Friday, 20 July 2012

Church in Wales Review

The report - with recommendations - of the Review Group chaired by  Lord (Richard) Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford is available to read in full here 
It will be discussed by the Province's Governing Body in September.
Some of the recommendations have already found their way into the public domain and into the  policy-making of the dioceses. [See an earlier post here.]

As a first comment, it might be questioned as to why, in a report which stresses the need to break free from the constraints of a top-heavy institutionalism which has retained many of the trappings of Establishment (a complaint its recommendations have to a certain extent dodged), the existence of a separate Archiepiscopal See should be regarded as more of a priority for the mission of a declining Province than the needs of its deliberately marginalised traditionalists.
There would appear to be no real surprises here: far from a strategy of allowing true diversity and even evangelistic flexibility,  this report, with its recommendations for a centralised collaborative ministry training programme and subsequent archidiaconal oversight,  would seem to be in danger of presenting in such a small province as Wales a recipe for a homogenised, Henry Ford style future - you can have any colour as long as it is grey.

Many would agree (and have maintained without being heard for many years - there has been for a considerable time a deceptive attachment to the trappings of establishment rather than the substance of traditional faith) with the comments of the Harries Report on the stultifying nature of the Province's institutions, but would wish to add that the real problem which is both holding back  mission and lowering morale lies not with its moribund structures and constitution but with its increasingly revisionist theological stance. 


  1. But don't you see? The problem is clearly that the Church in Wales is not nearly liberal and revisionist enough!


  2. I'm sure the Review Group and those who commissioned it have the best interests of the CinW at heart, but to me their blueprint for its future portrays a body as foreign to traditional Anglicanism as traditional Anglicanism is alleged to be to the man (sorry, person) in the street. Their recommendations might have carried more weight if they had spent more time in ordinary (ie small and struggling) parishes than with the bishops and their 'senior staff', who will have encouraged them to produce their model of the Brave New -- and thoroughly bureaucratic -- Church, with its ultimate authority in the Supreme Soviet of the Standing Committee.

    Having seen numerous 'initiatives' come and go (and mostly go) I can confidently predict that the bright future they paint of ministry areas, 360 degree clergy review (whatever that is, but thank goodness they didn't have it in my day), experts in attracting young people and lay collaborators will not come about, or will come about in such a patchy way that the Church will cease to exist altogether in large areas of the Principality. The key to the Anglican tradition has always been the relationship between the parish priest and his people, whom like the Good Shepherd he may in time come to know by name, and for whom he will intercede even if he is only occasionally successful in corralling them into his congregation. If there is a weakness in the traditional structure it is that dioceses are too large and too 'institutional',and bishops too remote. You could dump a lot of the boards and committees and advisers in this and that and the bishop would then have time to be Father in God to the whole of his flock (and in particular the parochial clergy), although whether he would use it for this purpose is open to question.

    In the reign of Elizabeth I Readers were appointed to cover a temporary shortage in the clergy, but the expedient lasted only as long as it was required. I suspect their reintroduction in the 19th century was motivated by an unwillingness to ordain non-graduate or non-stipendiary clergy. We have moved on from this position (although we will be returning to it if every new priest is required to become an MTh), so why not ordain all readers deacon and/or priest and give each of them charge of a congregation? This would, of course, require a revolutionary change of attitude on the part of the bishops, who would have to learn to 'think small', and to value even the least of his parishes as a place where God enters humanity (sometimes in spite of ecclesiastical activity).


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