps they will take notice.
Maximising the use of diminishing ministerial resources is the
issue that will perhaps ultimately define the future presence of
the Church of England and the Church in Wales to a greater extent
than positions held on women bishops and homosexuality. It should
be at the top of the agenda for the next Archbishop of
Woodside, Great Corby, Carlisle CA4 8LL
From the Revd R. B.
Sir, - I was interested in your report
on the review group on the Church in Wales, which was chaired by
the Rt Revd Lord Harries. Many of its recommendations echo those of
the Tiller report on the Church of England, which were effectively
In particular, I note the
recommendation that the number of bishops should be reduced to
three. The Church of Ireland, with 12, is ludicrously over-supplied
for a Church with only about 500 stipendiary clergy.
Ironically, that is the number of
bishops proposed for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland by one of
its leading theologians. The Roman Church in Ireland claims 80 per
cent of the population, whereas the Church of Ireland in the
Republic claims only three per cent.
(Former Dean of St Patrick's)
Suirmount, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary
From Canon John Goodchild
Sir, - It was good to read Lord
Comment, 27 July). In the New Testament, ministry was generally
in teams. Jesus had the Twelve. Overseers and elders are described
and appointed in the plural. Even Paul had his co-workers.
In ordained-local-ministry (OLM)
schemes such as Norwich's, we pioneered the training of clergy
together with lay teams from their parishes. It was difficult to
hold on to this when we were forced to merge with colleges and
courses that trained individuals in isolation. Then the drive for
university accreditation meant that ordinands were assessed as
individuals, as the assessment of teams seemed beyond their
We need to return to the original
vision of OLM, which made the management of multi-parish benefices
practical - though this means retraining incumbents as well as
recognising the wealth of gifts and experience in a team and the
value of co-operation.
I hope that Readers continue to value
the designation "lay", and that their training will be related to
their home and work situations. They should not be seen as lesser
clergy, but earthed specialists in communication and apologetics.
They should be assessed on the questions that are being and should
be asked in their communities rather than those posed by
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