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Archdeacon Dorrien Davies to be Bishop of St Davids

18 October 2023

DIOCESE OF ST DAVIDS

The Archdeacon of Carmarthen, the Ven. Dorrien Davies (left), and the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John

The Archdeacon of Carmarthen, the Ven. Dorrien Davies (left), and the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John

THE next Bishop of St Davids is to be the Ven. Dorrien Davies, Archdeacon of Carmarthen since 2017. He is a cleric rooted in the diocese, where he has served in all its three counties of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, and Ceredigion.

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, paid tribute to Archdeacon Davies’s experience, “deep wisdom”, and skills, when he made the announcement at St Davids Cathedral, at the end of the second day of a potential three-day Electoral College. “I know, in his care, this diocese will, as St David bade us, be joyful, will do the small things and will keep the faith,” he said.

Archdeacon Davies secured the necessary two-thirds majority of the vote in an election prompted by the July retirement, on health grounds, of Dr Joanna Penberthy, Bishop from 2017. The past two years, punctuated by periods of Dr Penberthy’s absence on grounds of ill health, are acknowledged to have been an unsettling time for St Davids (News, 26 May).

Born in Abergwili, and a native Welsh speaker, Archdeacon Davies trained for ministry at St Michael’s College, Llandaff, was ordained priest in 1989, and served his curacy in Llanelli before being appointed Vicar of Llanfihangel Ystrad. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Wales, College of Lampeter.

He served 11 years as Vicar of St Dogmael’s, Pembrokeshire, and was appointed a Canon of St Davids Cathedral in 2007, becoming residentiary three years later. He has been Archdeacon of Carmarthen and Priest-in-Charge of St Clears since 2017.

A message of congratulation from the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, Baroness Morgan, said: “His experience and unwavering commitment to serving Wales’s largest diocese makes him exceptionally well suited for this role. With a deep understanding of community and a proven record of service, he is poised to lead with compassion and dedication.”

Speaking to the Church Times on Wednesday, Archdeacon Davies described himself as “full of emotions at the moment. You find yourself in a different role in a familiar place which suddenly seems to have taken on new dimensions,” he said. “I’m touched by the confidence of the Electoral College, and those who have shown such warm congratulations, in hopefully my ability to lead and in what I reflect of Jesus.”

He expects to have mixed emotions in returning to Abergwili, where he was born and brought up. The Bishop’s Palace is located here, and from his study window he can see not only the church steeple and surroundings, where he played as a child, but also the graveyard beyond, where his parents and grandparents are buried. “In one way, it’s coming home,” he said.

“My experience of the people of St Davids, in all three archdeaconries, has been a positive one and full of love and warmth. Obviously, there are problems in a diocese of this size, both in the rural and the post-industrial community, but there is this longing and thirst for God.

“I do feel that I belong to the diocese and the Church in Wales, and to the broader Anglican Communion, because it’s what I’ve always known, valued, and treasured. I belong to it and it belongs to me.”

Asked about priorities, he reflects: “Although I know the other archdeaconries, and have served in them all, I think I need to sit down and discuss with my archdeacons, clergy, and laity, as to how they see their priority, so that I can help them and lead them. There are vast social issues not only in places like Llanelli and Carmarthen, but also problems facing the rural community, the farming community.

“People feel really vulnerable at this time. I want to feel in my role as Bishop that I’m here not only to listen to them, but to act on behalf of them, and, in respect to social issues, the poor and those who feel deflated. There are young people today who don’t seem to have a course or a direction in life; I want to see that they are valued, but, more importantly, that they are valued by Christ. Because he is not a distant figure. He’s right in sight of them.”

On the mission of the Church in Wales, he reflects: “The important thing is to bring people with you. Those who have been comforted and reassured by tradition and the past, who are experienced in church life and worship, and contribute to what goes on in the broader community and in the Church, must realise they are as much of the present as anybody else.

“I want people to appreciate that, if we’re going to go forward without compromising the truth of the gospel, we have got to change. And change is a good thing. The wonderful thing about Anglicanism is its diversity, and, in experiencing all these things, we can see Jesus in a new and wonderful light. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and that’s what I want them to appreciate and value.

“The present is for living, and the future is for us to rejoice and to look with confidence at what the Holy Spirit is going to do through us for all of us.”

He is married to Rosie, and has two sons, Morgan and Lewies. “I couldn’t do this without them,” he says. “Rosie raises me up, but she knows that if I go too high she could bring me down. She is the most wonderful leveller. . . And my boys very much keep me on the straight and narrow. No mitre is going to change that. I’m very blessed.”

He will be Bishop-elect until the election is formally confirmed at a Sacred Synod service on 29 November. His consecration and subsequent enthronement as the 130th Bishop of St Davids will take place at Bangor Cathedral on 27 January.

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