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Llandaff looks north to find its next bishop

20 January 2023

Church in Wales

The Rt Revd Mary Stallard

The Rt Revd Mary Stallard

THE Electoral College of the Church in Wales has chosen the Rt Revd Mary Stallard, Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Bangor, to be the next Bishop of Llandaff.

Bishop Stallard’s appointment was announced on Thursday afternoon. She succeeds the Rt Revd June Osborne, who retired at the end of last year. Bishop Stallard was one of the first women to be ordained in the Church in Wales, in 1997.

The diocese of Llandaff is the largest by population in the Church in Wales, home to about half the population of the country. It was seeking “a bishop with the parish priest’s heart”.

Bishop Stallard obtained the two-thirds majority vote needed on the second day of a two-day meeting of the Electoral College in Llandaff Cathedral, carried out behind ceremonially closed doors.

The college comprised the bishops; six clergy and six lay people elected from Llandaff; and three clergy and lay people elected from each of the other dioceses. The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, described them to Church Times last week as “transparently elected, properly scrutinised, informed people who represent a wide constituency”.

Archbishop John said of the appointment on Thursday: “Bishop Mary has served the diocese of Bangor with enormous energy, faithfulness, and joy. It is a huge privilege for us now to be able to pass her to the diocese of Llandaff, where we know she will bring all of the gifts she has shown us. We are so delighted for her.”

Bishop Stallard spoke of the privilege of receiving “this new call. . . I will do my very best to live up to faithfully.”

Bishop Stallard’s election will be formally confirmed in April, during a Sacred Synod service, the diocese said. Shortly afterwards, she will be enthroned as the 73rd Bishop of Llandaff in Llandaff Cathedral.

Bishop Stallard is a vicar’s daughter, who read theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and trained for ministry at Queens College, Birmingham, and Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary in India.

She served her curacy in Newport and was Deacon-in-Charge and Vicar of Ysbyty Cynfyn, Eglwys Newydd and Llantrisant before being appointed, in 2003, as a residentiary canon of St Asaph’s Cathedral and Bishop’s Chaplain. She has also served as diocesan director of ordinands, chair of the diocesan board of ministry, and provincial selection secretary.

Her experience encompasses seven years as Anglican chaplain at Saint Joseph’s Catholic and Anglican High School, as well as being co-director of the St Giles Centre for Religious Education and Faith Development in Wrexham. She became Archdeacon of Bangor and Associate Priest of Llandudno in 2018. She was consecrated bishop in January 2021. She is married to the Revd Andrew Sully, Ministry Area Leader of Llandudno.

The profile for the bishop’s job made no direct reference to the recent troubles in Llandaff, which came out into the open when the former Dean, the Very Revd Gerwyn Capon, brought a case of bullying and harassment against Bishop Osborne (News, 26 November 2021, 1 April 2022)

She was deemed to have a case to answer and had been due to come before a disciplinary tribunal, but the Proctor deemed the evidence “insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof”, and the case was dismissed. Dean Capon resigned in May of last year (Letters, 17 December 2021, News, 7 January, 2022).

The appointment of Dean Capon’s successor, the Very Revd Richard Peers, in September, was intended to herald a new chapter in Llandaff (News, 23 September). The profile for the bishop acknowledged that he or she would arrive “at a moment of significant change and opportunity” that built on a well-funded strategic vision.

It sought a bishop “deeply rooted in experience of parish ministry”. Qualities such as “wisdom”, “humility”, and “kindness” featured often among responses to a diocesan-wide consultation, “alongside a desire for someone who would be approachable and compassionate, with a collaborative approach to both high level strategy and everyday challenges.”

The profile acknowledges that the Church in Wales’ replacement of the parish system with the 29 Ministry Areas has had a mixed reception: “For many, the energy and dynamic transformation of lay and ordained ministry is a long-awaited answer to prayer; for others, it is unsettling, and the future seems uncertain.”

The Church in Wales’s Governing Body approved the liturgy for the blessing of same-sex marriages and civil partnerships in 2021 (News, 10 September 2021). The profile confirms that it has been widely welcomed, though it adds: “That said, our next Bishop will need to recognise the pastoral needs of clergy and congregations who have strongly held but differing views on these matters.”

Cardiff dominates the landscape, and the challenge for the new bishop would be “to engage with the city, very dynamic and very buzzy, but also with some of the valleys where we are still wrestling with post-industrial challenges”.

Asked last week whether a successful appointment would draw a line under the recent difficulties, Archbishop John said: “I’m thinking it’s in the nature of modern life that we’ve become more litigious, and much more conscious when we empower people that sometimes that agency is used.

“So I’m not sure that actually the last years in Llandaff haven’t been in many senses typical of all we’re seeing elsewhere in life, and also probably in the Church. And that’s why we need to have the very best HR practices and very good safeguarding and engagement between the centres and the diocese. I suspect that it’s much more atypical of what the Church is going to experience in the future.”

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