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Church in Wales: Reforms to system of electing bishops welcomed — but not endorsed

20 September 2019

Adam Becket reports from the meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales in Swansea on 11-12 September


Canon Stephen Kirk

Canon Stephen Kirk

A MOTION requesting draft legis­lation to change the electoral-college system of electing bishops in the Church in Wales was carried — but amended so that the move was “wel­comed” but not “endorsed”.

Many speakers expressed concern about the reforms during the debate.

Proposing the motion, Canon Stephen Kirk (Llandaff) (pictured) said that it was a two-stage review, involving a consulta­tion of those involved in three electoral colleges, and then a working group examining wider issues.

One main concern, he said, was a lack of detailed information about candidates who had been nomin­ated. There were concerns about confidentiality, or a lack of it.

The working group sought to en­­sure that the process was as open as possible, and that there would be a new role of “facilitator”, who would be a new person for each election, to avoid unfairness.

Candidates might be nominated by someone else, or by themselves, Canon Kirk said, but all candidates would have to submit the same paper­work. A two-thirds majority would still be needed to elect a bishop.

A new suggestion would be that the first stage of the college be held in some kind of conference space, before moving to the cathedral. Some people in the electoral college had never met some of the candid­ates whom they were voting for.

All six Church in Wales bishops would automatically be considered candid­ates for a vacant archbishop­ric, and therefore the chair of the archiepiscopal electoral college should be the chair of the standing committee, Canon Kirk said.

The chair of the Representative Body, James Turner, seconded the motion. He said that next week’s electoral college in the diocese of Monmouth would not be affected by what happened in this debate.

Paul Murray (Swansea & Brecon) was uneasy about the proposal of a preparatory committee, which would not form part of the electoral college; the college would be reduced to a “mere interview panel”.

The Revd Joel Barder (St Davids) said that the two-thirds majority used in the College was a really im­­portant thing to keep.

The Revd Josh Maynard (St Davids) said that the idea of a pre­paratory committee was “open, potentially, to abuse”, since it gave the Bench of Bishops the power to choose their successors.

The Revd Phil Bettinson (St Asaph) said that between three and five people were too few for a short­list.

The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) said that a 47-member interview panel seemed like too many.

The Archdeacon of St Davids, the Ven. Paul Mackness (St Davids), brought an amendment to receive and welcome the report, but not endorse it.

The amended motion read:

That the Governing Body:

1. receive and welcome the Report of the Electoral College Review Working Group dated July 2019 and the recommendations therein;

2. request that the Standing Committee bring forward legislation to amend the Constitution where necessary to reflect the recommendations in the Report in light of the discussions and amendments made during the Governing Body debate.

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