THIS was Dr Barry Morgan’s last Governing Body meeting before he retires as Archbishop of Wales at the end of January next year; and it fell to the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, to lead the tributes.
Dr Morgan is known to dislike some of the formalities that go with the job; and so Bishop Davies made a point of calling him “Your Grace” five times in 30 seconds as he asked him to move from the top table to the bishops’ benches for the presentation. “I know you hate it,” he quipped.
“If you like, my Lord,” the reply came. The laughter got louder as Bishop Davies retorted: “Yes, but I quite like that!”
Moving on to more serious matters, Bishop Davies said: “You have led the Church in Wales at a time when significant changes in society have caused us to examine some of our own disciplines, some of our own opinions, and some of our own practices.
“And I think I am right in saying . . . that you have demonstrated you have recourse to [scripture, tradition, and reason]. You have recourse to scripture, you examine the tradition of the scripture, and the tradition of the life of God’s people, the way in which region is to be applied to these things, and then issued a challenge that this can mean changing.”
He said that Dr Morgan’s approach was often to encourage people to “recognise . . . that maybe change has to come, and should come”, and to take people to a position where “even if we are not ready to embrace change, at least we start to consider change”.
He had done this, Bishop Davies said, in championing a number of causes, including gender equality, organ donation, human sexuality, social justice, and the plight of refugees.
He said that Dr Morgan’s voice on these issues was heard clearly in the public life of Wales, and said: “What better recipe or manifesto can there be for the life of a nation than life in all its fullness? What better manifesto can there be for anybody seeking to govern the lives of others than the principles of the Sermon on the Mount? And you have sought to infect the public life in Wales with principles that are thoroughly Christian, thoroughly just, and thoroughly decent.”
He said that some people who misunderstood Dr Morgan’s position had sought to attack him “from the veil of anonymity”, and that “that is something we all regret.”
In response, Dr Morgan quoted the words of the late Cardinal Basil Hume: “When people say nice things about you, enjoy it, but don’t inhale.” He joked that he had consecrated “all of you lot” as he addressed the bench of bishops, before adding: “That’s something for repentance.”
He continued: “I can’t say that I will miss [the Governing Body]. I think that enough is now enough. I do feel a bit tired, and I will look on from the sidelines, and with interest; but I promise you that I will not make another public utterance after 1 February.”
Earlier, Dr Morgan had paid tribute to the Bishop of St Davids, the Rt Revd Wyn Evans, who will retire on his 70th birthday on 4 October. He had served his entire ministry in the diocese, beginning as Curate of St David’s Cathedral before serving as an incumbent, chaplain, warden of ordinands, archivist, dean, and, finally, bishop.
“He took over the diocese of St Davids at a difficult time in its history,” Dr Morgan said. “He knew the diocese intimately, and his pastoral ministry in that diocese has been greatly appreciated, and people are genuinely sorry to see that he is going.”
Traditionalists try to build bridges
THE Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, attended a conference this week led by traditionalists in an attempt to bridge differences between those who support and those who oppose women bishops in the Church in Wales, writes Tim Wyatt.
Organised by Credo Cymru, the conference, “That Nothing Be Lost — Fel Na Choller Dim”, included some Church of England representatives such as the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, and the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall.
Credo Cymru, the Welsh counterpart of Forward in Faith, said that the conference wanted to bring together both those who “rejoiced” at the decision in 2013 to consecrate women as bishops (News, 12 September 2013), and those who were “perturbed” by it.
The hope was to establish common ground between the two sides, and to “consider carefully what is required to enable people of differing convictions to feel secure and able to flourish within the Church in Wales”.
Dr Morgan said that he attended because those who disagreed with the consecration of women as bishops still belonged to his Church, and that he wanted to be Archbishop for the whole Church.
“When the Church in Wales ordained women priests and made it possible for women to be ordained bishops, it acknowledged that there was still a place in that Church for those who, for whatever reason, found that difficult,” he said.
During the discussions over women bishops, a row broke out between the Welsh Bench of Bishops and Credo Cymru.Unlike when women priests were first ordained, no provincial episcopal visitor — or “flying bishop” — was created, and parishes are unable to opt out of a future woman bishop’s jurisdiction (News, 19 September 2014).
Credo Cymru wrote to the Bench in 2014, warning that if changes were not made to the code of conduct governing women bishops its members would have to leave the Church and find alternative bishops outside of the current Bench.
A “fully orthodox and catholic life could no longer be lived out under these circumstances, and our members might well be advised to seek an alternative spiritual home within which to continue their Christian pilgrimage,” the letter stated.
The reply from the Bench suggested that anyone who repudiated the entire Bench of Bishops could no longer claim to stand in the “catholic and apostolic tradition of the Church” (News, 14 November 2014). “It is hard to see on what basis they can continue, with any integrity, both to serve in an ordained ministry which is founded upon sharing in our cure, and as representatives of the Church in Wales.”
Any attempt to approach another bishop elsewhere to provide episcopal ministry would have “very serious implications”.
The code of practice requires a woman bishop to find alternative provision if a member of her diocese makes a written request, supported by his or her parish priest. This could mean either inviting another bishop to conduct a confirmation or ordination, or sending the individual concerned to another diocese to be confirmed or ordained.
Dr Morgan said at the time, however, that the Church had moved on since it ordained a provincial episcopal visitor in the 1990s, when women priests were first ordained, and that the Bench did not want to impose limitations on the ministry of any future woman bishop.
Speaking before the conference, which was by invitation only, the chairman of Credo Cymru, Canon Jeffrey Gainer, said: “We hope that a relaxed atmosphere will facilitate discernment of the way forward for us all — a way marked by charity and mutual respect. We all know that strong and clearly articulated theological convictions are involved here, but also the effectiveness of our Christian witness in dealing with differences.”