The Provincial Structure
1. The Provincial Structure
The Church in Wales is a province of the Anglican Communion. Whilst much of its work is carried out at a parish and diocesan level, there is a provincial structure which is intended to support the work of the Church at all levels and to carry out certain duties (including the making of policy for the whole Church) that are best dealt with at provincial level. There are three main bodies through which the province operates:
- The Governing Body;
- The Representative Body;
- The Archbishop’s Registry (the Bench of Bishops).
2. The Governing Body
The Governing Body is responsible for decisions that affect the Church’s Faith, Order and Worship. It also has powers to make regulations “for the general management and good government of the Church, and the property and affairs thereof” (from Chapter 1I of the Constitution). The Governing Body is the supreme legislature of the Church in Wales, broadly speaking the Church’s Parliament. It usually meets twice a year to receive reports and make decisions on matters brought before it. These can be as wide ranging as:
- the introduction of new orders of service (e.g. the 2004 order for the Holy Eucharist);
- the decision to admit women to the Priesthood in Wales (made in 1996);
- the passing of a Local Ecumenical Partnerships Bill to allow local churches to set up formal partnerships with other denominations (made in 2005);
- policy statements on ethical or social matters (various).
The Governing Body is made up of three houses (Bishops, Clergy and Laity) and is supported in its work between meetings by its Standing Committee, a Business Sub-committee, an Appointments Sub-committee and a Drafting Sub-committee. To find out more about becoming a member of the Governing Body, and to access further details of past and current Governing Body reports and business, please go to the Governing Body section of the Church in Wales website: http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/structure/govbody
3. The Representative Body
The Representative Body of the Church in Wales (RB) holds assets in trust on behalf of the Archbishop, Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Church in Wales. It has charitable status and has to observe trust and charity law, and as a result of the Charities Act 2006 is required to register with the Charity Commission. Its assets are held for the benefit of the whole Church. The buildings it owns enable church members to meet together for worship and other occasions and provide housing the Church’s clergy. The income from its investments is used to provide grants to support the work of the Church in each diocese, and to pay towards clergy pensions.
The Representative Body works in partnership with the dioceses and parishes where a combination of central expertise and resources with local knowledge and people is the best way of achieving something. A good example of this is the maintenance of church buildings and churchyards: these are owned by the Representative Body and looked after by local parishes. The RB provides help through advice on obtaining grants for repairs, or on compliance with legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act and other health and safety requirements (see Chapter 2 of this Handbook).
The Representative Body – whose membership includes elected members from each diocese – meets three times a year, and once with the Bishops and Diocesan Board of Finance Chairmen and Secretaries. Much of its detailed work is carried out by a number of committees, in areas such as investment, property, and human resources. For more information on the composition of the Representative Body’s membership, and to access the Representative Body’s Annual Report and Accounts, please go to the Representative Body section of the Church in Wales website: http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/structure/repbody
4. The Archbishop’s Registry
The Archbishop’s Registry is the provincial body that supports the work of the Bench of Bishops, that is the six diocesan bishops of the Church in Wales. In addition to the diocesan bishops’ important role as chief pastors in their respective dioceses, they play a leading role in the life of the province. The bishops are all members of the Governing Body, and the Church has given the diocesan bishops particular responsibility for issues of faith, mission and ministry when they meet together as a group, called the Bench of Bishops. For example, the Governing Body can only consider making a change to the Church’s teaching (such as the decision in 1996 to enable women to be ordained as priests in the Church in Wales) if the Bench of Bishops has first considered the matter and is prepared to support it.
The Bench of Bishops meets 4-6 times per year to consider a wide range of issues on behalf of the Church. These might include:
- Plans for using different forms of ministry to carry out the Church’s mission across Wales;
- The Church’s views on different ethical issues as they arise;
- Discussions with other churches in Wales and further afield on areas where the churches can work together for the common good;
- The process for the selection of candidates for ministry and the appointment of clergy to posts within the Church;
- Advising other bodies in the Church (such as the Governing Body and Representative Body) on issues which might have implications for the teaching, mission and ministry of the Church;
- The development of new liturgies.
The Bench of Bishops is supported in this work by the Bishops’ Advisers, a collection of provincial and diocesan officers who provide specialist advice in areas such as education, church and society, communication, inter-church and world mission, stewardship and evangelism. There is a Standing Liturgical Advisory Commission and a Standing Doctrinal Commission which each advise the Bench on their particular areas of expertise.
The Archbishop’s Registry also holds records of Disciplinary Tribunal and Provincial Court judgments, and is responsible for arranging meetings of the Electoral College to elect new diocesan bishops. Further details of the work of the Archbishop’s Registry may be found on the Church in Wales website: http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/structure/bishops