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Church in Wales Governing Body: Update on Monmouth Review

28 April 2023

Dave Custance

Tim Llewelyn (St Asaph), who chairs the Monmouth Review Implementation Group, brought the Governing Body up to date with its progress

Tim Llewelyn (St Asaph), who chairs the Monmouth Review Implementation Group, brought the Governing Body up to date with its progress

THE Governing Body was brought up to date with the progress of the Monmouth Review Implementation Group by Tim Llewelyn (St Asaph).

The chain of events events surrounding the protracted absence and subsequent retirement of the Bishop of Monmouth, the Most Revd Richard Pain, in 2019 (News, 28 June, 2019), was acknowledged in the review as a tragedy in which “long ministries of service to the Church were curtailed, careers damaged, and reputations left ruinous.”

Its effects were far-reaching: “Decisions made at the time, each of which seemed justified to those involved, created a web of suspicion and mistrust,” the report said.

The implementation group first met in March 2022. Mr Llewelyn, who chairs the group, reported that 19 of the 28 recommendations had been fully implemented, and the others were close to being so, although some of the outstanding ones would take longer because of their complexity.

The Church in Wales Dignity Charter was a key recommendation of the report. Mr Llewellyn challenged the Governing Body: “It becomes a living charter when we clearly live and believe in what we do. What are you doing in your own churches to keep it real and alive?”

Sarah Mulcahy (Monmouth) was pleased with the progress, but questioned the report’s value outside the Governing Body and committees, as it was written in what she called “committee-ese”. She also acknowledged, “It is difficult to change culture, but we are not the only people trying to do it. It does take time: it is not simple. We can learn from this.”

Sir Martin Donnelly (Swansea & Brecon) reflected that the culture issue was here “for all of us, all the time”. He also mentioned follow-up, and asked, “Can we in some way have an annual review together of what new challenges are coming up, so that we can be proactive in managing it?”

Jonathan Sadler (co-opted) requested an update on the review’s identification of a culture of swearing and excessive intake of alcohol in the Bench of Bishops. Was that culture still prevalent today, and what was being done about it? (He was promptly assured by the Bishop of St Asaph, the Most Revd Gregory Cameron, “We are a much more sober lot, I assure you, today.”)

Mr Llewelyn said that there was a need for future work on the Dignity Charter: “The words are fine and aspirational, but will remain so without clear lines of implementation and accountability.”

He reminded the Governing Body: “Culture is what we do, how we do it, how we interact with people day to day — a qualitative and a quantitative approach. The Bench has been very approachable.”

The Monmouth issues had a close bearing on a Private Member’s Motion brought by Mr Llewelyn and seconded by Hazel Evans (St Davids). The Bishop of St Davids, the Rt Revd Joanna Penberthy, has been absent on sick leave for eight months: the same period of time as Bishop Pain.

The motion allows that, after 60 days of absence due to sickness or other medical reason, the Archbishop can act for the Bishop while they are unable to perform their duties; and that the statutory sick pay statement should be accepted as conclusive proof of that inability.

This was one of the Monmouth recommendations. Mr Llewelyn said, “It avoids the creation of an overly bureaucratic process. It is deliberately worded as ‘may’ perform, so that each case can be assessed on its own requirements.. This would have helped the diocese of Monmouth and will help the diocese of Saint Davids.”

The Revd Kate O’Sullivan (Monmouth), noted that, in England, it was not unusual for a retired Bishop to help out in these circumstances. She felt the pain of St Davids. But she urged caution about who it should be. If the retired person brought in to oversee was the much-loved previous Bishop, that would make it hard for the person in post.

The Archdeacon of St Davids, the Ven. Paul Mackness (St Davids), said, “The reality is that this is the role the Bishops’ Commissaries undertook. But now it’s eight months ago and [Bishop Penberthy] is signed off until the end of May.

“We have been well supported by senior lay leaders and commissaries, but there are certain things we can’t do. We are acting as regents. The diocese can’t move strategically forward. It is lacking steer and vision. Also, we are now looking at putting contributions towards the Church Growth Fund. Having the Archbishop able to come in and support us will make a massive difference to morale and take away some of the burden from us.

“The motion is not prescriptive. It gives the power to step in when required to allow the life of the diocese to continue. If it had been available, the pain of Monmouth would not have been so protracted.”

Caroline White (Bangor) thought this was key and pragmatic. The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) said supporting it was vital: “We’ve seen this happen more than we wanted to.”

The Archdeacon of Margam, the Ven Mike Komor (Llandaff), was himself a commissary. He appreciated the loose wording of the motion, which enabled every case to be looked at in its individual context.

The motion was clearly carried, with no-one against and three abstentions. It read:

In Chapter V of the Constitution of the Church in Wales INSERT:

If a Bishop is unable to perform the duties of their office due to sickness or other medical reason for a continuous period of more than 60 days, then the Archbishop may perform any duty and exercise any right belonging to that Bishop within the Bishop’s Diocese whilst they remain unable to perform their duties.

  1. Statements in accordance with the provisions of the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1985 that the Bishop is not fit for work shall be conclusive evidence for the purposes of this Section 14 that the Bishop is unable to perform their duties of office due to sickness or other medical reason for the duration of the period covered by that statement.

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