THE future of the Church in Wales was the subject of two
separate debates at the Governing Body (GB) meeting.
Members heard a progress report about the 2020 Vision initiative
seeking a reimagined Church in Wales; and, later, agreed to support
the continued development of a unity scheme - the Church Uniting in
Wales - incorporating Methodist, Presbyterian, United Reformed, and
Baptist Churches alongside the Church in Wales.
A key aspect of the 2020 vision, prepared by a panel led by the
former Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth,
was the replacement of parishes with new Local Ministry Areas. In a
progress report, GB members were told that "clear evidence has
emerged that significant steps towards the creation of Ministry
Areas and Ministry Area Teams are being taken in every diocese.
Helen Biggin (co-opted), who chairs the
Implementation Group, said that the next GB meeting in September
would receive a progress report from the dioceses. "2020 Vision is
not about simply restructuring, job done, we're fit for the next
100 years: it is about . . . being and becoming the Church that God
wants us to be."
The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andrew John,
chairs the Implementation Group's legal-affairs sub-group. He told
GB members that this group had been looking at the "constitutional
and legal impediments to the implementation of Ministry Areas".
The constitution currently allows for four types of local church
structure: a single church benefice, a rectorial benefice, a
grouped parish, or a united parish. "We felt that, when we looked
at the range of church life that was developing, that it was
probably unwise for us to add to that with a new category of
He said that dioceses were "bringing a huge amount of creativity
to the way in which they were developing church life", and that
defining Ministry Areas constitutionally "would probably run the
risk that it wouldn't be up to task. It wouldn't be suitable,
because it would try to shoehorn into one new category the variety
and diversity of Ministry Area arrangements which were clearly in
evidence across the province."
The Welsh Church has designated 16 November as 2020 Vision
Sunday to "provide church members . . . with the opportunity to
explore the theological vision underpinning all of this work".
This will be preceded by a two-day conference, "The Time Is
Now", in Llandudno,at which 30 delegates from each diocese will be
joined by delegates from other denominations to "kick-start the
cultural change that will be necessary for proposed changes to be
The Revd Phil Bettinson (St Asaph), described
2020 Vision as "incredibly exciting", but said that part of the
vision was to look at the way clergy worked and lived. "In the
small area where I minister, we have, over the past eight months,
had three clergy off with stress. This is not the fault of Vision
2020, this is the fault of the way in which clergy still insist on
trying to work as if we were one man, one church. Perhaps it is
time . . . to explore that culture, and the way in which clergy
The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd
John Davies, said that the Church needed to improve the way it
communicated its 2020 Vision. He had become "severely unstuck" at
one meeting he had attended, and had realised that, "despite the
fact that countless pieces of paper had been produced, countless
stamps had been stuck on envelopes, countless opportunities had
been created for people to discuss, debate, question, explore, and
so on, there were people who had simply not heard or participated -
and, I think it is fair to say, were angry."
The Archdeacon of St Davids,
the Ven. Dennis Wight, emphasised the need for discipleship. "We
underestimate the gifts that the laity have in this Church, and we
do it at our peril. If we put lay ministry a little higher, and the
clerical minister a tad lower . . . we will move further on."
LATER, the Governing Body backed plans for a Uniting Church of
Wales, calling for the Commission of Covenanted Churches in Wales
to further develop their unity recommendations, which would,
amongst other developments, create three Free Church bishops to
serve Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Reforme and Baptist
jurisdictions (News, 19 April 2013).
The three new bishops, with the six Church in Wales bishops,
will "share collegiality and full interchangeability with all the
other bishops" of the new Church Uniting in Wales. All existing
ministers will not be re-ordained, but will "agree to the laying on
of hands by at least one Anglican bishop, and at least one other
bishop representing the other traditions".
The current recommendations say that "leaders, lawyers, and
administrators representing all five member Churches be asked to
draw up, within a period of five years, a Scheme and Constitution
for the Uniting Church".
Members of the Governing Body were given detailed reports on
pastoral oversight and church governance, and a summary of
recommendations, along with an executive summary of a report from
the CiW's Standing Doctrinal Commission.
That report described the proposals as "a time of opportunity,
and an invitation to take risks".
It continued: "The inherited structures of all Churches in Wales
are, in our view, both contingent and changeable, although
Anglicans would always wish to assert the importance of the
three-fold ministry in their ecclesiology.
"It is also the case that there is much duplication, both of
structures and of buildings, which could be pruned. However, the
experience of recent decades is that local experiments need
facilitation from higher structures in order to flourish.
"We do not see the proposals as establishing a culture of
uniformity, but rather affirming and enabling a variety of
Christian traditions to flourish."
Canon Peter Sedgwick, who chairs the Doctrine
Commission, told members that there had been no debate "that has
raged more furiously in the past 40 or 50 years in theology, than
on the doctrine on the nature of the Church.
"There have been those . . . who have asserted that the
fundamentals of the Church in the New Testament are an ecclesiology
that is based on the empowering of the Holy Spirit. There has been
much written about the way in which a doctrine of the Holy Spirit
would move the traditional Churches away from their reliance on the
"Against this, a large number of Anglican Churches have actually
pointed to the fact that there is no contradiction between a
doctrine of the Church which is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and a
doctrine of bishops."
Dr Adrian Morgan (co-opted) said that the Welsh
covenanted churches had started to search for organic unity more
than a decade before he had been born. "It is largely accepted that
this is our last chance."
The Revd Sally Thomas (United Reformed Church)
said that the United Reformed Church was the first of the five
covenanting traditions to have expressed a view on the
recommendations. "Are we in agreement? Yes, broadly we are. Is
there anything that could be improved? Yes, there is always room
for improvement. Is there anything not acceptable? Yes, as things
currently are; but there is room here for the conversation to grow
The Bishop of St Asaph, theRt Revd Gregory
Cameron, said that the commission that had prepared the proposals
had tackled the question: "'How do you reconcile Churches of an
episcopal and non-episcopal polity with one another?' We Anglicans
can sometimes sound pretty bizarre in our insistence of
"I don't think we are; and one must always remember that the
Anglican Church looks to a greater ecumenism. . . An episcopal
polity is fundamental to that greater unity. The door must always
be kept open to episcopacy."
Canon Paul Mackness (St Davids) said that he
was concerned about the report's description of the CiW, "which
seems to suggest that we are six separate Churches. I am concerned
about the way this is portrayed, because we are not six separate
Churches; we are six separate dioceses. We may do things slightly
differently, but we are united in our doctrine, in our orders, in
the way in which we regulate and order the church life and
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr
Barry Morgan, urged the Governing Body to back the motion - which,
he said, "only commits us to asking the commission to do further
work on the documents before us".
"The Reformed Churches in Britain have been suspicious of
bishops and the whole episcopal system, but here they are willing
to take them into their system. And not only that, but they are
willing for their bishops, elected by them, to be ordained by three
Anglican bishops so that they can be deemed to be part of the
"I think that is a huge step for them to take; and they go
further than that. They say that these bishops will in future
ordain ministers within their particular churches; so that from
this point on they will be part of the threefold order." He said
that the sister Churches were being "incredibly gracious".
He sought to address concerns that the laying on of hands would
amount to a reordination, saying: "There is no intention here to
reordain, but a willingness on the part of all of us - archbishops
included - to be recommissioned for a new ministry. If there are
people who believe that, in so doing, I, as Archbishop, am being
reordained, it won't be the first time for my intentions to be
misunderstood, and it will be a small price to pay for the
emergence of a stronger, united, reinvigorated Church."
The votes in favour of the motion were not counted as it was
clearly carried with ten votes against and three
That the Governing Body:
(i) commend the recommendations made by the Commission of
Covenanted Churches in Wales to the Gathering of the Covenanted
Churches in Wales, and summarised in the paper entitled A
Summary of Recommendations;
(ii) affirm the advice given by the Standing Doctrinal
Commission in the paper entitled The Gathering: A report from
the Standing Doctrinal Commission;
(iii) encourage the Commission of Covenanted Churches in
Wales to develop the recommendations further taking into account
the advice given by the Standing Doctrinal Commission.