Highlights - September 2021
For the first time in two years, Governing Body members were able to meet in person for the first day of their September meeting.
The relaxing of the COVID pandemic restrictions meant a face-to-face meeting was now possible in order for members to discuss a significant Bill. The meeting was held at a new venue for the Governing Body, the International Convention Centre Wales, in Newport, on September 6.
The second day of the meeting took place back online on September 8, allowing a day in between for members to travel home. The meeting on both days was live streamed and you can watch the recordings below, together with a short summary of each agenda item.
September 6 2021
- September 6 - Session One
- September 6 - Session Two
- September 6 - Session Three
- September 6 - Session Four and Five
September 8 2021
September 6 - Session One
A moment of reflection
The Senior Bishop, the Bishop of Bangor, Andy John, led the meeting as President. He began by asking members to remember those who had died or suffered as a result of the Covid pandemic.
He also paid tribute to the Ven Sue Pinnington, MBE, Archdeacon of the Gwent Valleys since 2018, who died suddenly in July at her home.
A collection was announced for the charity Open Doors to support Christians persecuted across the world. Members who wished to contribute were invited to make a bank transfer to the Representative Body’s Bank account where the collection would be collated.
The funds will be transferred in October, and any gifts received later will be passed on then.
The Covid pandemic had changed the “landscape of life” and raised questions about what was essential in a way hardly seen before, said Bishop Andy in his Presidential Address.
He urged the Church to look for God in the changing world and respond to new challenges.
The impact of Covid on the economy and our national well-being had been profound, he said. He thanked all those who had cared for others in nursing and care homes and hospitals, and praised churches for being “light on their feet”, discovering new, online ways of being church and finding innovative ways to serve the community.
External events had always shaped Christian purpose, he said, stressing, “What is significant has never been the size of the challenge but the scale of the faithful response.”
Bishop Andy, who is also the Bishop of Bangor, warned that organisations failing to adapt to changes ran the risk of “fossilization”. He said, “Being incapable of responding to new challenges means a lack of freedom to discover what God is doing all around us. We can imagine what kind of church we would have been had our forebears remained ambivalent about slavery and not developed a fuller understanding of the value of humanity made in the image of God. Or what would we have been had we not grasped the matter of women being called to the priesthood and episcopate?”
Addressing members concerned about a Bill being debated at the Governing Body meeting to authorise a service of blessing for same-sex partnerships, Bishop Andy acknowledged a change would be painful for those who regarded it a departure from Christ’s word.
He said, “But every development is to some degree a departure; something changes whenever there is a new expression of practice. And even when such a change appears consonant with a stated position, it is nevertheless a change. When the church changed its position on forbidding meat with blood in it or saw that slavery in all and any form was wicked, there was change.
“The ‘authority of the eternal yesterday’ must not be a millstone around our necks but provide a basis for a courageous embrace of what God is doing in the world around us. Mission always lies at the heart of faith. And being alive to God, to what might happen next, is part of remaining curious and open to new opportunity.”
The Bishops, he said, were in the process of addressing deep issues of the future of the Church – both its structure and mission – to ensure it was mission focused and fit for purpose.
He praised the Church in Wales’ transformation of its traditional parish system into Ministry and Mission Areas. The new platforms kept what was good about parishes while also allowing new expressions of church to be embraced, he said.
“As diverse expressions of church become more normal, there will be new questions still about how we grow vocations - to the priesthood, and also lay leaders who will offer the support and direction needed. But we ought to be in no doubt that the hybrid, mixed ecology (or economy) of church life is here to stay and is across the whole of Wales.”
Urging members to look for God through the changes happening around them, Bishop Andy concluded, “To see our task like this is to be open to what God has prepared for those who love him. It is to see the task through Christ’s eyes and to be set free to do what is truly important.”
September 6 - Session Two
Life Events Resources
Building bridges between churches and those who come to them at pivotal times in their lives, is the aim of a new suite of resources being rolled out in Wales this autumn.
Canon Dr Sandra Millar, head of Life Events at the Church of England, returned to the Governing Body to present her team’s latest research on the impact that events such as baptisms, marriages and funerals could have on people’s faith journeys.
“Over the year we meet more people through life events than come to church at Christmas,” said Dr Millar, who estimated that across the Church in Wales we had contact with about 860,000 people through life events each year. “For many people it is the first opportunity they have had to come into a church and meet God.”
The challenge was not just to minister to these people but also to make them disciples, she said. “This is a journey from mission to discipleship – make them part of the story of the kingdom of God.”
The Revd Chris Burr, tutor in ministerial studies at St Padarn’s Institute, introduced the new range of resources, which are available in English and Welsh. These included invitations to the reading of a wedding couple’s banns, prayer cards in the pews and even prayer fridge magnets. Video resources and online help were also “a window for the unchurched on who we are and what we stand for”.
Mr Burr hoped resources would be welcomed by churches, and that they would help to inspire new ways to build on the work already taking place. Life events had to be “at the very heart of ministry and mission”, he said.
September 6 - Session Three
Bill to authorise a service of blessing for same-sex partnerships
A Bill, deemed as not “non-controversial” was introduced by the Bishops to authorise a service of blessing for same-sex couples in a civil partnership or marriage.
A raft of amendments, largely typographical, were tabled by the Select Committee, as well as three from GB members. Standing orders were suspended to enable the GB to sit as a committee, presided over by His Hon Judge Andrew Keyser QC. Most of the amendments were carried swiftly.
However, Judge Keyser fired “a shot across the bows” of the Revd Dr Jonathon Wright (S&B), who submitted an amendment that touched on a fundamental part of the Bill. Dr Wright wanted to have it delayed until it could be considered holistically as part of the Church’s doctrine on marriage, and introduced with same-sex marriage at some future date.
Judge Keyser said that he had been inclined to take dismiss the amendment because it undermined the basic purpose of the Bill, but he allowed restricted debate.
The Bishop of Monmouth, Cherry Vann, said that it would be “a huge missional and pastoral opportunity lost for yet another generation. . . The cry will go up, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’”
The Revd Richard Wood (Bangor) felt the amendment would strengthen the Bill. “Today we are going to damage and scare people in the church whichever way the vote goes. If we are going to do that we should do it once and for the best reason…. The amendment encourages us to bring the main question before us – a question we must address sooner rather than later.”
The Revd Phil Bettinson (St Asaph) felt enough time had already been spend discussing the issue. He said, “How much time is more time? I’ve been here for 10 years, we have been discussing it for 10 years. How much longer do we have to wait? How many more people do we need to lose while this amendment keeps us sitting on our hands? Let’s vote against it and get on with the Bill.”
Jonathan Sadler (co-opted) suggested same-sex couples might feel they were being “sold short” by the “half measure” Bill. It would offend them, as well as those against same-sex partnerships, he warned.
Archdeacon Mones Farah (St Davids) was also concerned about the Bill being a half way measure. “It worries me when we do something step-by-step, when the destination isn’t actually agreed as yet….. A half way measure is not good for anyone, people always feel cheated,” he said.
Canon Steven Kirk (co-opted Llandaff) asked GB to reject the amendment. “If you accept this amendment, the church says, ‘We believe that God won’t bless couples now but he might sometime in the future’,” he said.
The amendment was lost by 77 votes to 27, with no abstentions.
September 6 - Session Four and Five
The main debate on the Bill followed and was proposed by the Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron.
While conscious that some members saw the Bill as a departure from Biblical teaching and the historic faith of the Church, he asked if members would be “bold enough to take a decision in favour of faithful love and mercy, which will bring hope and joy?”
“I do not wish to deny anyone here their convictions and faithful discipleship, but I do want us to permit as well the views and convictions of others,” he said, outlining the reasons for his own conviction.
“I believe that this step has to be taken because I am seeking to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, to love as he loved, and to meet the aspirations of those in committed relationships, just as strong, if not stronger, than many heterosexual marriages.”
While believing the Bible was the word of God, Bishop Gregory said he had learned to read it contextually. “Not every verse can command uncritical obedience from me….Isn’t it time to apply contextual thinking to the Bible on sex, as we nearly all do on matters like divorce and food and money and crime?”
Seconding the Bill, the Bishop of Llandaff, June Osborne, said the Bench had a single mind on the rightness of this pastoral provision. In her view, the Anglican Communion had spent four decades wrestling with the issue of same-sex relationships and had long accepted that each Province had to work out its own salvation on the matter. “No-one will do it for us,” she warned.
Bishop June warned of failing to see the individuals behind the issue. “We do a terrible injustice to the sanctity, and particularly the triumph of human relationships, if we treat same sex relationships as a type, or reduce these partnerships to simply discussing what happens in the bedroom,” she said.
She highlighted three responsibilities: a duty to apologetics, to argue for and commend the faith; a duty to evangelism; and an obligation to mission.
“Sometimes we talk about it as the ‘secular spirit of the age’ but I thank God for the passion of those who have broken down the walls that have long divided and who invite all round the same table, in one great Babette’s feast,” she said.
The debate attracted 31 speakers, many of whom spoke passionately.
Canon Steven Kirk (Llandaff) pleaded for no one who looks to the Church for comfort to be rejected. “35 years ago I was afraid of the Church, not of God, but of the Church, of being rejected, of being found out. I do hope we have moved on and want a generous and open Church that expresses the love of Jesus Christ for all people,” he said.
Jacob Martin (co-opted) suggested a link between falling numbers and a move away from traditional teaching in the Church. “The argument is that we are out of step with Wales but is the proposed Bill the correct response?” he asked. “People are crying out for the Church to be the Church again, more like it always has been. It has declined when its message has been covered over and lost.”
The Revd Andrea Jones (St Asaph) had blessed cats, dogs, hamsters, and even a snake. Trident submarines had been blessed, she said; but two people married according to the law of the land were prevented from receiving a blessing.
The Church’s stance on same-sex marriage was a “yet another barrier to young people”, said Daniel Starkey (Bangor). “We can’t expect people to change who they are.”
Helen Franklin (Bangor) said welcoming people was important but so was challenging them. “Jesus challenged people to deny self, take up the cross and follow him. We can’t simply do what we want. There may be times when we can’t have everything, for the sake of our health and for the health of the church. We may not yet be in a place where we can offer the welcome we want.”
Melody Lewis (St Asaph) said her faith was “intertwined with apologies” that made her ashamed. “We are constantly apologising for the Church’s attitude – to slavery, to women, to same-sex couples. But the foundation of faith is love…it’s not the faith that needs to apologise, the faith is loving. This Bill is a step towards an apology and equality.”
The Archdeacon of St Asaph, Andy Grimwood (St Asaph), was concerned for the unity of the Anglican Communion. If the Bill was passed, it would be “throwing away 400 years of traditional orthodox teaching based on scripture”. He feared it would also push people out of the Church.
“I am proud of the clergy of Wales,” he said. “They have given their lives to serve God and they are finding the goalposts are being moved. I am concerned for those lay volunteers, who give up their time freely, using their talents for the service of Christ, I am concerned clergy, lay people church communities, who in all good conscience can’t work with this innovation, will leave and growth will disappear.”
He noted the conscience clause, and asked that it be made permanent for both clergy and laity.
The Revd Matthew Davis (Monmouth) admitted he would have objected to the Bill a few years’ ago but not any more. “Having encountered the living Christ in my LGBT brothers and sisters in church I saw in them the fruits of the spirit – faithfulness, self control and kindness… These people shared with me their lives, hurts, loves and in some cases their brutal rejection by the faith that they held so dear. ..My view was no longer compatible to the believes that I held about what it was to follow Jesus. I needed to repent and hopefully I have done that.”
Hannah Burch (Llandaff) said she spoke as a gay woman in a committed relationship with a bisexual woman. “Our faith is hugely important to us and we are deeply called to the Anglican church – it is a church we love and to which we are committed. We have a rich prayer life. I have no idea of the calling on your lives but for me I am called to my relationship to Ruth and my experience of our relationship is that it is good and life giving.”
Headteacher Ian Loynd (Monmouth) shared views of his young LGBT pupils. “I can’t go to church where people are nice to my face but don’t want me to be me,” said one.
The Revd Adrian Morgan (co-opted) felt more time was needed for a proper debate on the issue. “If we are going to say ‘yes’ our ‘yes’ must be yes, wholeheartedly. Take a breath, use the structures of the church to have a good and robust debate, to hear more of the voices we have heard today and in greater detail and then to come to a decision - a decision made when people have been heard and valued,” he said.
Responding to the debate was the “most difficult job” he had ever been given, said Bishop Gregory.
He apologised to members of the Evangelical Fellowship who thought he had misrepresented or condemned their views. He had no intention of “rubbishing” their thinking, theology or ministry.
“But I have to tell you, I don’t agree with some of the views put forward this afternoon, and what I find particularly hard is when people tell me the Bible can only be read in a way which is hostile to gay and lesbian relationships; because that is not my conviction. And I refuse to be told that because I’ve come to a conviction about reading scripture in the way that I do, I am “unorthodox”…. I have no wish to belittle or undermine your understanding of faith. But I’m afraid I have to ask you to allow me to have mine.”
Bishop Gregory said churches grew when they invited people in, not cut them off. “Yes, there are shining examples of evangelical growth in my diocese and in the Province and I give thanks to God for them. But you’re succeeding not because of your boundaries, but because of the depth of your watering holes.”
Christ, said Bishop Gregory, compelled him to stand “with the vulnerable and with the oppressed, and to offer them liberation and hope”.
“I will not betray them, not for any price, not in this world or the next, because I believe that is the will of Christ.”
He concluded, “Dear friends who are committed to a particular understanding of the Bible, you will always be welcome in the Church in Wales and we will learn so much from you. But not I’m afraid at the price of betraying my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. If they want to seek God’s blessing, I will not forbid them and I urge you to vote for this bill.”
The Bill was passed in all three orders.
Laity: 49 for, 10 against, one abstention
Clergy: 28 for 12 against, two abstentions
Bishops: four for, none against, no abstentions
This was the last GB meeting for Canon Carol Wardman who was retiring as the Bishops’ Advisor for Church and Society after 10 years in the role. During that time Carol had advised on many issues in the public square, including climate change and modern slavery. She had coordinated the environment group, CHASE and the Global Issues Forum, and had also worked closely with Welsh Government. Thanking her for her work, Bishop Andy said her presence as a priest had been particularly appreciated by her colleagues in the Provincial office. “You have been a marvellous colleague and we are indebted to you,” he said.
Responding, Carol said it had been an “enormous privilege” to work in the Church and thanked her colleagues. “I hope the Church continues to poke its nose into public affairs,” she said. “We know that is where God is concerned.”
September 8 - Session One
Standing Committee Report
The recommendations in both the Standing Committee reports were all approved.
These included the election of Dr Siȃn Miller and Dr Heather Payne as chair and vice-chair of the Committee for the remainder of the triennium; and the co-option of Sir Paul Silk to the Committee to ensure close ties between the Governance Reform Working Group and the Standing Committee.
Another Joint Meeting of the Standing Committee and Representative Body will be held on Monday 11 October in Venue Cymru, Llandudno.
The Committee received a report on safeguarding and will receive regular reports from the new Safeguarding Committee.
Standing Committee Report on Legal and Governance Matters
The GB approved the Report, which included the following:
Bill for Liturgical Variation
The Standing Committee published a Bill to authorise and regulate minor variations to Authorised Liturgies. The submission date for members to propose amendments is 23 October 2021.
Governance Reform Working Group recommendations
The Standing Committee received a report from the Governance Reform Working Group (GRWG), which made a number of recommendations to amend the Constitution.
These included changes to the Archbishop’s Electoral College. Firstly, a change to the instigation of the Archbishop’s electoral college, from the enthronement of the Bishop of the vacant diocese to the sacred synod, and to clarify the relevant date of electors eligibility to participate in an electoral college. Secondly, an amendment to allow more flexibility for the location of the Archbishop’s electoral college, if necessitated by Covid-19.
Diocese benefitted from an extra £6.2m from the Representative Body to help them respond to the COVID pandemic, said James Turner, in his final report as chair of the RB before his retirement in the autumn.
With the Block Grant also set at £6.2m, that meant total funding to dioceses in 2020 was £12.4m. The RB had recognised the need of the dioceses and had responded responsibly, said Mr Turner.
That additional funding meant the RB incurred a net loss of £9.4m
Mr Turner highlighted the RB’s plans for funding cathedrals which would hopefully be approved for implementation in the coming year.
And after nearly nine years as chair of the RB, Mr Turner also announced who would take over when he retired in November.
Professor Medwin Hughes, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), was, he said a “man of enormous ability”.
“Medwin’s career accomplishments are very impressive indeed and just summarising them here would do him a disservice. Suffice it to say he is a man of enormous ability and with a wealth of professional experience that will be tremendously useful to both the RB and the Church in Wales more generally.”
Passing on the baton, Mr Turner warned that membership of the RB was not for the faint-hearted. He said, “I wish Medwin all the very best and assure him of my prayers as he takes on this extremely interesting role, which I’m sure he will enjoy very much. I would also like to thank all the members of the RB and its committees with whom I’ve served – being a member of the RB is not for the faint-hearted and their commitment and diligence over the years has been much appreciated. I have also enjoyed the support and wisdom of many members of staff and I extend my thanks to all of them.”
Tributes also flowed to Mr Turner for his achievements during his tenure as chair. Dr Heather Payne, who chaired the motion, thanked him for his leadership.
“We offer our considerable thanks to James for being a fantastic servant to the church over the years. He is both flexible and a real problem solver. Inside he is a burning Christian and has been a fabulous leader, focused on the work of the Lord Jesus,” she said.
The Senior Bishop, Andy John, said, “As chair of the RB, James is automatically – ex-officio – a member of the Governing Body, so he has been a key figure in the governance of the church for many years, and we all have much to be grateful to him for. Prior to his becoming chair of the RB James was chair of the DBF in St. Asaph, has served on many Electoral Colleges as well as being part of a number of other working groups. James’s commitment to the Church in Wales at local, diocesan and provincial levels has been hugely significant and is much, much appreciated……All of the Governing Body will wish to join me as we say thank you to James, and to wish him a very happy retirement.”
The motion to accept the report was carried overwhelmingly.
September 8 - Session Two
Climate Emergency Motion
A year of severe floods, wildfires, drought and record-breaking temperatures meant the Governing Body’s declaration of a climate emergency was a timely and challenging as ever, said the Revd Rebecca Stevens (Monmouth) presenting an update on the action plan to reach net zero carbon by 2030.
She began by focusing minds with a calculation. By meeting online today the Governing Body had produced just 1% of the carbon emissions they had produced by travelling to meet in person for the first day of the meeting on Monday.
Since the April meeting, the Climate Change Champion, Julia Edwards, had taken up her post and was engaging with others to raise awareness of the commitment. The Representative Body’s environmental policy had also been approved so the zero carbon target would be embedded in all its work.
People could now contact the Climate Change Champion with suggestions or comments directly via a ‘Call to Action’ button on the Climate Change page of the Provincial website.
“The challenge now is for us to continue to publicise widely our growing eco- and low-carbon activities so that we can all be inspired by one another. Local eco-projects also enable congregations to reach out in mission to their wider community.”
Members heard a presentation from a young activist Ayub Khan, a student from Crickhowell who was about to study law and politics at university.
He was, he said, “not an angry activist but a disappointed one”.
“I am disappointed with my own actions, saddened by the lack of effort demonstrated by domestic and foreign governments, and the failure of my elders to regard the reality of climate change. Climate change is not a myth, or, a fairytale, nor is it, fiction, but fact and truth. It is undeniably, the biggest threat we face.”
The phrase “global warming” was deceptive, he said. “It doesn’t necessarily sound menacing, threatening or ominous. In fact, to us Brits, shivering on our chilly lonesome island, it sounds rather appealing. …. it doesn’t identify the actualities as our unique, precious and marvellous globe warms.”
Ayub outlined the alarming statistics global warming signified. The climate crisis was both the “most straightforward and complicated issue humanity has ever faced”.
“Straightforward, because we know and understand what we must do to limit the imminent and long-term repercussions of our negligence….Complicated and problematic because modern economic systems revolve around the profitable schemes of institutions who rely on burning tonnes of fossil fuels, and thereby damaging ecosystems in order to create uninterrupted economic growth.”
Ayub appealed for people to be led by scientific data and their faith that they were custodians of God’s creation. He also challenged them to think what their own legacy would be.
“As global citizens we must unite in the single, self-less goal, to create a future worth living in. Let your legacy be left in the security and well-being of our planet.”
Many members spoke in response to the presentation, raising practical issues for churches, such as more use of public transport and electric vehicles to planting trees and protecting green spaces.
The Revd Nigel Doyle (S&B) suggested solar energy and ground source heating could become an income stream for many of our buildings.
Bishop Andy John (Bangor) called for a campaign with other charities to help bring down the cost of making major changes to historical buildings.
The Revd Peter Lewis (Llandaff) pointed out a mission opportunity. “We need to be looking at how we can bless our people to see how they are being called to change the community around them. It’s a great opportunity to see God’s spirit grow within us.”
The Revd Adrian Morgan (co-opted S&B) called for a proper conversation about the sustainability of our buildings. He said he had recently preached at a church where the incumbent was responsible for 20 churches and was travelling hundreds of miles between them. “Our faith is invested in bricks and mortar,” he said.
Lis Perkins (Bangor) reminded members of the environmental importance of buying Fair Trade products. It was, she said, one easy way to make a difference.
All the comments were noted, said Ms Stevens in response as she thanked the contributors.
September 8 - Session Three
A Year of Biblical Literacy
The aim of the Year of Biblical Literacy was to commit to a better understanding of our own faith, said the Bishop of Bangor, Andy John, presenting an update on plans for next year’s event on behalf of the Provincial Evangelism, Church Growth and Pioneer Network.
He invited churches to engage with new teaching resources, skill sets and digital platforms, such as podcasts. Three areas, he said, where there could be quick gains to celebrate our faith in different ways.
One idea for teaching was for churches to focus on the Gospel of Luke each Sunday as an aid to understanding the Jesus story. Another was commissioning material dealing with the “Nice Bits”, the “Scary Bits” and the “Hard Bits” of the Bible.
Developing skill sets could include reclaiming the art of story-telling, using drama or simple narration. This could also be done digitally so “people hear a compelling podcast to make scripture real and living”, said Bishop Andy.
Bishop Gregory called for an IKEA-style handbook to build ready-made courses. “We need to make the year so easy to execute that it would be harder to ignore it than participate in it,” he said.
Archdeacon Paul Mackness (St Davids) suggested other Bible ‘bits’ to include, such as the obscure, the weird and the bizarre bits.
The Revd Naomi Starkey (Bangor) who first proposed the Year of Biblical Literacy, said the earlier debate on same-sex blessings highlighted to her the increasing importance of Biblical literacy. “We must do as much as we can to disciple our people so that when big issues come along we have some ground work done,” she said.
Helen Wilcox (Bangor) feared the terms for the Bible ‘bits’ was “infantilising our approach to scripture”. “It’s a reductive series of terms which is insulting to those using the resources,” she said.
The Revd Jon Price (Bangor) agreed that the time was right for a Year of Biblical Literacy. “Very often the threshold for knowledge is quite low so we need to do work around that to help people grow in their faith. Secondly, never has the world needed more to hear the good news that is contained in the Bible so we need a church that is capable of communicating that news to bring people to life-changing encounters with God through what they hear.”
Responding, Bishop Andy said new resources were not needed as a there were plenty online, bilingual and digital. He invited people to fit materials into their own context.
“Our aim is to give people skills, rather than resources, to help them be more adventurous. Doing something DIY in a local context is more successful that doing something pulled down from the shelf.
Mrs Heather Temple-Williams (Llandaff) asked what the dioceses were doing to monitor and equality and inclusion amongst ordained and lay ministries and leadership
The Bishop of Llandaff, June Osborne, responded. While unable to say what was happening across the dioceses, she felt now was a good time for all to revisit our approach to inclusion and diversity.
Following the GB resolution in 2019, an action plan had been adopted and distributed to dioceses. Some had set up working groups to monitor the representation of women. The dioceses had again been consulted this summer and they were expected to include information on their work on other equality and inclusion issues too.
“We will consult and gather further information about the work our dioceses are doing to continue to transform the church into a body that can use the gifts of all its people to the full,” said Bishop June.
Daniel Starkey (Bangor) asked what was being done to tackle the decline in church membership, particularly among young people.
Bishop June said the question was “one of paramount importance to us”. She highlighted the work of the Evangelism Fund, the Provincial Evangelism, Pioneer, and Church Growth Committee and the Youth Specialists Gathering in 2019.
The number of full-time youth, schools and family workers had been increased and the bishops had asked St Padarn’s Institute to provide additional training for those working with children and young people - a programme was due to be rolled out in 2022.
Resource Churches had been opened in both the dioceses of St Asaph and Llandaff which were making impact with the under-30s.
“Attracting new members from across all age groups is our desire and our prayerful ambition,” said Bishop June.
Daniel thanked Bishop June for the response. “I really look forward to seeing how the plans will be brought into action. There is a sense of sadness I get when I come home and there are so few in the congregations of people my age.”
Post pandemic church
Ideas of what the “post pandemic” church should look like, which were discussed in groups at the April meeting, were presented in a plenary session led by Bishop Andy.
A key theme he said was the desire to return to in-person worship, notwithstanding the advantages of online worship. “There is no doubt people have felt what we gain in person is vital. The Church is invited to re-engage with its core purpose – to worship and serve and bless the nation of Wales. We need to be in person to go back to those things.”
Financial challenges were also acknowledged. The pandemic had given the opportunity to ask people to move from loose change on the plate to direct debit giving.
The use of digital media and social media had enabled people to be more creative and the challenge now was to build on that in a way which was people focused.
The millstones, however, the things that made it difficult to serve Christ, needed to be re-thought. “We must be strategic about our buildings and use them differently,” said Bishop Andy.
Bob Evans (Monmouth) called for local diversity in going forward. “Different churches responded differently as their priorities were different,” he said. “That is an important principle we need to keep as we go forward. We have to be careful of standardisation, for example, contactless giving won’t go anywhere in some churches.”
The Revd Adrian Morgan (co-opted S&B) wanted a diocesan strategy on church closures to take the strain off local clergy. He also called for more diverse types of worship and more to appeal to younger people. “A church can hold dear to its old ways while still embracing the new,” he said.
Hannah Burch (Llandaff) warned against pigeon-holing both young or old people. “There is a false dichotomy between traditional worship for older people and new worship for the young,” said Hannah, 31. “Preferences are not always split by age. We must help younger people speak the language of the church and also the church to speak the language of younger people. The church is held and nurtured by the wisdom and richness of those who have been worshipping faithfully for years.”
Andrew Sims (Llandaff) stressed the importance of digital services. “We are still getting several hundred hits a week on our weekly service that we broadcast live,” he said. “It’s a tremendous provision for disabled people, those in hospital, families on holiday who have tuned in from their caravan and tents. I don’t want us to lose sight of how valuable that has been.”
Bishop Andy thanked contributors and said all points would be taken back to the Standing Committee.
Dates of the next meeting
Governing Body will next meet on Wed-Thurs 27-28 April at the ICC Wales venue.