The Archbishop of Wales today (Sept 17) urged church members to put reform of the office of Archbishop back onto the agenda for the benefit of his successors.
Dr Barry Morgan, who has served as Archbishop of Wales for the past 12 years, warned that increasing demands on the job put the current model at breaking point and he appealed to the church to reconsider alternatives for his successors.
At the moment, the Archbishop is elected from among the diocesan bishops and, once elected, also remains bishop of that diocese, based in that diocese. That means the Archbishop is doing two jobs – leading the Church and running a particular diocese – and doesn’t have a permanent see. Several efforts at reforming the office have been made over the years but none have yet been accepted. A recent independent review of the church, however, recommended creating a permanent see for the Archbishop and that recommendation has brought the issue back onto the agenda.
In his Presidential address to members of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, Dr Morgan highlighted the cost on the individual of the existing peripatetic model. He said, “In 1920, with only four dioceses and a more leisurely pace of life, that was fine, but four of my eleven predecessors have said that this model is at breaking point or have found the post very demanding for different reasons. I add my voice to that chorus.
“Now when five of the twelve archbishops of Wales have said to the church that this model is hard to sustain, the church needs to take that seriously…. I realise the argument about giving every diocese its moment of glory, if that’s what it is by having the archbishop as bishop, but I ask you to consider the cost to the holder of the office as some of my predecessors have highlighted.”
Dr Morgan outlined the full scope of the Archbishop’s role, which included duties not just within the Church in Wales and the Anglican Communion but also in the wider society. That included preaching at events of national significance, acting as a church spokesperson for the media and liaising with Government at a local, national or UK level. Dr Morgan pointed out that he was currently patron or trustee of about 50 organisations. The public role, he said, had increased rapidly over recent years and so too had the administration involved in running a diocese.
He said, “Whoever the archbishop is, that person is seen as the ‘symbolic head’ of the Church in Wales and viewed as the church’s chief representative by many organisations and institutions.
“Just as a parish priest is concerned, not just with internal narrow parochial affairs but the community in which the parish is set, so too the archbishop ought to have a concern, not just for the structures and internal affairs of the Church in Wales but for the wider society in which the church is set and therefore a concern for a whole range of issues which confront our nation and world because it is God’s world and God has a concern for everything that happens in it.”
Cardiff, said Dr Morgan, was the most convenient location for the Archbishop to live as it was where the Church’s main office was based as well as all other church leaders and was the home of the Welsh Government. He said, “I know that Cardiff is not Wales but neither is Brecon, St Davids, Aberystwyth or Bangor. Cardiff seems to be the obvious location to place the archbishop (and don’t forget I speak as a former bishop of Bangor), since that will cut down a great deal of travelling.”
Dr Morgan proposed at least two bishops for Llandaff each with their own Episcopal area with the archbishop having one of those areas.
He said, “A small Episcopal area would enable the archbishop to fulfil his duties as archbishop and enable him to be a pastor and bishop. His fellow bishop would have jurisdiction in his own right over the rest of the diocese and would chair most if not all of its councils and committees. It also models at diocesan level what we are advocating in our dioceses and province as a whole – ministry areas with teams of people working together.”
Urging members to consider the proposal, Dr Morgan stressed its importance. He said, “I have no axe to grind because none of this will affect me but I do have a concern for the workload of whoever succeeds me.”
The Governing Body of the Church in Wales is meeting on September 16-17 at the University of Wales Trinity St David, Lampeter.
Agenda and Papers