Highlights – November 2020
In a year in which the Church in Wales should have been celebrating its centenary, history was made in an unexpected way. Lockdown restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the Governing Body meeting took place online for the first time and passed its first legislation via a Zoom webinar.
The transition from a physical to a virtual meeting wasn’t entirely smooth. It hadn’t been possible for the first meeting of the year, in April, at the start of lockdown, which had to be cancelled altogether and business postponed. Then it was necessary to amend the Constitution to authorise online meetings and their standing orders. That required a special in-person meeting to take place of a quorum of members with just a limited number of items on the agenda. The meeting was held on September 8 and was live-streamed for all members to watch.
With the Constitution duly amended, the Governing Body attempted its first online meeting the following morning. Unfortunately, a variety of technical issues meant the meeting had to be adjourned shortly after the Presidential Address and a new date set for November 3-4. The meeting, which was for essential business only, took place successfully over three sessions. It was live-streamed and the recordings, with a brief summary of each session, follow.
From live-streamed services to digital coffee mornings, lockdown had spurred churches onto new and exciting ways to offer ministry, said the Archbishop of Wales in his Presidential Address.
Archbishop John Davies said the pandemic had brought unexpected opportunities and churches were emerging with a fresh spirit and a “can do” attitude, particularly in relation to digital ministry. He urged all churches to embrace change, to “trust and to try”.
He said, “We have been in touch with thousands of people whom we might not otherwise encounter; we have touched their minds, hearts and lives, and in different ways we have revealed a church that is capable of walking alongside them, welcoming them and teaching them. This is newness and this must last.”
Archbishop John said lockdown had also brought a greater sense of unity and purpose in the church. He announced the set-up of a new strategy body, called the Archbishop’s Consultation Group, to coordinate and plan for the future.
- Read the full text here: Presidential Address (Word)
The meeting resumed on November 3.
The votes for new co-opted members of the Governing Body were held via email. The results were announced as follows:
- Unbeneficed cleric: Revd Dr Sarah Rogers
- Lay persons: Geraint Hopkins and Heather Temple-Williams
- Under 30s: Grace Lomas
Archbishop John gave a short homily in which he urged people to press on “strongly, courageously and faithfully” to renewal. “There is no going back to some imagined golden age,” he said. “We must be committed to moving on, even if the times are challenging.”
Standing Committee reports
The recommendations in all the Standing Committee reports, including the Governance and Legal Matters reports from April and September 2020, were all moved.
Two Bills were brought to the meeting both seeking to amend Chapter 1X of the Church’s Constitution in relation to the Disciplinary Tribunal.
The first concerned the membership of the Tribunal Panels and the preliminary stage of the Tribunal. This Bill had come to the Governing Body in September 2019 but had been referred back for further drafting work.
The second concerned safeguarding, making it a disciplinary offence to fail to comply with specific advice from the Independent Provincial Safeguarding Panel without a reasonable excuse. An attempt to amend this Bill’s provisions in relation to suspension was made, but the amendment was not allowed by the Chairman on the grounds that it should have been proposed at the select committee stage.
Both Bills were passed by a clear two-thirds majority in each order and immediately become part of the law of the Church in Wales.
St Padarn’s Institute report
The Principal, the Revd Prof Jeremy Duff, presented the first annual report of St Padarn’s Institute. He stressed that the report had been prepared for the Governing Body’s April meeting, covering the academic year from 2018-19. A new report would be presented next April.
The Bishop of St Davids welcomed the report and praised its quality, saying it was easy to read and informative.
The motion that the report be noted was carried.
Three questions were submitted for the meeting.
The first, from the Revd Jonathon Wright (Swansea and Brecon) concerned partnering with the Church of England on its engaging seasonal campaigns. Responding, the Bishop of Bangor said moves were underway towards that end. He also highlighted the Church in Wales’ Advent campaign, Darkness Into Light. Digital media provided, he said, a “huge opportunity to engage with those either outside church life or on the fringes”.
The second, from the Revd Phil Bettinson (St Asaph) was about financial assistance provided for ordinands. It was answered by the Principal of St Padarn’s Institute, the Revd Prof Jeremy Duff who said a review of funding for training was underway which was “substantially simpler and more transparent, and better fits modern families”.
In the third question, from Justine Ryland (Llandaff), asked for an update from the Bench on provision for same-sex relationships. Responding, the Archbishop said the bishops were preparing draft legislation to permit the blessing, in church, of the union of couples in committed same-sex relationships which had been solemnised in the civil context – either via a civil partnership or civil marriage. It was anticipated that a Bill would come to the Governing Body in September 2021. The Archbishop also said preparatory work was being undertaken by the Standing Doctrinal Committee to provide the theological landscape for a future debate on equal marriage.
Representative Body report
A great deal of work had been done this year to support the dioceses during the Covid emergency, said James Turner, chair of the Representative Body.
The cost of ministry had been substantially supported for the first two quarters of the year and a new online facility for Gift Direct had been launched on the Provincial website to encourage people to give electronically.
Mr Turner warned that the financial impact of the pandemic would continue to be felt into the future with investments set to decline. Future spending and priorities for the RB’s assets were being carefully though and every item of expenditure was being reviewed starting form a base of zero.
A more joined-up strategy for the Church’s priorities began in February with a joint meeting of the Standing Committee, the RB and the Bench. It was, said Mr Turner, a “fruitful and beneficial meeting” aimed at ensuring financial resources followed strategic vision. A second meeting had to be cancelled in May but would take place next year.
Meanwhile, changes had been agreed to the ethical investment policy to divest from companies that derive more than five per cent of turnover from fossil fuels. This was expected to be brought before Governing Body for endorsement in April.
Sir Paul Silk seconded the report and, after some discussion, the motion that the report be approved was carried unanimously.
Private Member's Motion
The Archbishop proposed a motion to allow the current chair of the Representative Body, James Turner, to stay in post until his 76th birthday due to the Covid crisis. “We are very grateful to the captain for agreeing to stay on the bridge during these choppy waters,” he said. He stressed that the change would not be a permanent change to the Constitution, saying, “This is a measure that will apply in this one particular circumstance and is prompted entirely by the COVID-19 situation in which we find ourselves.”
The motion was carried.
The Church’s safeguarding policy needed to be reviewed regularly as safeguarding was a very important issue, said Archbishop John as he proposed a motion to adopt the new policy for the whole church.
The policy was written partly in response to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). It separated policy from details of guidance and procedures and had the full support of the People Committee, the Standing Committee and the trustees.
“This motion calls on us to adopt the policy for the whole church – it is not to be modified outside of a provincial framework. That is what IICSA demands of us.”
The Archbishop added, “We owe it to all who comes to church to offer proper accountability.”
The motion was seconded by James Turner.
Elizabeth Thomas (St Davids), said she had had 25 years of working with the perpetrators of abuse. She warned, “You have to think the unthinkable – it never fails to amaze you what one person can do to another. Many people find what they are being told hard to believe.”
Perpetrators were very clever, she said. “One of the first things they did was to go off to a church because they thought people would be kind to them. We have to be very alert.”
Good communication and training were raised as key factors in the success of the policy.
The motion was carried.
That the Governing Body:
- Recognise the importance of promoting safer practice for children and adults at risk within our churches and communities and the work undertaken by the Provincial Safeguarding casework, policy development and training teams;
- Adopt the Church in Wales Safeguarding Policy 2020 as the Safeguarding Policy for the whole of the Church in Wales; and
- Remit the Policy to all Diocese and Ministry / Mission areas for adoption and implementation.
Bishop of Monmouth, Cherry Vann, focused on the age profiles of clerics as she presented the Ministry Statistics report.
There was, she said, a marked difference in those under 46-years-old and those over. There were 89 active clerics under 46 and 468 over.
While the report was almost two-years-old now, as the figures were to the end of 2018, it did reveal some trends which would make useful starting points for discussion in each diocese, she said. She also highlighted the steady decline in the number of Licenced Lay Ministers saying it raised questions about their role. The Bench, she said, was discussing those questions with the directors of ministry.
The Revd Miriam Beecroft (Bangor) asked what strategy was in place for ministry post-2020.
“I don’t think any of us are under any illusions about the challenges ahead,” Bishop Cherry responded. “But I sense a desire for ministry areas that are served by both ordained and lay ministers and a real commitment to ordained, licensed and commissioned lay people as well. We do need another plan looking forward for the next 5-10 years at least.”
The motion to note the statistics set out in the report was carried.
More than £83,000 was distributed in 2019 to those in need by the Widows, Orphans and Dependants Society, said the Archdeacon of St Asaph, Andy Grimwood, presenting its annual report.
“That money makes a significant difference to the recipients’ finances and makes their lives a little bit easier,” he said. He encouraged anyone who wanted to donate to contact Louise Davies, Head of Finance, for further details (Louisedavies@churchinwales.org.uk).
The motion to take note of the report was carried unanimously.
University of Wales Trinity Saint David report
This was an inspiring report that clearly showed the University had a real vision, not just to provide education but to inspire and transform its community, said the Bishop of St Davids, Joanna Penberthy, proposing the motion to receive the report. She also praised its commitment to being a Living Wage employer.
The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, said the Church was very proud of its link with the University but he would like to see a report more tailored to the Church.
“How do they encourage faith communities, chaplaincy?” he suggested. “Could we here from students on how they see spirituality operating in the life of the university? Engage with us more directly on things which we would like to learn about.”
The Revd Dr Emma Whittick, chaplain at the University’s Carmarthen and Lampeter campuses, spoke of a new project for interns to work as evangelists on the campus.
The motion that the report be received was carried.
Overseas Mission Fund report
Presenting the report, Archbishop John said £20,000 had been given over the past three years to a variety of beneficiaries – from medical training for a doctor in Uganda to re-equipping a theology school in Beirut, after an explosion. “Whatever is given is always hugely appreciated,” he said. “It demonstrates the compassion and kindness of church to other places.”
The motion to note the report was carried unanimously.
Archbishop John paid tribute to Lister Tonge, who retired as Dean of Newport this year. He highlighted his interest in modern slavery and work as a trustee of the Clewer Initiative. He also paid tribute to Lister’s leadership of the re-ordering of Newport Cathedral. “It took considerable courage and the transformation has been remarkable,” the Archbishop said.
The Archbishop also thanked Lis Perkins, who was standing down as Chair of the Standing Committee after serving for four years. She will remain a member of Governing Body.
Governing Body will next meet on April 14-15 2021.
The Governing Body Worship Coordinator Fr John Connell led members in opening prayers in September, and on the resumption of the meeting on 3 November.
Evening Prayer was led by the Reverend Dr Adrian Morgan, and the following morning Fr John led Morning Prayer to open the second day of the meeting. Membesr of the Governing Body read the lessons.