Church in Wales: news and debates from the Welsh Governing Body in Cardiff

by
10 May 2019

Tim Wyatt reports from the Welsh Governing Body in Cardiff

church in wales

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, delivers the presidential address

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, delivers the presidential address

Same-sex marriage

THE Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, updated the Governing Body on work to find a new settlement on same-sex relationships. At the previous meeting, in September, the Governing Body had voted by 76 to 21 that it agreed with the Bishops’ view that it was “pastorally unsustainable” for the Church in Wales to make “no formal provision for those in same-sex relationships”.

Although this was simply an indicative vote, and did not change the doctrine or liturgy of the Church, Archbishop Davies said that it had given the Bench of Bishops permission to start exploring options. However they decided to proceed, the Bishops were committed to finding a solution that would not require anyone, regardless of his or her views, to leave the Church, he said.

“That does not necessarily mean finding a solution which fully satisfies everyone; having reviewed last September’s discussion, we think such an outcome is unlikely. Rather, we need to find a way of talking — and listening — to each other openly and in love so that we might be able to live with difference afterwards.”

In March, the Bishops had had a meeting with two theologians from the Church of Scotland who had been involved in that Church’s own journey towards a new settlement on same-sex marriage, and, as a result, they had agreed on their next steps.

Because they were mindful that same-sex marriage remained “highly controversial in the light of the Church’s traditional teaching”, Archbishop Davies said that he would ask the Doctrinal Commission to produce a theological statement on same-sex unions which would inform further debate.

But, in the mean time, the Bishops were keen to offer some kind of blessing or affirmation service for couples in “committed, faithful, same-sex relationships”, and had asked the Liturgical Advisory Commission to suggest how this could happen. Any such service would have to be permissive, however, and no individual priest would be obliged to offer it, Archbishop Davies said. It would also first have to be authorised by the Governing Body, which would also be kept abreast of other developments on the subject, he said.

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Evangelism Fund

THE deputy chair of the Representative Body, Sir Paul Silk, gave a presentation on progress in the Church’s new £10-million Evangelism Fund, which was first unveiled at the last Governing Body meeting in September. While releasing this money would have implications for the returns on the Representative Body’s investment portfolio, it felt that the injection of cash could prove “pivotal” in bringing new believers into the Church.

There was a three-stage application process to receive a grant of between £250,000 and £3 million, Sir Paul explained. This would ensure that the dioceses’ schemes were properly thought through and well-planned. Three dioceses — St Asaph, Bangor, and St Davids — had so far sent in bids for grants from the fund, and two of those had progressed to the next stage of the process.

“Our experience of working with dioceses so far has been extremely positive,” Sir Paul said. “We have been very impressed with the quality of the applications that have proceeded to Stage 2, and we have every expectation that the fund will transform our Church.”

Paul Murray (Swansea & Brecon) asked Sir Paul how the Representative Body planned to measure growth. Was it simply about numbers?

Sir Paul said that growth meant more than just numbers, but increases in attendance were an indicator of growth. It was important to consider “intensity” of activity, not just the quantity of people who attended a church or project. One of the two projects currently being considered had included a goal of how many new people would come to church as a result, but this would not necessarily be a considered a failure if it did not attract exactly these numbers. “But I would expect to see some quantitative expression of what they hoped to achieve in all the projects coming forward,” he said.

Annabelle Elletson (Swansea & Brecon) asked for clarification. Does having to quantify success necessarily mean extra people in a church with a vicar in a clerical collar on a Sunday? “You’re absolutely right,” Sir Paul said. The Fund had been clear that it would welcome bids which collaborated with other Churches, and attendance on Sunday was certainly not the only measure of success. “It’s quality as well as quantity.”

Terri Hatfield (St Davids) asked if the third diocesan project had come back yet to be reconsidered, and whether the other three dioceses yet to submit applications were likely to.

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Sir Paul said that the diocesan project which had not gone through to the second stage had been sent back to the diocese, and he hoped that it would return after tweaks. The Evangelism Committee had not yet seen anything from the other three dioceses, but he understood that the Provincial Secretary had been in touch with them about their plans.

The Revd Dean Roberts (Monmouth) asked if there was a definition of evangelism that the committee was using, and whether there was a deadline for dioceses to make their applications. If so, he said, could the diocese of Monmouth be given more time because of its “unique situation” of not having had an active bishop for more than six months.

Sir Paul replied that he was not well-versed enough in theology to say what evangelism precisely meant. There is a deadline for applications, but the Representative Body was prepared to make more money available should the £10 million already be allocated without all six dioceses’ having made successful bids.

 

Presidential address

THE Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, urged members of the Church in Wales to listen and even learn from each other in the midst of difficult disagreement. He was giving his presidential address at the beginning of the meeting of the Governing Body, in Cardiff.

Archbishop Davies exhorted members of the GB to be humble in how they listened to each other, and to be prepared to have their preconceptions challenged and their minds changed in the process. “Listening properly can be demanding, and it can be unsettling. [It] may sometimes mean uncomfortably humbling ourselves by being attentive to and listening to things we don’t like and would rather not even hear; things with which we might disagree profoundly.

“There are almost certainly items on the agenda of this meeting which some of us will, undoubtedly, view in such ways.”

Christ commands his followers to take up their crosses and follow his way of gracious walking together, Archbishop Davies said. But the yoke of Jesus is not an “injurious burden”, but one of “gentle and well-tailored guidance which our Lord gives leads to the fullness of life for us and for others”.

Part of that yoke and cross that Christ calls us to bear is denying ourselves and serving others — even those we vehemently disagree with.

In a reference to contentious issues such as same-sex marriage and women’s ordination on the agenda, Archbishop Davies pleaded with the members to listen attentively and respectfully even to things that they disagreed with “profoundly”.

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“Hear about them we must, and be respectfully attentive to those who think differently,” he said; only then can the Church in Wales show that it truly understands what it means to bear both yoke and cross, “willingly walking together, even if not always being able to agree” on the “difficult, divisive, and challenging issues” that the Governing Body was due to debate.

He then introduced a video message from the Church’s two delegates to the Anglican Consultative Council, which was meeting in Hong Kong at the same time as the Governing Body. The Archdeacon of Bangor, the Ven. Mary Stallard — a member of the Church’s all-female delegation — reported how much they were enjoying spending time with Anglicans from around the world, and relayed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s keynote message: the Anglican Church must not exist for itself alone but to serve God’s people in God’s world.

Her fellow delegate, Heather Payne, said that she was looking forward to meetings later to try and establish an international Anglican health network, and also said that they would be bringing back some new resources developed for evangelism and discipleship. The Church in Wales was definitely “punching above its weight” in the Communion, and should be “very encouraged” by what was happening around the world, she concluded.

 

Election of the Bishop of Monmouth

THE Governing Body voted to delay the election of a new Bishop of Monmouth, after the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, introduced a new agenda item after the sudden retirement of the present Bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Pain, on the grounds of ill health, the day before the Governing Body began.

Archbishop Davies’s motion would extend the deadline for the diocese to hold its electoral college to choose a new bishop until 31 October. Ordinarily, if a diocese did not complete the college process within three months after a vacancy, the right of appointment lapsed to the Bench of Bishops.

He explained that, because Bishop Pain had spent nine months off work before retiring suddenly, the diocese of Monmouth needed more time to organise and prepare for an electoral college, and the bishops did not wish to take the appointment out of the hands of the people of Monmouth.

The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andy John, then spoke in support of the motion, giving examples in his ministry when he recognised the need for a period of reflection before a diocese moved on and chose a new bishop. His predecessor as bishop died in office, and this had left the diocese in grief; for the first eight months of his tenure, his priority had been pastoral care for the diocese. The longer time-frame to choose a new Bishop of Monmouth would allow whoever was elected to be a better pastor and leader, he concluded.

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The Archdeacon of Newport, the Ven. Jonathan Williams (Monmouth), said that he was sad that ill health had brought Bishop Pain’s ministry to a “premature end”. “His retirement has been sudden, and we need time to take that in and come to terms with it,” he said, “to express our sadness and our hurt. We need that time and this motion gives us that time.”

Dan Priddy (co-opted) said that he was concerned by this motion, despite not knowing the situation in Monmouth very well. The constitution of the Church in Wales was clear about what should happen if a see cannot be filled in the normal timeframe, he said, and it was unwise to come to the Governing Body to add extra provisions every time a bishop retired suddenly owing to ill health.

Paulette Brown (Monmouth) asked the Governing Body to support the motion, as her diocese needed time to come together in prayer and reflection as well as pastoral care.

Archbishop Davies responded to the debate by promising to give that pastoral care to the diocese which he said had made him when he was a junior cleric.

The following motion was clearly carried:

That the Governing Body determine that the right to appoint to the see of Monmouth currently vacant shall not pass to the Bench of Bishops under the provision set out in Section 24 of the Regulations to Chapter V of the Constitution until 31 October 2019.

 

Llandaff Cathedral

A NEW constitution for Llandaff Cathedral, modernising its governance in response to a critical review two years ago, was approved by the Governing Body after a short debate.

The Dean of Llandaff, the Very Revd Gerwyn Capon, introduced the reforms by explaining how cathedrals were increasingly places of growth and mission in the Church, and had rising attendances. But all they had to offer relied on a strong corporate life and robust reputation, as the mother church of each diocese. A 2015-16 review of cathedrals found that important reforms were needed to modernise governance, which had led Newport Cathedral to update its constitution last year. Now, Llandaff wished to do the same.

A review last year of Llandaff Cathedral found that it was vulnerable to reputational damage and needed to streamline the Chapter, including lay trustees with outside expertise. “There is considerable energy and enthusiasm to press ahead with this renewal. I really hope members of GB will today support and endorse this motion.”

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Canon Steven Kirk (Llandaff) explained how a Bill would come before the Governing Body at its next meeting in September to implement the full 2016 report recommendations, but it was felt that, if individual cathedrals wished to move faster, as Newport had done, this should be encouraged. “We have come here to ask you to allow us to proceed straight away, because we are eager to get on with work at hand.” Llandaff Cathedral could not fully be the beacon of hope and faith it wished to be, because its present structures were holding it back.

The Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd June Osborne, reminded the Governing Body that, without clear rules and processes, even good people behaving impeccably could still lead an organisation to failure. This was why it was so important to reform the cathedral governance quickly. She also thanked the Chapter for their enthusiasm to step into a new future together.

The following motion was clearly carried:

That the Governing Body give permission for the Constitution of the Dean and Chapter of Llandaff Cathedral dated April 2019 to be used in Llandaff Cathedral until such time as the Governing Body decide to amend the Cathedral Schemes in Volume II of the Constitution of the Church in Wales.

 

Building for mission

A NOVEL online voting system was used to spark discussion among the Governing Body over how to ensure that the Church in Wales’s property estate was “fit for mission”. Alex Glanville, the provincial head of property services, introduced the debate by giving the facts of the Church’s building portfolio.

The Church in Wales has 1296 open churches, of which 70 per cent (913) were listed. It was easy to wish that the Church did not have this legacy, and could instead operate out of “shiny new places which are easy to heat and maintain”, but it was important to note how many were moved and inspired by the sense of the divine in ancient buildings.

A new online faculty system showed that there were 150 minor works in the past year, and more than 300 applications for more significant reorderings. The Church had 1213 churchyards, which were a significant challenge, as more and more were being closed to new burials but still required maintainance.

Over the past decade, the Church in Wales had closed approximately one per cent of its churches each year, but also sold 104 buildings, generating £6.4 million to recycle back into the Church. Statistics also showed that, in 2017, local churches spent £14.7 million on property, which was 37 per cent of annual spending (with only about £400,000 coming in grants from the lottery and other bodies).

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The Representative Body and dioceses had a strategy based on three strands, Mr Glanville explained: identifying which churches were sustainable and which were not; putting in place the right support for churches to maintain; and making effective plans for those buildings that cannot be retained. A good building for mission was one which was open and accessible, properly heated, and beautiful. “Buildings can be complicated things to plan,” he said.. “To make it simple, ask yourself ‘Is my church open, warm, and beautiful?’ and then set to work on making it so.”

Mr Glanville launched a live online poll — the first time such technology has been used at the Governing Body — to assess what members thought successful church mission in buildings could look like. The issues which rose to the top of the poll, which was projected on to the main screen as people entered their thoughts via laptops and phones, were then used as discussion-starters for small groups. 

 

Clergy Remuneration Review: update from the Chair of the Representative Body

THE chair of the Representative Body, James Turner, provided the Governing Body with an update on the work of the clergy remuneration review, which has been examining all aspects of clergy pay. The team working on the review conducted a survey of clergy last year, the results of which were first shared at diocesan meetings in January.

The working group is now preparing its recommendations on what reforms were needed on clergy remuneration, focusing on making arrangements “fair, affordable, and fit for the future”. An interim report was brought to the Representative body in March, and its final version was now being prepared. It will be discussed through the summer at various committees and meetings before the proposals are put out to another consultation with the clergy, and released to the Governing Body in September, Mr Turner explained.

“I want to assure the Governing Body that this key exercise is being taken forward with all due care and sensitivity. People are always an institution’s greatest resource, and our clergy have a key role to play as we seek to grow as a Church and deepen in spirituality as disciples.”

 

Question Time

Ed Hodge (co-opted) asked if there were plans to address the issue of “period poverty” in the Church in Wales.

The Bishop of St Davids, the Rt Revd Joanna Penberthy, replied that sanitary protection was a basic necessity for women; so it was “shocking” that, in the UK today, there were women and girls unable to take part in everyday life because they could not afford tampons or sanitary towels. She noted that many councils, and now the Welsh government, had offered free sanitary items in schools, foodbanks, and hospitals. She lamented that, even though it would be possible for the Westminster Government to waive VAT on sanitary products, they had not yet chosen to do so (although revenue made is spent on charity projects for poor women and girls).

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The Church had contacted the Welsh Education Minister on this topic, and received a positive response, Bishop Penberthy said. The new Welsh curriculum will include content aimed at improving knowledge and breaking down stigma on periods. She also urged Welsh Anglicans to check that their local foodbank had enough sanitary items to offer, as did homeless shelters and other community projects and youth groups. Church members could also lobby the Government over the VAT question and other policies which could worsen period poverty.

The Revd Naomi Starkey (Bangor) asked what guidelines the Church had for responsible use of social media in an age of “fake news”.

Leon Hughes, the head of communications and technology, replied by saying that the Representative Body had a regularly updated social-media policy, which acknowledged people’s desire to use social media in a private capacity and provided guidance on how to prevent reputational damage to the Church in Wales online. They were not allowed to say who they worked for in their social-media identity, to avoid the impression that their content was officially sanctioned, but could refer to their work in posts provided there was a disclaimer about personal views.

This policy, which also had clauses about bullying, did not currently apply to clergy because they needed to have a public-facing position on social media. “Given the current media spotlight on social media, it would be timely for the Church to collectively review the advice given to clergy on how and where to engage,” Mr Hughes suggested. These should be flexible to work for both experienced and new users, in very different geographical and social contexts, and recognise the differing audiences and cultures of different platforms.

Social media had also become increasingly divisive and polemical in recent years, he noted. “Opinions are exaggerated, language becomes hostile, and it requires extraordinary patience to avoid being riled to anger. This is especially true in the religious context, where extremist views can be falsely amplified and given prominence to a degree that is not reflected in the offline world. In this context, clergy must exercise extreme caution.”

He encouraged people not to “feed the trolls” online, blocking rather than debating abusive users, and to be aware of how the online world could unhelpfully annoy everyone. “If you feel that happening, walk away, turn off your phone, and take some time to reflect before taking any action.” People should never use social media late at night, or when drunk.

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Successful social-media engagement was about clearly explaining what you wanted to achieve, and sticking to that goal, he concluded. “Never confuse the personal with the public, and always consider the nuance of what you are saying.” There were vast opportunities for getting the Church’s message out via the internet; so clear rules of engagement were needed.

The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) asked what evaluation had been made of the engagement of the Provincial Youth Forum at the Governing Body’s last meeting in Cardiff, two years ago.

In response, the Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd June Osborne, said that feedback from 2017 showed that the experiment was seen as a positive experience, but the Forum did not think that they had enough time to put the event together as well as they would have liked. There were no plans to re-invite the Forum back to the Governing Body, but the bishops were listening to the input of youth/children’s officers who work directly with young people.

St Padarn’s had been pushing into training licensed lay ministers specialising in children and young people, and had also developed an online Master’s course in the topic to train workers to a high standard. A gathering of Christian youth specialists from Wales had been organised for June to discuss how to better engage with young people, recognising that their attendance at Sunday services has been dropping. 

 

Miscellaneous

THE Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, informed the Governing Body shortly before it began its first session on Wednesday that two bishops would be absent. The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Richard Pain, had announced his retirement after a lengthy absence from office; and the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, had been involved in a car accident on his way to the meeting and had returned home to convalesce.

He also led the Governing Body in a period of silence and prayer for those killed and injured in the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Day. 

 

Private Member’s Motion: women’s ministry

AN ATTEMPT to remove conscience provisions which protected traditionalists opposed to women’s ordination was comfortably defeated by the Governing Body.

The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson, introduced a private member’s motion which called on the bishops to refuse to ordain anyone who could not receive the sacramental ministry of women and intended to rely on conscience provisions introduced when women bishops were first permitted in the Church in Wales, six years ago. Her motion also demanded the ending of separate ordination services for traditionalists who did not want to be ordained alongside women.

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The motion was worded as follows: 

That this Governing Body rejoices that the Church in Wales has now received the consecration of two Bishops who are women, and:

(i) requests that all Bishops, consonant with previous undertakings, agree not to hold in future separate ordination services for any candidates, on the grounds of the candidates’ views on gender.

(ii) calls on the Bench of Bishops to resile from paragraph 5 of the Explanatory Note to their 2014 Code of Practice, and cease to ordain those who, refusing the sacramental ministry of women, expect to rely upon the conscience clauses of the Code.

Archdeacon Jackson said that the Church must be ready to recognise the deep pain many felt on this controversial issue. Her motion came out of listening to women, lay and ordained, who had experienced prejudice and felt constrained from flourishing in the gifts God had given them. “We must address the causes of that distress in the systems of the Church,” she said.

Several women had separately told her that the thing which most hindered their spiritual development was that the Church in Wales continued to ordain men who publicly denied their calling. She acknowledged that her motion would also cause upset to many traditionalists, who found the ordination of women an “affront”; but this was not her doing, but the choice of the Church.

The Church seemed to have “weakened its resolve” and expected women like her to accommodate those who would deny her vocation. “It doesn’t work. In such circumstances, none of us are able to flourish.”

Her motion would not change the code of practice drawn up by the bishops after the law was changed in 2013, but it would clarify who could be included in its provisions, Archdeacon Jackson said. Bishops ouldl still be able to ordain whoever they wish, she said.

In 2013, the Governing Body said that it wanted provision for dissenters from women’s ministry to be pastoral, not structural. Those of good faith, for whom the Church had changed around them, should be given pastoral care, and no one who was then ordained or in the process should have to abandon this because of their conscience.

But, six years on, anyone who today offered themselves for ordination must accept that the Church in Wales had made a clear decision to affirm women’s ordained ministry, and could no longer expect to be covered by the conscience provisions of the code. Any period of reception or transition must surely now be completed, she said.

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Her motion did not seek to exclude those opposed to women’s ordination from themselves being ordained; it merely asked the bishops not to extend the pastoral provisions of the code of practice to such candidates. “Those who hold dissenting views must look to their own conscience” rather than expecting any institutional protection.

The Revd Dominic McClean (Bangor) spoke to second the motion, which he admitted he did with some hesitation, and only after much prayer. He said that the Church in Wales had decided to remain a united Church without parallel structures for traditionalists, when it accepted women’s ordination.

Having “fuzzy edges” on this issue did not help those who were trying to discern if they had a vocation to the priesthood in the Church in Wales. “I know that this may pain some, on both sides. But if we choose to go on with an indefinite period of transition, we choose to continue the pain.”

The motion was not trying to stop traditionalists, but it did say that they would no longer be protected from other people, and needed to respect everyone. Many in the hall listening did not think he, as a partnered gay man, should be a priest, but they were able to act respectfully towards each other. “I ask this motion to be carried so we can live in respect of each other,” he concluded.

Jennie Willson (St Asaph) rose to propose a small amendment to the second clause of the motion. Instead of saying “cease to ordain”, it would read “cease to accept for ordination”, as not ordaining those already training would be unfair. Her amendment would also remove the reference to those who could not accept the sacramental ministry of women, as it was, she said, unnecessary to specify why someone wanted to rely on conscience provisions.

The Revd Rosemary Hill (Llandaff) said that she was torn by the motion, which had caused her sleepless nights as she tried to decide how to vote. “I wish I could be supportive of this motion, but I cannot.” Nobody should be denied access to any sacramental ministry, including ordination, she had concluded. “It Is not for us to judge as to whom are worthy, but to allow working of the Spirit in all.”

Although she hoped and prayed that opponents of women’s ordination would change their mind, she could not endorse this attempt to bar them from the priesthood, “because I know the pain of having my vocation denied, and I will not willingly inflict that on anybody”.

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Alan Glass (Swansea & Brecon) said this issue was a “wound that is healing and this seeks to expose it and scratch it and make it bleed again”. The Bill was not just “unnecessary and untimely”, but also divisive and malicious, he said.

Paulette Brown (Monmouth) said that she was “greatly saddened” by the motion. When so many Christians around the world were facing persecution, “we in the Church in Wales who are not facing such trials are adept at hurting ourselves from within”. The safeguards established protected the consciences of those for whom the doctrine of the Church had changed.

Every member surely had the right to be ministered to by a cleric who continued to hold firm to the doctrine of the Church they were baptised into. If traditionalist candidates were barred from ordination, this right would be snuffed out for good within a generation. The minority — which included her — could have left the Church when it permitted women’s ordination, but, instead, they loyally stayed in the body they loved. “Instead of respecting this, and valuing our contribution, this motion wants to take the safeguards away,” she said. “Is that how pastors should behave?” Could the Church in Wales, she asked, afford to do without the ministry of traditionalist men whom God was calling to the priesthood?

Gareth Erlandson (St Asaph), a current ordinand at St Padarn’s, said that he questioned reports that women ordinands were regularly being unfairly attacked by traditionalists and having the validity of their vocation called into doubt. He said he had spoken to every current female ordinand, and none said that they recognised this picture. One told him: “St Padarn’s has been exemplary. It is a safe environment where women cannot be denied their right to train.” There had already been a culture change, and the pain of the first generation of women priests was being healed. Although he applauded the spirit behind the motion, he said that it was not the right way to move forward.

The Revd John Connell (Monmouth), who described himself as a liberal Catholic Anglican, recalled how he had first received communion from a female cleric more than 20 years ago, by a deaconess in the early 1990s. “There was holiness and beauty in the sheer ordinariness of that mass,” he remembered. “I believe the presence of women priests makes us more Catholic not less Catholic, but I also believe moves which restrict the flourishing of those I profoundly disagree with will be to our harm as a Church.”

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The Revd Dean Roberts (Monmouth) said that he was an egalitarian who supported ordination of women, and had seen in the past how hurtful it could be when others disrespected their ministry in public. Evangelicals on both sides of this debate had largely stayed together, understanding it not to be worth splitting over. And, while Archdeacon Jackson may say that she did not want to become the “thought police”, the practical reality of her motion would make it impossible for traditionalists to be part of the Church in Wales. This would also begin separating the Church from the wider Anglican Communion, which maintained a unity in diversity on this issue.

The Revd David Morris (Llandaff) said that he had friends on both sides of the women’s ordination debate, but described the motion as “uncharitable” and bound to cause even more pain and anxiety for traditionalists. “While I do not agree with my friends, I cannot in good conscience myself accept the motion and subject them to further pain.” Mutual flourishing may not be easy, but it was possible. Furthermore, the numbers with traditionalist views presenting themselves for ordination were relatively insignificant.

Gregor Lachlann-Waddell (St Asaph) said that this motion had kept him awake at night. The Church in Wales was not a Church of agenda, vendettas, or tribes, he said. “We are not the Church of Plaid Cymru, or Credo Cymru. We are not the Church of Changing Attitudes, or Anglican Essentials. We are the Church in Wales. We are diverse.” The Church was on life-support, he argued, and divisive issues around women’s ordination were distracting it from the real mission about making disciples of all nations.

Caroline Woollard (Monmouth) said that she foresaw a slippey slope from the motion. In a few years’ time, would another motion come banning traditionalist priests from promotion, she asked. The subtext of the motion was that some in the Church in Wales did not want traditionalists to be part of their body. As a woman in journalism, she experienced discrimination and disrespect because of her gender throughout her career. “I have tried to ignore it, and feel compassion for those who dish it out, rather than seeking to stop them entering the newsroom in the first place,” she said. “Consider the perception this motion would engender in church members, and vote against it.”

The Revd Steven Bunting (Swansea & Brecon) said that the Church had made a promise to protect the consciences of traditionalists, and it should keep that promise. The Church should continue to allow the Holy Spirit to call into ministry whoever he will, and not place restrictions on who can be ordained, he said.

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At this point, a motion to close the debate and move straight to a vote was proposed and then passed by the Governing Body. As a result, the amendment proposed by Mrs Willson lapsed.

Responding to the debate, Archdeacon Jackson joked that she had appeared to have achieved something that people had been trying to do for generations: unite the Church in Wales. But some of those who spoke against her motion had misunderstood it, she said.

She did not want to bar traditionalists from the priesthood. “It was not saying we should cease to provide a home for people who have dissenting views about women’s ordination.” The motion simply asked that such people should recognise that the Church in Wales had made a decision on women’s ordination, and would not be preserving two versions of the Church’s understanding on this issue.

“Therefore, if people find themselves at odds with a particular aspect of what the Church in Wales believes, they must operate their own conscience arrangements. It’s not to say there is not a place for them, but the Church will not set up a parallel jurisdiction in order for them to stay.”

Her motion (below) was clearly lost. The voting was: for, 19; against, 63; abstentions, 20.

 

Standing Committee report

THE chair of the standing committee, Lis Perkins (Bangor), introduced that body’s latest report, and a number of procedural recommendations which it contained. Some of the more noteworthy items included a change in location of the next meeting of the Governing Body from Lampeter to Swansea. She reminded members that they could always approach her to suggest items for discussion at future meetings.

Canon Steven Kirk (Llandaff), who chairs the drafting sub-committee, then spoke to explain some tidying up of the Church in Wales constitution that the GB was being asked to vote through, which mainly tweaked language to reflect recent changes to baptism and communion, and cathedral Chapters. All the report’s recommendations were then passed by the Governing Body.

Ms Perkins then explained other parts of the report, emphasising in particular how the committee had decided to be more proactive and less reactive in how it attempted to drive the Church forward. It would soon hold its first overnight meeting to spend more time discussing strategy, and how to avoid becoming a rubber-stamp for other people’s work and reports.

She also reminded the Governing Body of the work under way to mark the centenary of the Church in Wales next year, including a visit from the Archbishop of Canterbury, and simultaneous services at all six cathedrals in June.

A charity appeal for the centenary would also be launched at the next meeting of the Governing Body in September, she said. “Please go back to your churches, parishes, and mission areas and talk about these plans — start the conversation about how the centenary will be marked in your own community.”

The Governing Body then voted to approve the standing committee’s report.

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