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Welsh Governing Body: Dioceses examine ministry for all and diversity

23 April 2021

Faithful stewards; Llandaff presentations; St Pardarn’s Institute; Year of Biblical Literacy; Times and Seasons; PCCs and CIOs; Question time

Church in Wales

St Padarn’s Institute

St Padarn’s Institute

Faithful Stewards

THE Governing Body received the report Faithful Stewards in a Changing Church: Understanding ordained ministry in the light of the 2020 vision, and commended it for study in the dioceses.

The report is a collection of essays on the nature of ordained ministry in its context in Wales as a largely secularised, multifaith nation, in the light of the strategy set out in the Church in Wales’s 2020 vision.

The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, who holds the brief for doctrinal matters, charted the rise and impact of lay leadership, which had led to clerics to reflect on what their position was as a priest in a multi-church parish or as a member of a team. What was the part played by the deacon? What was it to be a bishop in the Church in Wales today?

The Standing Doctrinal Commission had “grappled with the questions all of us have been grappling with”, and the document was “just the tip of the iceberg”. The Church in Wales, he emphasised, was “committed to a symphony of lay and ordained ministries complementing one another”.

Canon Mark Clavier (Swansea & Brecon), a theologian, described the document as “120 pages of deep theology” that would help the Church to collectively look at where it had come from to where it was now, and enable it to “try better and more theologically to discern where God is leading us in the future”.

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann, said that the individual essays stimulated fresh thinking about aspects of ordained ministry. It was an invitation to see the Church in Wales as on an expedition. “Even before the pandemic started, we were at a place where we needed to stop and take stock of where we were and where we were going,” she said.

“Use it as a resource for discussion. The essays come to life when discussed with others. We find ourselves now in a place of opportunity.”

Dr Heather Payne (Llandaff) described it as “a prophetic piece of work” that would help inform “new demands, new expectations, new requirements.” The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson, said that it would help the Church to “engage with the Anglican context in a Welsh culture”. Susan Fogarty (Bangor) found the Welsh contextual theology especially pertinent to ministry on the Lleyn Peninusula.

Other speakers requested chapters on clerics in non-stipendiary ministry, once looked on as “hobby-priests”; on worker-priests in full-time employment; and for a complementary vision for lay ministry.

The motion to receive the report was carried by 100 votes for, three against, and four abstentions.


Llandaff presentations

THE strategic vison set out by the Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd June Osborne, for the diocese, painted a picture of the most diverse and densely populated of the six dioceses of the Church in Wales, which largely constitutes Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan, and the Valleys.

“We have to recognise that faith is ceasing to matter in the communities we serve,” she said. “The Church in Wales is the largest voluntary organisation in the country — how can we use our reach and resilience to make more impact?”

Llandaff had a new senior team that was half clergy and half laity, and was tying financial and strategic priorities together. “The issues we face are complex, and we need to hear from everybody what they think,” the Bishop emphasised. By January 2022, 29 Ministry Areas would be in place, and with all leaders and transition teams in place: “A single priest serving a small community is no longer sustainable.”

The pandemic had necessitated a bold response to unavoidable changes, and the pace of the diocese’s implantation plan had had to change. “It’s our aspiration that every Ministry Area must include a new offer of church to young people, led by young people. . . We need to take children from the extreme pain of last year to a place of faithfulness,” the Bishop said.

The diocese rejoiced in the establishment of Citizen Church, a city-centre resource church in the heart of Cardiff, serving a broad cross-section of people.

Last year had been designated a year of pilgrimage for the diocese, and, while almost every event had had to be cancelled, it had remained so — “just one where God asked different things of us than we anticipated”.

The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson, said that the biggest culture change in the diocese had been collaborative ministry at every level. There was not only now a college of lay chairs, but a college of Ministry Area leaders, and one of Treasurers: “We need to make an impact in the areas not just where decisions are made, but in wisdom and insights from all over the diocese. It is making a real difference to have a confident, strategic lay voice in each Ministry Area.”


St Padarn’s Institute

THE Governing Body took note, nem. con., of the annual report from St Padarn’s Institute. The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, said that he continued to be impressed by the variety of ministries within the Church for which the college was preparing people.

The Principal, Professor Jeremy Duff, said in his presentation that it had been a challenging year, “but we have taken at least two steps forward to every step back. . . Despite the strains of last year, St Padarn’s is in a good position to respond to the Church’s new emerging priorities.

“Our passion remains for the growth of the Church in Wales. We continue to believe in courage, hope, and prayer. We are ready and eager to support and get behind new emerging ministries. . . St Padarn’s takes its lead from the will of the Church.”

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann, commended the report. She drew attention to the graph showing the age profile of all the ordination candidates currently going through the college: only six were under the age of 30, and there were twice as many over-50s as under-50s.

“The percentages suggest an older Church which may not be as attractive to children and young families,” she commented, acknowledging that the figures reflected the overall demographic of the Church in Wales and the very small percentage of people in the country who attended a Church in Wales place of worship.

“It was so good to read [in the report] of equipping people for pioneering ministries, and to see the work developing with children and young families. It is a task for the whole Church and not just its lay and ordained leaders,” she emphasised.

She also said that she was excited by the variety of lay ministries being exercised, and concluded, “As restrictions begin to ease, we have a real opportunity to discern afresh what the Spirit is saying to the Church at all levels of provincial life in the coming years.”

Hannah Burch (Llandaff) would have liked to have seen more detailed statistics in the report: a breakdown by gender and age, for example, and which candidates were training for the stipendiary and non-stipendiary ministry.

She wondered whether women were more likely to be encouraged into non-stipendiary ministry; and what was the proportion of candidates from, for example, BAME backgrounds; first language Welsh speakers; and disabled and LGBT people, “in order to understand the future workforce and to see whether there are any barriers that prevent candidates coming forward”.

Professor Duff said that the college was beginning properly to process the statistics, but, as the numbers involved were quite small, it could take longer to get the real picture. The Revd Dr Peter Lewis (Llandaff) congratulated St Padarn’s for being a “dynamic place” where many issues that had once been disparate were brought together.


Year of biblical literacy 

THERE was overwhelming support for a private member’s motion calling for a Year of Biblical Literacy, brought by the Revd Naomi Starkey (Bangor).

She reflected on the past year as a year of “holding on, getting by, coping as best we can . . . a wilderness time.” She urged members “never to lose our grasp of the overall story”; to “avoid cherry-picking our favourite bits”; to “move beyond a Sunday picture-book version of parts of the Bible, especially the Old Testament”; and to “actively engage with the Book of Books.”

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, reminded members that the Church in Wales had hoped to make its centenary year a year of the Bible. He wanted to see a willingness to become more literate about the scriptures, which some considered as not important, “not for us”. “If it’s ‘not for us’, we don’t deserve to be in our churches,” he said. “My support is with all my heart, my mind, my soul.”

The motion was carried overwhelmingly, with one vote against. It read:

That the Governing Body acknowledge the importance of promoting study and thoughtful engagement with the Scriptures for every Christian disciple and invites dioceses with the active support of the Standing Committee, to make 2022 a year of Biblical literacy through promoting small groups, personal reflection and wider opportunities for teaching and learning.


Times and Seasons

PUBLICATION of the third instalment of the Times and Seasons worship resources was warmly welcomed in a 90-minute session on Thursday afternoon.

It came in the form of a motion that the Governing Body:

1.Welcome the resources produced by the Standing Liturgical Advisory Commission for the period between Trinity Sunday and the Kingdom season; and

2. Affirm the inherent connection between worship and mission and urge the clergy and worship leaders of the Church in Wales to be intentional in making our worship welcoming and animating.

Introducing it, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, said that this was an invitation to see liturgy not in a perfunctory but in a missional way, “to assist our common witness to the nation of Wales”. The words “welcoming” and “animating” were key.

There is no intention to produce a physical version of the book: the resource is all online. The new section completes the Redemption cycle, and the Liturgical Commission is now working on a Creation cycle to harmonise with the climate-change motion and as a resource for the natural, agricultural year.


Charitable incorporated organisations

A LONG debate on the changes in charity law that give PCCs the option of conducting their business through a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) revealed so much uncertainty that the motion was withdrawn.

The motion was proposed by the Archdeacon of Mangram, the Ven. Michael Komor. He called for an amendment to a relevant section of the Constitution of the Church in Wales, and a request “that the Standing Committee prepare and approve a template Charitable Incorporated Organisation constitution for use by Parochial Church Councils.”

The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, warned that, just as the Church was composing a system of governance for Ministry Areas, the option could “ride a coach and horses” through delicate constitutional arrangements and would be a huge change, “especially if a recalcitrant Ministry Area wanted to do a UDI”.

The Revd Jonathon Wright (Swansea & Brecon) was among several speakers who felt that there was shortage of detail for such a change, were concerned about other unforeseen implications, or saw “grey areas”, even if the idea was acceptable in principle. Some thought that it would work with the right diocesan support. The Archdeacon of St Davids, the Ven. Paul Mackness, advocated a delay until September, when a proposed constitution could also be laid before the Governing Body.

Archdeacon Komor believed that it was still workable, and worthy of continuing consideration, but was happy to withdraw the motion for further consideration in September. 


Question Time

JUST three questions were put to the Governing Body. While the Revd Josh Maynard (St Davids) was heartened that, in an Advent call to prayer, the Bishops had urged the people of Wales to pray for the nation, he wanted to know whether the Bishops still affirmed the doctrine of the uniqueness of Christ for salvation. He was troubled by the Bishops’ expression: “For us, that light shines most fully in Jesus. If you are of a different faith tradition, you will want to adapt these words to your own belief. We acknowledge this by bracketing the words we will use as Christians, but you may choose to pray in different ways or words.”

The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andrew John, defended the decision, acknowledging truth in other religions.

The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) asked how members should prepare for consideration of the Bill to authorise a service of blessing following a civil partnership or marriage between two people of the same sex, which the Governing Body would be debating and voting on in September. What high-quality theological resources might be valuable for them?

The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, directed him to the publication from the Church in Wales’s own Doctrinal Commission; the Living in Love and Faith resources of the Church of England; and to the Anglican Communion sexuality report. None of these attempted to take sides, he said.

The Bishop emphasised the importance of “doing more than reinforcing one’s own thinking”, and the need to consider all viewpoints to avoid a shouting match: “We are talking with each other about real human beings and fellow Christians.”

Dr Heather Payne (Llandaff), one of the two representatives of the Church in Wales on the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), wanted assurance of continuing engagement with its networks, after the refocusing of the work of the Anglican Communion Office.

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, assured her that the Church would continue committing resources to this work to enable the Church in Wales “to continue to punch above its weight”.

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