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Bishops could pave way to Church unity

19 April 2013

BISHOPS could be ordained in Nonconformist churches in Wales as part of a series of proposals towards full visible unity.

The Bishop of St Davids, the Rt Revd Wyn Evans, told members of the Governing Body that representatives of five Covenanting Churches had drawn up plans ahead of "The Gathering", an ecumenical event that took place last October.

"If you look at your agenda, it reveals that the Governing Body is giving serious consideration and attention to several matters of vital significance to the life and the future of the Church in Wales," Bishop Evans said.

He said that the Churches' mission to the nation of Wales meant that "we have to take seriously the implications of our disunity - the disunity that mars the body of Christ."

He said that the presence of ecumenical representatives at GB meetings was a symbol of a "determination to do together, and to be seen and heard to do together, what we should not be doing separately."

The Bishops' Adviser for Church Affairs, the Revd Gwynn ap Gwilym, said that the five Covenanted Churches - the Covenanting Baptist Churches, the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church of Wales, and the United Reformed Church - would be invited to think of themselves as the "Church Uniting in Wales" (CUIW). The proposals would see nine jurisdictions: one for each of the six Anglican dioceses, together with Methodist, Presbyterian, and URC jurisdictions.

"The three non-Anglican jurisdictions would each elect a bishop who would be consecrated into the historic episcopate," Mr ap Gwilym said in Welsh. "These bishops would then ordain all those who are to become ministers within the bishops' jurisdiction. All existing ministers would be asked to agree to the laying on of hands by at least one Anglican bishop, and at least one other bishop representing the other traditions within the Church Uniting in Wales."

This step was not to be seen as an ordination, he said, but as a step forward to full covenanted ministry. All the CUIW bishops would share collegiality, and the bishops of all nine jurisdictions would consult with each other at least twice a year.

All member jurisdictions would, for the present, continue to operate their existing ecclesiastical polity; and a CUIW gathering would be held annually.

The Church in Wales's Doctrinal Commission will give its response to the Bench of Bishops before the Standing Committee decides how to take the "very significant" recommendations forward. The Covenanted Churches' Commission has asked churches to respond to the proposals by July 2014.

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