Highlights - April 2021
With the COVID pandemic restrictions still in place, Governing Body members returned online for their two-day meeting on April 14-15.
The meeting was held over eight sessions on Zoom Webinar and was live-streamed on the Church in Wales website from YouTube.
The recordings of each session follow, together with a brief summary of business. You can download all the papers and the agenda at our Dropbox repository which you can access from the Governing Body Meetings page.
A collection was made for the Church in Wales Centenary Fund. Members were asked to contribute via the online Gift Direct facility: Centenary Appeal Fund
The Archbishop expressed sympathy to all those bereaved or suffering as a result of the COVID pandemic. He assured them of his prayers and good wishes and thanked those who had helped and supported others.
Two losses were noted: Canon Bill Isaac, who had represented the Roman Catholic Church at the Governing Body, and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. Members were invited to be still in remembrance for them and their families.
Standing Committee report
The report’s three recommendations were passed overwhelmingly. These included the appointments of Canon Steven Kirk and Andrew Keyser QC to the Standing Committee until 2023 and the re-appointment of Canon Kirk to the panel of assessors until the end of 2026.
The Archbishop spoke about the Electoral College for the See of Swansea and Brecon which would fall vacant when he retired on Sunday 2 May. The Standing Committee was keeping the date on which a meeting of the College would be called under regular review as COVID restrictions relaxed. Members voted to allow the Electoral College to be held outside the Diocese should that prove necessary to secure a COVID safe location for its meeting.
Standing Committee Report on Governance and Legal Matters
The report’s recommendations, to amalgamate the appointments and business sub-committees and to receive the report, were carried.
Robert Evans (Monmouth) asked about progress on the Monmouth Enquiry and Review report. Matthew Chinery, Head of Legal Services, said it was expected around Pentecost.
CHASE (Church Action for Sustaining the Environment) motion
The Bishop of St Davids, Joanna Penberthy, proposed a motion put forward by the Church’s environment group, CHASE, which called for the Church to declare a climate emergency and plan for net zero carbon emissions, ideally by 2030. The motion said an “urgent and rapid global response” to global warming was necessary.
Bishop Joanna said that while it was now too late to stop the world’s temperature rising, we could help mitigate the worst effects of that rise. “Unfortunately, the life we live here has already affected adversely the lives of others across the globe,” she said. “But if today there was only a message of doom and gloom there would be no motion. It is possible with enough political will and human ingenuity to stop the rise in temperatures.”
Solutions to help us live sustainably were already available, she said, acknowledging the work of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth which had been at the forefront of sustainable practices since 1973.
“If rising temps are to be restricted we have to learn to life and work differently. Our efforts, however small they might seem, will make a real difference,” said Bishop Joanna.
Working in partnership with others who had also declared a climate emergency, such as the Welsh Government, was key, she added.
“This motion is not asking the Church to go out on a limb. We are asked to commit with partners and work with others. We are members, we are also voters and concerned citizens, we can make our voices heard. Brave and committed activists have been working on this for years. It’s time for us to join them and, who knows, we might make a difference to tip the scales.”
Bishop Joanna said the Representative Body had recently appointed a Climate Change Champion, Dr Julia Edwards, who would put the action plan together to help the whole Church reach its net zero carbon target.
The motion was seconded by the Revd Rebecca Stevens (Monmouth), whose own parish was working towards its Silver Eco Church award. She said, “This motion sets us on a journey but the route will be set out in the action plan.” She added that climate change was a major concern for young people. “This is our chance to show our communities that this is an issue we will join with them to work on.”
More than 20 members lined up to speak in response to the motion.
Several speakers called for a reassessment of church buildings. Archbishop John urged people to make best use of buildings. “There may be places where there is more than one building in a group and each one could accommodate all the people. Do we need all of them to be heated and pumping out pollution?”
Paul Murray (S&B) said with many buildings closed due to the Covid pandemic, it was time to consider the viability of re-opening them. “There will be enormous expenditure on maintenance - now is the time to say, should we now close this church and move en bloc to another church in the ministry area?”
The Revd Adrian Morgan (S&B) said the pandemic had proved the Church could be agile and quick in a crisis. Closing churches could be a painful process, he said, “but when well managed and part of a bigger strategy people will be quick and ready to embrace it.”
Other speakers recommended the A Rocha UK Eco Church scheme. Dr Henry Shephard (Llandaff) said it was a useful tool for making an impact. The Revd Nigel Doyle (S&B) suggested the plan looked at income generation schemes, as well as providing guidance on cost effective heating systems and grants. He warned of the danger of missing deadlines for grant applications due to delays in faculty procedures.
The Revd Phil Bettinson (St Asaph) asked about charging posts for electric cars in church carparks and vicarages to enable clergy in rural areas to reduce carbon on short but essential journeys. Clive Hughes (St Asaph) suggested restrictions on double glazing on historic church windows should be lifted to prevent heat loss. The Revd Peter Lewis (Llandaff) called for liturgical resources to carry the message of sustainability. Daniel Starkey (Bangor) spoke of encouraging biodiversity in churchyards and suggested banning plastic flowers on graves. Tony Mullins (Llandaff) hoped the plan would provide a bank of knowledge on issues such as heating systems and grant schemes, that churches could tap into.
Responding Bishop Joanna thanked all contributors for their enthusiasm and commitment and said their comments would be considered by CHASE and the Climate Change Champion.
The motion was carried overwhelmingly.
Ethical Investment Policy
James Turner, Chair of the Representative Body, introduced a motion to divest Church assets from fossil fuels by the end of the year.
The motion called for members to adopt a revision to the Ethical Investment Policy so that no investments would be made in any company deriving more than 5% of its turnover from the production or the extraction of fossil fuels. The revision had been approved by the RB last March.
“The RB was clear that limiting its investment was not only the right thing to do but something it wanted to do,” he said. The investment portfolio was well diversified and monitored by fund managers well versed in handling ethical strategies.
The motion was seconded by the Bishop of St Davids, chair of the Ethical Investment Group.
Mr Turner explained that a five percent limit was more practical than a zero limit as it was not always possible to see through to individual holdings in some companies and would prevent exposure.
The motion was carried with a significant majority.
St Padarn’s Institute annual report
A ‘good mix’ of people were now receiving training for ministry, said Archbishop John, proposing the motion to note the annual report of St Padarn’s Institute, the training arm of the Church.
He said he was impressed by the range of people from different ages, backgrounds and places across the province. He was also impressed by the wide variety of lay ministries emerging and encouraged by positive comments about the Theology For Life course.
Presenting the report, the Revd Professor Jeremy Duff, Principal of St Padarn’s, admitted it had been a challenging year but they had taken “two steps forward for every one back”.
He highlighted six themes from the report:
- Formation in community for mission – this, he said, remained core;
- Priority of evangelism – helping people have confidence in speaking about their faith;
- Continued investment in youth and children’s work, where some expertise had already been developed;
- Accessibility and diversity – careful investment in change was needed but progress was being made;
- Securing post graduate validation with Durham University – investing in scholarship and research;
- Mood and passion – despite a tough year, the Institute remained passionate for the growth of the Church.
“Fundamentally we are ready and eager to support and get behind the developing new visions for mission and ministries emerging from the diocese and bishops, such as responding to climate change,” said Prof Duff. “We take our lead from the will of the Church, particularly the bishops, and look forward to contributing to the new directions emerging from our Church.”
Seconding, the Bishop of Monmouth, Cherry Vann, expressed concern about the age profile of candidates training for ministry. “The percentages suggest an older Church which may not be attractive to younger families,” she said. “That is a concern for us all.”
With less than one percent of the population of Wales attending a place of worship, there was, she said, a degree of urgency about strengthening pioneering ministry and ministry with young people and families.
“This is a task for the whole Church – to provide opportunities for the faithful to grow in their faith so they can articulate and share their faith – something we haven’t always been very good at,” said Bishop Cherry, welcoming the resources on discipleship.
While there were few people offering themselves for formal ministry, there were some exciting ministries for lay people, she added. “This is a cause for rejoicing. How we build on it will be something we will attend to as bishops and vocation leaders.”
The Revd Peter Lewis (Llandaff), a vocations officer, was concerned some of the courses available for lay people were not accessible to those with limited education.
Prof Duff admitted that the vast majority of people engaged on them were highly educated. “It’s a complex issue,” he said. “Our courses are designed to be accessible but the issue is how confident people are coming forward to access them. We need to work with parishes on that to help people take the step into the unknown to work closer to empower people to feel comfortable to engage.”
The motion was passed.
Three questions were submitted and answered. You can read the questions and the responses here: GB Questions and Answers April 2021 (Word)
Members split into online groups for a discussion on the future of the Church in a post pandemic world.
Notes taken by each group were collected and a summary will be prepared for the next meeting.
Presentation from Diocese of Llandaff
2020 had originally been earmarked as the Year of Pilgrimage for Llandaff Diocese, said the Bishop of Llandaff, June Osborne. While much had had to be cancelled as the pandemic forced people to stay at home and not gather with others, the year had indeed turned out to be about pilgrimage, albeit a quite unexpected one.
“In preparing for the year, the diocesan clergy had gone on a pilgrimage together to Santiago de Compostela. Some said it was lavish but I wanted us to be together in a place where prayer had long been valued. The sense we gained there of being companions on a road together has been with us since then. 2020 was still a Year of Pilgrimage and we found ourselves on an untrodden road. God was teaching us how to tell his story and build for good.”
Part of the journey involved learning to communicate in a new way. Bishop June had met 700 members of Parochial Church Councils over Zoom as the senior team accelerated the shift to Ministry Areas. It was hoped to have 29 Ministry Areas in place by next January.
With a vision strapline of Where Faith Matters, the three ambitions were: a greater engagement with evangelism for young people, creating confident lay Christians and lay leadership and community engagement.
Matt Batten, Director of Communications and Engagement, outlined how the diocese was focusing on “telling a joyful story”.
“A lot has changed, but the message remains the same: proclaim the Gospel, make fishes of people. That is always at the heart of our comms strategy. There are more opportunities now to share the good news and we make the most of every one.”
Outreach, he said, was the “bread and butter” of the Church and the diocese was about to recruit an Outreach Director.
“We couldn’t do any of this without the right culture in the diocese,” said Matt. “We are allowed to innovate and try things differently – we have a culture of trust and we are seeing a wonderful transformation.”
Mike Lawley, chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance praised the quality of lay people coming forward as leaders. His comments were echoed by Mike Plaut, former chair of CBI Wales and member of the Greater Chapter of Llandaff Cathedral. “The Church is ideally placed to make a difference to the wider society,” he said, urging people not to sit on the sidelines but to get involved, perhaps in politics, and “offer hope and encouragement”.
Another prominent lay member, Jane Hutt MS, also emphasized the need for church members to be at the heart of their communities, citing the example of churches coming together in Penally to help at the refugee camp.
The Archdeacon of Llandaff, Peggy Jackson, said the diocese’s success was down to strong collaborative ministry with confident lay leadership. “That’s the biggest change and it has given us the momentum to carry it through. Those who were uncertain now feel they are part of something bigger – the rest of us are going ahead and that has helped bring those together who may have lost their nerve.”
Private Member’s Motion on charity status
A motion to allow Parochial Church Councils to change their charity status was brought by the Archdeacon of Margam, Mike Komor, to address concerns of personal liability.
There was concern, he said, about the size and complexity of what PCCs would become with the move to Ministry Areas. The motion would allow them to register as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
The motion was seconded by Tony Mullins (Llandaff) but after questions by members was withdrawn by Archdeacon Mike for further consideration by the Standing Committee.
Times and Seasons (part 3)
The third instalment of the Church’s new Times and Seasons liturgy was warmly welcomed by members.
Times and Seasons (part 3) covers the ‘Salvation cycle’ of the Church’s year, from Trinity Sunday to the Kingdom season.
However, introducing the new work the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, asked for it to be not just welcomed but applied in mission.
“This motion invites us to see our liturgy as something which is done in a missional way that seeks to bring blessing to the people of God and the nation of Wales,” he said. “Our worship should be about encounter and not performance,” he said. “It should be animating, giving life to the worship of God.”
Paying tribute to the work of SLAC – the Standing Liturgical Advisory Committee – and recommending an explanatory paper by one of its members, the Revd Catherine Haynes about connections between liturgy and mission, Bishop Gregory said, “We don’t want to produce books of lovely resources that are just hidden on the shelf. We want to assist worship which is creative, bold, welcoming, assisting our common witness to the people of Wales.”
Supporting the motion, Canon Mark Preece, chair of SLAC, said Times and Seasons offered additional material to enrich and enliven worship, while maintaining the Anglican tradition of the very best use of language.
“This liturgy takes us through Ordinary Time, the ‘green’ season. But there is nothing ordinary about these resources. They cover key festivals, such as All Saints-tide, All Souls, Remembrance Day to the glorious climax of the feast of Christ the King…. We hope these resources will enhance our worship, helping us see familiar things with fresh eyes and in a different light.”
Archbishop John thanked the Commission for its work on the series over the years. The link between liturgy and mission was “absolutely key” he said. However he warned there were implications for training.
“The best crafted liturgy in the hands of a poor practitioner is a blunt instrument and will achieve little purpose. Training people to conduct worship well needs to be a high priority to ensure it is as good and effective as it can be.”
However, the Archdeacon for New Church Communities Mones Farah (St Davids), warned more liturgy was “just making the straitjacket bigger”. He called for a liturgical “skeleton” that clergy could flesh out, adding that “Christianese” language was a barrier for many. “We need to think beyond the 2.5pc of churchgoers to the 97pc not in church and language matters. We are not a post-Christian age but a post-Christendom age – we need more informality, more freedom and more ability to trust the local leadership.”
The Revd Miriam Beecroft (Bangor) urged people to embrace the new material creatively to engage those coming into church. “People are not just eavesdropping in on online services – we have a lot of regular members in church eavesdropping and not engaging too – I find that a challenge,” she said. There needed to be seasonal variety in the congregational responses of new liturgy too, she said.
Thanking members for their responses, Bishop Gregory highlighted a liturgical roadshow planned for next year to help train people. He also said the next instalment of the series, part four, would focus on a creation cycle to tie in with environmental issues.
The motion was overwhelming passed.
Private Member’s Motion on a Year of Biblical Literacy
A year of social isolation due to the pandemic had created a spiritual, as well as a mental, health crisis, said the Revd Naomi Starkey presenting a motion calling for 2022 to be a Year of Biblical Literacy. For many, the past year had been a time of just holding on, a wilderness time, she said.
“Now is the time to re-emerge from any spiritual bubbles into which we have retreated.”
Central to being confident as a Christian was being Biblically literate, said Naomi. “It is all part of our story – the DNA of every Christian. We need a firm grasp of scholarship but we also need confidence to tell our story. We can’t cherry pick our favourites and limit it to a little book of blessed thoughts. We need to know all of it, including the messy and incomprehensible bits. We need to move beyond a Sunday School image of the Bible.”
Biblical literacy was not so much about knowing chunks of the Bible off by heart, she said, but about “what it means to live as a Christian in a changing culture, not being afraid of asking why and having a quiet confidence that the hope we have in Christ is one we can offer to those around us. It’s a story our nation needs to hear now more than ever.”
Seconding the motion, the Revd Kevin Ellis said he was alarmed at people’s lack of understanding of the Bible. “How can we tell the story if we don’t know it?” he asked. “Biblical literacy is at a low ebb. The danger is that in general terms the church has forgotten its story. Let’s start afresh and relearn and retell the story.”
Archbishop John said he supported the motion with “all my heart, mind and soul”. “We must understand our scriptures,” he said. “They are a lamp for our feet and a light to our path – we ignore them at our peril.”
Helen Franklin (Bangor) agreed there was still a huge need to teach people their faith – just as the Mystery plays had done in Medieval times. “It is part of our social language but no one knows the original story,” she said. “We need to treasure it by its use and being thoroughly known and understood.”
The motion was passed overwhelmingly.
Faithful Stewards in a Changing Church Report
Clergy today are in a bit of a crisis, said the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, introducing a motion to receive a report on ordained ministry.
The growth in lay leadership and ministry in the Church, particularly with the creation of Ministry Areas run by teams, had led to questions about the vocation of clergy in today’s Church, he said.
Five years ago, the Bench asked the Doctrinal Commission to examine the role of the three orders of ordained ministry – deacons, priests and bishops. The result was a collection of essays in the report, Faithful Stewards in a Changing Church: Understanding Ordained Ministry in the light of the 2020 Vision.
“The Commission has done an excellent piece of work for us,” said Bishop Gregory. “What you see is but the tip of the iceberg – they have chosen just a selection of their work to present to us.
“We are committed to shared ministry, to a symphony of lay and ordained ministries, working alongside each other. What does the future look like? Where is God leading us? What do we want the future to look like? These are the questions the report looks at.”
Bishop Gregory warned the motion was an easy one to pass, but a harder one to live by, as it called for members not just to receive the report but to study it.
“Vote only if you are prepared to work at the understanding of the ministry of the Church, to think about what it is we ask from our ordained ministry, if you are prepared to engage with this report and commend it with personal experience,” he said.
Canon Dr Mark Clavier, chair of the Doctrinal Commission, presented the report. Its aim, he said, was to take stock of where we were and discern where God might be leading us in the future. “We hope this report will encourage conversations and thinking that will allow us collectively to go intelligently and faithfully into whatever the future offers for us,” he said.
“This isn’t the easiest time to be a minister - it’s no easy work that Christ has given us. As you read, debate and discuss we hope you will find it inspires, renews and strengthens your ministry, your vocation.”
Seconding the motion, the Bishop of Monmouth, Cherry Vann, commended it as a “rich resource for prayerful reflection for the whole people of God, not just clerics”. The essays, she said, came to live when discussed with others.
The Archdeacon of Llandaff, Peggy Jackson, was particularly delighted by the report’s chapters on ministering in a Welsh context. “It’s unique to Wales and wonderfully helpful,” she said.
The Revd Chancellor Pam Powell (St Asaph) said it was “refreshing to see a horizontal view of ministry rather than a hierarchical one”. People, she said, were discerned together and trained together and, as a result, come out with an understanding of each other’s roles.
The motion was carried.
A series of online films and interactive Q&As sessions with authors of the report’s essays, are taking place over the coming months. There is also a study guide for groups. Find out more at https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/en/faith/doctrinal-commission/
Archbishop John paid tribute to the Archdeacon of Llandaff, Peggy Jackson, who was retiring after 12 years serving in the Church in Wales. She had been best known as one of the champions of women’s ministry, he said, thanking her and wishing her well.
Archdeacon Peggy said she had been privileged to be part of the Church “at a most exciting period with women coming into the episcopate and the Church changing a great deal, all for the good.” The highlights had been at the Governing Body, she said, “sharing in the debates and feeling we are contributing to the future of the church.”
The Church was on track to be more inclusive, better organised and equipped and more focused on outreach, said the Archbishop in his final address to members,
While acknowledging there was still much to be done, Archbishop John, who retires on May 2, gave thanks for progress that had been made.
Archbishop John said he had been “immensely grateful” and “privileged” to have served in the Church for most of his life and on the Governing Body for more than 40 years - as a layman, a deacon, a priest, a bishop and, for the past four years, as Archbishop.
Referring to a vision for the Church set out at the time of its disestablishment more than 100 years ago by Lord Justice Bankes who helped frame its first Constitution, Archbishop John said that, while there had been failures, there was also a “joyful sense” of the vision being revived.
He said, “None of us ever know whether our words, our actions, our images have encouraged or awakened a single soul let alone a whole church. But as I now come to the end of this address at this, my final meeting of the Governing Body, I give thanks for so much that is beginning to seem more possible, even more probable, as set out in John Bankes’s vision for our part of Christ’s church here in Wales.”
You can read Archbishop John’s full address here:
Retirement of the Archbishop
The Archbishop of Canterbury joined the meeting to pay tribute to Archbishop John and to thank him for his contribution to the Anglican Communion, particularly as a member of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council.
“I have really enjoyed working with him and have been grateful for the number of gifts he has brought to the Church,” he said. “I am grateful for his legal skills, for speaking for parts of the Communion whose voice is not always heard and for making us listen.”
Archbishop Justin said he was very sorry the pandemic had prevented his visit to Wales last year to mark the centenary of the Church in Wales. He would miss Archbishop John “as a friend and as someone you can ring up and chew over things with”.
In his tribute, the chief executive, Simon Lloyd, pointed out that Archbishop John had served on Governing Body for nearly 40 years – in turn as a co-opted lay representative, a deacon, priest, bishop and Archbishop.
“It is rare, possibly unprecedented, for the President of the GB to have served on it in all three orders. And similarly rare for someone to clock up nearly 40 years’ service,” he said. “Archbishop, as you retire, the GB will lose the benefit of your deep knowledge of its proceedings, your humour, your wisdom and, of course, your anecdotes.”
Mr Lloyd said Archbishop John’s attention to staff at the Provincial Office was valued and appreciated. “We will miss you enormously but the main thing I want to say this afternoon is thank you. Thank you, as its lay secretary, on behalf of the Governing Body, thank you, on behalf of the RB and its staff and thank you, as me, for all we have done together, for your leadership, your support. And your friendship.”
The Bishop of Bangor, Andy John, travelled to Brecon Cathedral for an outside broadcast of the meeting to present Archbishop John with gifts on behalf of the bishops and the Governing Body. These included a specially commissioned painting of the chancel of the cathedral.
Bishop Andy paid tribute to the Archbishop’s work as Bishop of Swansea and Brecon and to his national role as Archbishop of Wales. He also thanked Archbishop John’s family – his wife, Jo, daughter Kate and son Christopher.
“Being a public figure, a leader in community can be demanding even relentless. And when the times have been their busiest and the challenges most pressing, you are the ones who will have felt not only the pinch of time but seen the costs to the man you love,” he said.
Bishop Andy said all his colleagues owed Archbishop John a debt of gratitude. “As colleagues, especially in the loss of most of the centenary celebrations, we have been conscious that you have needed to hold a space which has been challenging. In this time, you have been the steady, pretty unflappable leader we knew you would be. But into the mix it has been your personal warmth, wit, superb story telling ability and your huge positivity – personal traits, that have been perhaps most needed and most important. We owe you a debt of gratitude for standing in the gap and for that the Church in Wales is profoundly grateful.”
Responding, Archbishop John thanked colleagues past and present, provincial staff and all the Governing Body members. He ended his final meeting with a prayer and a blessing.
Arrangements for worship were made by the Archdeacon of St Davids, Paul Mackness, who coordinated arrangements on behalf of the worship co-ordinator, Fr John Connell, who was not able to be present.
- The Archdeacon of Margam, Mike Komor, led the opening prayers on Wednesday.
- Evening Prayer was led by Canon Marianne Osborne.
- Morning Prayer on Thursday was led by Canon Dylan Williams.
Representatives from Cytûn and other Churches were welcomed to the Governing Body:
- Canon Aled Edwards - Chief Executive Officer, Cytûn & the Covenanted Churches in Wales
- Peredur Griffiths - Faith and Witness Enabler, Cytûn & the Covenanted Churches in Wales
- The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley, Chair of the Wales Synod of the Methodist Church
- The Revd Mark Fairweather Tall, Regional Minister, South Wales Baptist Association
The next meeting of the Governing Body will take place on September 6-8.