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Church in Wales Governing Body: Dignity, food waste, Welsh, and the Bible

16 September 2022

Church in Wales

The Revd Naomi Starkey (Bangor)

The Revd Naomi Starkey (Bangor)

Dignity Charter

THE Governing Body voted to adopt the Dignity Charter for the Church in Wales, described as “a framework of expectation for managing how we behave towards one another. It is intended to create a supportive environment where mistakes are recognised, acknowledged, and which can result in positive learning and progressive change in behaviour.”

The charter commits everyone associated with the Church in Wales to outlaw bullying behaviour of all kinds. It includes the need to “be aware of the power imbalances which can exist between people working, worshipping, studying, or ministering closely together, but with very different roles and levels of seniority, and behave accordingly”, and to “acknowledge and learn from our mistakes.”

Hannah Rowan (co-opted) wanted to know how the wider Church would be enabled to engage with it. Jonathan Sadler (co-opted) warned: “We need to be careful what might be outlawed — think of some of the things that Jesus did, such as calling the Pharisees a brood of vipers. Sometimes, things need to be said. Let’s make sure we’re not calling people bullies when they are only being faithful to how we read scripture.”

The Revd Naomi Starkey (Bangor) suggested that the charter was also about “protecting clergy from members of the congregation who want to have a go at them . . . the PCC meeting that can descend into a free-for-all. It must include treating clergy with respect.”

The Revd Kate O’Sullivan (Monmouth) said that the policy needed to be embedded into the policy of the Ministry Areas, “so that we are all aware of the responsibility of all of us”.

 

Food waste

IN THE light of the cost-of-living crisis, someone reprovingly drew the meeting’s attention to the amount of food left after dinner on Wednesday evening at the International Convention Centre in Newport, where it was being held.

The meeting was delighted to learn that 95 per cent of all food waste at the Convention Centre is pulped and converted to fuel to provide energy for the building. “The heat in the building is last night’s leftovers,” it was told.

 

Monmouth Review

WORK continues on the implementation of the Monmouth inquiry and review concerning the events surrounding the long absence and subsequent retirement of the previous Bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Pain (News, 17/24 December 2021, 6 May 2022). The events were described in the report as a “tragedy” and a “shock to the system” that had triggered a reshaping of the culture in both the diocese and the Bench of Bishops.

Its agreed priorities are the recommendations relating to the position and authority of the Archbishop, the general principles of the conduct of investigations, and the communication strategy in circumstances where a bishop or other senior cleric were to step back from their duties for whatever reason.

The work “will be tested to ensure it provides an effective and meaningful solution, and guards against circumstances similar to those which prompted the Monmouth review arising again,” the GB was assured. Bishop Tim Thornton, a former Bishop at Lambeth and Bishop of Truro, has joined the group as an independent member.

The Monmouth review made a number of recommendations regarding the Bench itself, including the development of terms of reference. The GB endorsed these for adoption. They include: “To ensure the accountability of the bishops to each other and to the Governing Body by developing a culture of mutual consultation and trust, and by upholding the values of the Church in Wales.”

Responding to the Bench report, the Revd Mark Simpson (Llandaff) said that the Bench “ought to be a body working in tandem with every part of the Church — as conduit and co-creator.” 

 

Lambeth Conference report

THE Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, remarked of the Call on Human Dignity within which the sexuality issue was contained: “Reconciling divergent views is never an easy task, and the place at which we arrived, describing ongoing differences but a common commitment to each other in dialogue and fellowship — if less entire and complete than would be ideal — was probably as much as could have been reasonably expected.”

He observed that the programme was “probably over-ambitious, and left less time for those informal conversations and engagements which are often at least as important as the formal sessions.

“Colleagues and I also found the tight control of the agenda and presentations minimised the potential for richer — if possibly more direct and forceful — engagement, and there are undoubtedly lessons to be passed on for the next gathering.

“However, those ‘gaps’ in which the living stories of joy and pain, opportunity and challenge occurred were, for most of us, the stand-out feature of the conference, and the value of meeting together to learn how Christ is leading the Church into new life in some of the most challenging environments.”

 

Trinity St David’s

THE vice-chancellor of the University, Professor Medwin Hughes, reminded the Governing Body of its origins in “empowering Welsh students to have a Welsh education”. Hundreds had marched through Lampeter to celebrate the bicentenary on 12 August, and it remained the only university committed to placing an Anglican clause in its Royal Charter, he said.

“It started with 200 students. . . Now we have over 22,000 at its several campuses,” he said. “Education can change lives. Fifteen per cent of all primary-age children in Wales are in church schools — what an opportunity to develop a network of professional Christian teachers.”

The annual report highlighted the university’s results in the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF21), described as extremely encouraging. “The university was recognised for producing world-leading and internationally excellent research. It was rated fourth in Wales for its impact.

“Its partnership with St Padarn’s has grown from strength to strength, and we have seen an increase in the number of students enrolled on to our programmes,” the report said. Archbishop John congratulated Professor Hughes, who is stepping down as vice-chancellor, for his outstanding leadership.

 

Year of Bible Literacy

“WE HAVE become ignorant of the Bible, and we don’t teach it to our children,” the chief executive of the Bible Society, Professor Paul Williams, told the meeting in an update on the Year of Biblical Literacy.

By way of illustration, he referred a headline from The Sun newspaper: “One in 14 adults believe Superman’s in the Bible”, and said, “People have died to get translations of the Bible.” Recent surveys had found that 60 per cent of people never read it at all, and a similar number of churchgoing millennials struggled to relate to it in everyday life.

“We atomise and weaponise the Bible, and often denude it of the real power it should have,” he said. “Today, we are reaping the consequences of this rejection. Western societies are fragmenting.” None of this had “taken God by surprise,” he reflected. “It’s very easy to buy into a secularised narrative of decline. There is plenty of evidence of a growing openness to faith.

“If we want society to take the Bible seriously again, we as a Church must show them the way. We are very hopeful at this time of a new generation finding life again in the scriptures. We want to partner and support you as you go on this journey.”

Professor Williams, together with the Bible Society’s director of domestic mission, Nigel Langford, presented and commended the Good News Youth Bible for teenagers (which is also translated into Welsh), and the Good News Family edition for families to read together. Both are part of the Lumino project, undertaken in partnership with Youth for Christ.

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