Presidential Address – Governing Body April 2011

Some of you may recall that in last April’s Presidential Address, I reminded you that in 2020 we would be 100 years old as an independent Province of the Anglican Communion, although the Christian Church has been part of this nation well before the coming of Augustine to Canterbury in the 6th Century.  I suggested then, that it was a good time to think about our future.  As a result, you as a Governing Body, during both the April and September sessions, met in small groups and came up with all kinds of ways in which we, as a church, might serve both the nation and the communities of Wales.  Mr. Nigel King and Archdeacon Robert Williams will talk about your deliberations in September tomorrow morning before there is a further chance to reflect in groups.

You may also recall, that at September’s Governing Body, the bishops and the Standing Committee were asked by you to respond to the situation described in the Membership and Finance Report of 2008/09 which drew our attention in particular to the fact that:

  1. Average attendance had continued to fall by 2% in line with the longer term trend.
  2. Average attendance among young people had fallen particularly sharply.
  3. The level of total direct giving fell for the first time since the statistics began to be collected in this format in 1990.
  4. For the first time since 1993, total parish income was less than expenditure.
  5. The proportion of parish expenditure spent on buildings had increased from 28% to 31%.

These figures present challenges to us as a Church but also an opportunity to tackle them.  There are three challenges in particular:

  1. First, the challenge of leadership:  We have had discussions about the role of both the bishops and the Archbishop.  Again you affirmed that you wish the bishops to have a high public presence in speaking to society and energising the life of the church.  However, as the groups in this Governing Body have noted, the issue of leadership is much wider.  As we reflect on the coming fall in clergy numbers, we need to consider how we provide effective leadership throughout the Church and how local leaders are supported, encouraged and guided.  We need to ensure that the Church has the types of ministry it will require: professional, well trained, resourced and motivated to make a difference in the world.  What changes need to be made to our processes for selection, training and support of all those involved in public ministry for us, as a Church, to be able to provide the community building and effective leadership we need?
  2. Secondly, the challenge of resources:  Currently, provincial and diocesan investments subsidise the true cost of providing ministry to our churches by approximately 30% – over £6million pounds a year is given to the six dioceses from central Church funds at the moment.  However, this rich resource from the past is coming under increasing pressure as investment management in a time of recession becomes tougher and the cost of providing pensions takes ever more money.  How can the human and financial resources of the Church and its buildings be effectively deployed to support mission?
  3. Thirdly, the challenge of structure:  The Church in Wales has historically existed as a Christian presence in every community in Wales.  In discussions at this Governing Body over the last two years, you have re-affirmed that this presence in Wales for Wales is an integral part of its mission.  However, parishes are under increasing pressure – facing the reality of ageing congregations and declining resources.  The Church is organised into deaneries, archdeaconries and dioceses.  Do the current structures meet the needs of the Church and support its work?  How does the Church retain an effective presence and witness to the love of God across Wales?

Therefore, bearing in mind all these points raised by you, and building on them, the Bench with the support of the Standing Committee, spent much of its last meeting looking at its vision for the future of the Church and the obstacles to achieving that vision and assessing what steps need to be taken to address the challenges we face.   We will be continuing this discussion at our next Bench meeting.

However, we have already agreed to address this in two ways:

First, there are areas in the life of the Church for which we, as a Bench, have responsibility.  This includes ensuring that we have in place the right processes for selection, training and support in order to provide ministry at all levels consistent with the Church that we want to be in 2020 and beyond.  As a Bench, we will be devoting more time at our forthcoming meetings to further defining our vision for a more “fit for purpose Church” and for ensuring that we have in place the right plans and processes for providing and supporting ministry at all levels of the Church to achieve this vision.

Secondly we have decided that one of the things that might help us as a province, is an independent small group able to review our work and our structures.  In the past, when we have wanted to review any aspect of our life, we have appointed representatives from every diocese within the province to form a grand commission.  When that has happened, it has tended to take a fairly long time to report and then the rest of us have found 50 good reasons why we should not implement their recommendations.  So we have decided to try a different approach this time.  We have asked people with no vested interests and no axe to grind to look at our life and structures.  This group ought not to be seen as in any way cutting across the processes on which we are already embarked, but as a way of aiding them.  This group will be free to talk to anyone it wants to; ask questions of whoever it wants to and will also come to this Governing Body to listen to what we have to say and to examine what we have said already.  The summary of the work of the Governing Body groups to date will be a key document provided for the Review.

This Review Group will consist of Lord Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, Bishop of that diocese for 19 years and someone, therefore, with long experience of church structures and who knows the Church in Wales because he has a home here.   Professor Charles Handy, an Irishman, who has done a great deal of work in and with churches and other institutions on institutional management and structural change and was for many years a professor at the London Business School.  He has written many books including “Understanding Organisations”, “Gods of Management” and “The Making of Managers”; and the third person is still to be named.

It is envisaged that the Group will ask fundamental questions about the life of the Church in Wales and make specific recommendations.  In particular, it will examine whether:

  • The resources available to the Church in Wales are being deployed efficiently and effectively to enable the mission of the Church.
  • The organisation of the Church in Wales is one which enables the Church to be effective in addressing the nation of Wales.
  • The organisation should be adapted to enable the Church to live more fully into a model of church life which is theologically and missionally coherent and sustainable in the long term.

In other words, is the Church in Wales fit for purpose as a channel of God’s grace for individuals, for our communities and for our nation?

It is hoped that this group will work fairly quickly and that we will have a report by next year.  This Review Group can be truly wide ranging in a way that the Representative Body Review of 2004/05 could not be because there were limitations to the remit of that review group.

In commissioning such a review, we will all have to be prepared to take seriously its findings and to be open to the possibility of significant change in our structures, ministry, use of buildings and other resources if it is seen to be in the best interests of the church and its mission to the people and communities of Wales as we look ahead to the next decade.  We believe as a Bench and Standing Committee, that a combination of our own insights, those of GB members and those from this Group, will help us become the kind of Church God wants us to become.

One thing that will help us as we embark on this process if we feel a bit threatened or beleaguered, is the knowledge that some of the issues we face are trivial in comparison with the problems faced by some of our sister churches  in the Anglican Communion.

Many of them have to live with the daily threat of violent persecution.

  • The Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East is faced with massive instability and uncertainty.  The Bishop in Jerusalem has been told that he no longer has the right of residency in his own country.
  • The Church in Pakistan, a minority church in an Islamic State, is facing anguish because of the country’s blasphemy laws and with the murder of both the Governor of the Punjab and Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, both defending the right of Christians to worship, the situation has worsened and extremists seem to be in the ascendant.
  • Christian communities in Nigeria are under attack and the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has suffered State persecution because of that State’s refusal to recognise the new Bishop of Harare and continues to support the thuggish former bishop.  Consequently Zimbabwean Anglicans often cannot worship in their churches and are forcibly restrained from doing so by Mugabe’s government.
  • In Southern Sudan, where a referendum has decided to divide the country into two, the church faces the challenge of helping in that process whilst maintaining a united witness to the country as a whole.
  • The church in Korea likewise faces the problem of a united witness in two States at enmity with one another.

Those are the daily problems of our sister churches and that does not take into account the terrible devastation as a result of the earthquake in New Zealand, or the problems faced by the church in Japan, as it ministers to people in the wake of the tsunami.  These things ought to make us see things in perspective and the need to stand as the Archbishop of Canterbury has reminded us “in prayer and solidarity when our Communion is confronted by attacks on the Gospel and its witnesses on the one hand and by human suffering and loss on the other”.

The Archbishop has recently launched the Global Anglican Alliance for development, relief and advocacy to work for the most vulnerable in our Communion, to support local churches in mission and to help them to continue as partners for both governmental and non-governmental organisations because in many parts of the world, as the Archbishop says, “the churches alone can be trustworthy agents of change”.  The collection at this Governing Body will be given to that Anglican Alliance.  I would now like to say something about the meeting of the Primates in Dublin earlier this year.

I can honestly say that in 8 years as Archbishop, this was the most irenic and fruitful Primates meeting that I have ever attended.  Primates meetings over the last 8 years have not altogether been pleasant as some Primates have absented themselves from some of the sessions, not attended services of Holy Communion and not even had the courtesy, in some instances, to say to the places where we were staying, that they would not be present for meals.

The Primates meeting, of course, is a gathering of the Primates and Moderators of the churches of the Anglican Communion, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  It was Archbishop Coggan who first called for meetings of Primates for ‘leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation’ and the Windsor Report expressed the hope that the Primates meeting would be a forum for strengthening the mutual life of the provinces.

At Dublin, we honestly faced the different legal and canonical roles we all occupy as Primates.  Some Primates have a great deal of individual authority within their provinces and therefore expect the Primates Group, as a whole, to act with that same authority towards the wider church what the Archbishop of Canterbury has called ‘a command and control’ model of primacy.  Most Primates, however, said that their powers were limited by their own Canons.  The Primates, therefore, decided that it would be difficult for the Primates meeting collectively, to give powers to Primates that were greater than their own Canons allowed them individually within their own provinces.  Our unanimous judgement was that we were not some kind of supreme court with canonical powers to enforce order and discipline, but a body concerned about security unity and building relationships of trust.

Some people believe that all this was achieved because certain Primates were not there.  It is a fact that seven or eight Primates deliberately absented themselves from the meeting whilst another seven could not come because of illness or particular problems in their provinces.  It has to be acknowledged that the former group might have been dissentient voices had they been present but it is significant, I think, that the rest of us felt that our approach was the right approach and some of us also felt that those who had deliberately absented themselves had deprived their own province of a voice in the deliberations.  Primates do not just represent themselves but their province and have a duty to be present at such primatial meetings.

I can do no better than to quote what the Primates said about themselves:

“The Primates:

  • bring the realities, expectations and hopes of the context from which they come, thus representing the local to the global
  • learn the realities, expectations and hopes of other contexts, and
  • carry home and interpret the global to the local

The Primates together:

  • give leadership and support as the Communion lives out the Marks of Mission
  • seek continuity and coherence in faith, order, and ethics
  • provide a focal point of unity
  • address pressing issues affecting the life of the Communion
  • provide guidance for the Communion
  • address pressing issues of global concern
  • are advocates for social justice in these situations

We endeavour to accomplish our work through:

  • prayer
  • fellowship
  • study and reflection
  • caring for one another as Primates and offering mutual support
  • taking counsel  with one another and with the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • relationship building at regular meetings
  • being spiritually aware
  • being collegial
  • being consultative
  • acknowledging diversity and giving space for difference
  • being open to the prophetic Spirit
  • exercising authority in a way that emerges from consensus-building and mutual discernment leading to persuasive wisdom

Commitment

In our common life in Christ we are passionately committed to journeying together in honest conversation.  In faith, hope, and love we seek to build our Communion and further the reign of God”.

If we, as Primates, can live up to those principles, then we will have lived up to our calling and also helped the Communion in trying to model a life of seeking to live out the values of the Gospel in trying to love and serve God’s world.

The Five Marks of Mission were summarized in the Missio report of 1999 and reiterated in The Anglican Covenant.
They are:
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth