ATTENDANCE in the Church in Wales has fallen in each of the
measured categories in 2013, the Bishop of Bangor,
the Rt Revd Andrew John, reported.
Average Sunday attendance had fallen to 37,235 in the Province -
a fall of four per cent for the over-18s, and three per cent for
the under-18s. Easter communicants were down ten per cent to 50,639
and Christmas communicants had fallen six per cent to 52,387. The
biggest fall was in the number of confirmations: down 18 per cent
"The trend is down across the board. There is no set of figures
here that indicates a rise in physical numbers in any single
category," Bishop John said. "The report puts it bleakly. . . There
are no positive indicators. Every single field shows decline
compared with the previous year, and in some cases that decline is
But there were "rumours of life", he said, in the Church,
including a number of experimental services such as duck-pond
worship, barn nativities, and teddy-bear services. The report
indicates that "just under 12,000 people were involved in such
The Revd Dr Patrick Thomas (St Davids) said
that the figures did not paint a full picture: "We do also come
into contact with children through our schools. I will be talking
to 500 children at our church school on Friday, as I do every week.
. . On special occasions, hundreds of them come into church." He
said that this activity did not show up on the statistics.
The Revd Trish Owens (co-opted) asked for
parish-share calculations to take into account attendance at Messy
Church and alternative services.
The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd
John Davies, said that, while the report showed a decline in
traditional patterns of worship, it was "important not to put all
our eggs in one basket". He described the "strange mood" that
suggested that "it is only new initiatives that are going to save
the Church," and emphasised the importance of supporting those
parishes that attempted a balanced approach.
Penny Williams (Llandaff) said: "It is great to
hear about all these wonderful projects, and things that are going
on; but we need to be aware that . . . we need a cultural change.
One of the biggest cultural changes we need to be aware of is the
difference between 'doing church' . . . which suggests something
that I do on a part-time basis, and 'being church', which is
something I do in every waking hour."
"Most of my work in the Church is outside the Church, in the
organisations that I belong to, and I have never ceased to talk
about Jesus and the Church," Carol Cobert
(Llandaff) said. "There are playgroups in our areas run by mums and
dads, there are youth clubs run by secular organisations. We should
also be there, we should be visiting them. Not just to talk about
God, but to tell them that they matter to us."
The statistics "did not paint a full picture", the Revd
Peter Brooks (Swansea & Brecon) said. He called for
the statistics to record how many people attended Messy Church
events, Good Friday processions on Cefyn Bryn, and nursing-home
services, so that "as well as showing the basics of what we do
well, we show that we are providing alternatives . . . other
experiences that all of our regular worshippers and other people
can come and enjoy."
THE Governing Body met in groups to explore the Church's
approach to "ministry to people with disabilities and additional
This was part of a process leading to a report for the Governing
Body in 2017 on the "progress made by the churches, from welcome to
inclusion", which would also include "an act of worship which will
model good practice in liturgy, which is appropriate for people
with disabilities and additional needs, their families and
Before moving into the groups, the Governing Body was addressed
by the Vicar of Llangeler with Pen-Boyr, near Cardigan, the
Revd Dr John Gillibrand, who had received a lifetime
achievement award from Autism Heroes for his work in that area.
The work being undertaken by the Church was, he said, part of a
commitment it had made in 2009 to "go beyond the Disability
Discrimination Act and to enable all people to exercise their
He said that the Church needed to move on in its thinking from
"welcoming" to "including"; and that a crucial principle of the
disability movement was "nothing about us without us". It was
"important that people within the disability movements play a full
part of our strategy in this and in other areas", he said.
It was important, too, to secure the place of people with
difficulties and additional needs in the life and structures of the
Church, he said. "It is not ministry to disabled people,
but ministry of disabled people that is important
He said that the Church in Wales should be prepared to look at
examples of good work throughout the wider Church, and highlighted
work in the diocese of Lichfield, to create "dementia-friendly
THE Governing Body agreed to reduce the minimum age for
membership of diocesan conferences (the equivalent of diocesan
synods) from 18 to 16, after approving a motion first passed by the
diocesan conference in St Asaph. It was the first motion to come to
the Governing Body from a diocesan conference after a
recommendation by the Church in Wales Review Group, chaired by the
Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth (News, 27 July 2012), to
increase the participation of ordinary Church in Wales members in
decision-making in the province.
THE Church in Wales is to consult its dioceses on whether it
should solemnise same-sex marriages. The 12-month consultation was
announced by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, at
the church's Governing Body meeting in Lampeter on Friday
The six dioceses in the province will be asked to give their
views on three options: maintaining the status quo; conducting
same-sex weddings; and blessing same-sex relationships. The options
were outlined in a discussion paper.
In April, the Governing Body met in small groups to discuss the
paper. Their discussions were sum- marised in papers presented to
the Bench of Bishops, and were "say- ing two seemingly
contradictory things", Dr Morgan said.
"First, there certainly seems to be an openness, perhaps even a
desire, amongst Governing Body members to affirm in some way or
another faithful monogamous same-sex relationships. . . But,
secondly, there is an unease - perhaps even an unwillingness - for
same-sex marriages to be solemnised in church because the church
has hitherto defined marriage as the union of one man and one
"If we were to act on the first principle - that is, that the
Church would now agree to say public prayers or to bless same-sex
couples - that would obviously include civil same-sex marriages as
well as civil partnerships. It would make no sense at all to bless
civil partner-ships and not same-sex mar- riages.
"But if we were to bless same-sex civil marriages, the question
would arise why we were unwilling to solemnise those marriages,
given the fact that, in traditional Christian sacramental theology,
it is the couple, in fact, who marry one another, and the Church
merely invokes God's blessing on their commitment."
Dr Morgan said that the Church faced "a very similar dilemma
over the remarriage of divorced people". But he said that the
conversations "clearly point to the fact that Governing Body
members want to deal with this issue with greater pastoral
sensitivity than we did for the remarriage of divorced people".
The Church in Wales Church and Society Officer would produce "a
specific consultation paper in co-operation with the Bench of
Bishops", and this would be sent to the dioceses, along with the
Doctrinal Commission's report. At the end of the consultation
process, the Bishops "will bring the matter back to the Governing
Body with clear proposals for the way ahead".
The Governing Body did not vote on the consultation, and none of
its members spoke in response to the Archbishop's statement.
THE Archbishop of Wales, Dr
Barry Morgan, began a debate on the future of ministry in the
Church in Wales by explaining the decision of the Bench of Bishops
to reform the way that the province undertakes theological
Dr Morgan explained that the Bishops had rejected the proposals
of a review group to close St Michael's College, Llandaff (News, 4
April), but said: "It's not business as usual for St Michael's
College, or the St Seiriol's Centre [in Bangor], because both of
those institutions will eventually cease to exist in their present
form, and will form part of one training institute for the whole of
the Church in Wales."
The policy adopted by the Church in Wales would see a single
training institution "on two or three sites", the Archbishop said.
Llandaff, Bangor, Carmarthen, and Wrexham were being
"It makes no sense in a small province for training to be
scattered all over the place, with different people doing different
things. It makes sense for it all to be brought under one
The new institution would provide training that was
"academically rigorous, spiritually challenging, and pastorally
competent", and would train people for ordained and lay ministries.
The principles had been agreed, but "the details have still to be
worked out," he said.
The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt
Revd Richard Pain, who serves as Ministry Bishop for the Church in
Wales, said that the new national training institution would offer
"national oversight and local delivery". He said that this was a
"strategic approach", which meant that "the disconnect between
training nationally and what happens in the dioceses will hopefully
go." The new approach would create a "collaborative and creative
He admitted that "economic questions" were behind the new
thinking, and said that "we cannot keep the old order going of
full-time paid clergy. . . That pattern cannot be sustained."
He said that the move to replace parishes with Ministry Areas,
and with it the increased number of lay people involved in the
ministry of the Church, was "the way forward".
"Ministry areas are not just places where ministry takes place
because of structural adjustments to keep the show on the road. It
is because we honestly believe we can reflect the glory of Christ
together. They are about community. They are about shared ministry
- not based on hierarchy, but about relationships that want to work
together, based on trust and co- operation."
He said that this required a "sea change" in the Church in which
"ordained and lay ministry" would be "equally valued in ministry.
We have still got the balance wrong."
The number of ordained ministers in the province had fallen from
almost 700 in 1998 to 471 today. The Church was seeking to increase
the number of lay ministers; but, he said, there were only 13 lay
evangelists throughout the Church in Wales.
The director of St Seiriol's Centre, the
Revd Professor Mike West (co-opted), said that the
review process had produced "great energy for those of us involved
in this project. . . We don't underestimate the challenges, but we
believe they are vital."
He said that the proposals would require the dioceses to change
how they work in addition to the train-ing institutions, and said
that lay training officers, DDOs, and those involved in other
training should be "challenged to see all of this as part of one
The Revd Sally Thomas (United
Reformed Church) welcomed the report's emphasis on working with
ecumenical partners, but asked why it said "when appropriate".
"Ministry, when effective, has to be ecumenical," she said.
The Revd Heidi-Maria de Gruchy
(Monmouth) challenged the use of the term "pioneer ministers". "We
are all pioneers," she said. "When we designate certain people to
be pioneer ministers, we think the job is done."
There needed to be more flexibility in both the way and the time
that training was delivered, Becky Nesbitt
(Swansea & Brecon) said. She had enquired about lay ministry
training, and was told it took place on Friday mornings. This
excluded those who worked full-time. She suggested the use of
distance learning, "so that we perhaps get people involved before
they get too grey".
The Archdeacon of St Davids,
the Ven. Dennis Wight (co-opted), said that the Church was "paying
lip service" to lay ministers, and provided no financial support.
Lay ministers received no grants for books or robes. "If we are
going to take lay ministry seriously, get out the money and show
it," he said.
The motion was approved unanimously with five abstentions.
That the Governing Body note and welcome:
(i) the Provincial Review on ministerial training and the
following consultation process which has led the Bench of Bishops
to agree to create a new All-Wales Training Institute which will
meet the training needs of the future;
(ii) the recognition by the Bench of Bishops, in the context
of 2020 Vision, of the importance of developing lay and
ordained ministries to support the new Ministry Areas and to
provide appropriate discernment processes and training.