SIMPLY maintaining “tried and tested methods of church” will not “any longer serve the purposes of the Kingdom of God”, the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, warned the Church in Wales’s Governing Body last week.
Archbishop Davies said that it was essential “to recognise our challenges, and affirm those individuals and groups who, through asking uncomfortable questions and making uncomfortable observations, demand of us”.
He argued: “We dare not risk being either blind or deaf to either the reality of what we face, or to the gifts and opportunities which we still have to address that reality.”
He spoke of the Acts of the Apostles, saying that anyone who challenged the status quo was “dismissed, threatened, and physically harmed by those who preferred to remain spiritually blind and spiritually deaf”. Similarly, now, he said, those who challenged convention risk “being judged and caricatured in the same way”.
Archbishop Davies continued: “Imaginative, hopeful, faith-filled initiatives, such as pioneer ministry, ministry areas, team ministry, lay ministry, evangelism funds, and other initiatives are all too readily dismissed by some as foolish, with those who propose them as new ways of working, new ways of being church, ridiculed as fools. . .
“Such people may sometimes be found in congregations and fellowships which are frightened and failing, which are declining, and which are retreating into their shells, unwilling to recognise or even consider that simply maintaining tried-and-tested patterns of church life — keeping the show on the road, doing the usual thing at the usual time in the usual place for the usual people — will not, any longer, serve the purposes of the Kingdom of God. “
He said that there was an “emerging acceptance of the Church in Wales’s continuing and growing need to recover or rehabilitate authentic, Christlike, and Christ-centred ministry”.
“Among the opportunities which we have, and about which we will hear later in this meeting, are what we have traditionally called the Occasional Offices, better described as ‘life events’,” Archbishop Davies said. “I want to encourage a wider recognition of our Church’s need to embrace a sensible, structured, change agenda.
“I want to invite and encourage the Governing Body and the Church in Wales to prize what is good in our past, in our inheritance of faith and life, and, at the same time, to encourage, welcome, and affirm new thoughts, new steps, to rejoice in our advantages, to seize our opportunities, and to take calculated risks.”
When people accuse the Church in Wales of having a demon, and of being fools, the response, he said, should be: “We have no demon, but we do have the Spirit of Pentecost; and that yes, actually, we are fools, but fools for Christ.”