In its report to the Standing Committee in July this year, the Implementation Group looked at a number of issues on which recommendations had been made by the Harries Review but which had not hitherto been dealt with and asked the Standing Committee for a steer on how to handle them. Among them was – yes you’ve guessed – the thorny question of an Archiepiscopal See. The Harries Review recommended that the Archiepiscopal See be permanently designated in the Diocese of Llandaff (Recommendation 27) and that the Diocese of Llandaff should have an area bishop with a legally delegated area of pastoral responsibility (Recommendation 28).
In other words, the Archbishop should be the Diocesan of Llandaff but that an area bishop for Llandaff should carry out most diocesan functions, along the Canterbury/Dover model.
The Implementation Group had put these recommendations into category C – the lowest of its three priority categories, I suspect because the Church had tried and failed to resolve the location of the archbishop on several occasions in the past and the model suggested by the Harries review had not commended itself to the dioceses in the fairly recent past. Moreover the Church could not handle all the Harries recommendations at once and quite rightly ministry areas were seen as the priority.
The question of an Archiepiscopal See has been the subject of several reviews and GB motions in the past, none of which have resulted in a change to the status quo. In 1980, the Commission on Boundaries and Structures of the Church in Wales recommended that Brecon be the location of the Archbishop as part of a collegiate diocese of Swansea & Brecon, with the western part of the diocese of Llandaff becoming part of the diocese of Swansea & Brecon. There would be two bishops, one in Swansea & one in Brecon – the Archbishop looking after what is now the Archdeaconry of Brecon and the Bishop of Swansea, who would look after the Episcopal area centred on Swansea.
That same Boundary Report also recommended the creation of one See for North Wales, combining the present dioceses of St Asaph and Bangor, again with a College of Bishops and the eventual amalgamation of the dioceses of Llandaff and Monmouth, again with a College of Bishops.
All that was radical thinking in the 1980’s and since it affected the vested interests of nearly every diocese, not surprisingly it was turned down by them before it even got to the GB. In this context it is worth noting that what that report (chaired by Professor Chris Harries) was recommending, was the same kind of things for bishops and dioceses that the later Richard Harries report was recommending for parishes – a collegiate method of working. In other words, in every diocese, there should be more than one bishop, each with a distinct area of jurisdiction but forming a single unit for administration – just as in ministry areas each individual cleric would have a specific area for pastoral care but take responsibility with others for a ministry area. This meant moving away from the concept of one bishop one diocese to two or three bishops in every diocese, working closely together in partnership as far as the administration of the diocese as a whole was concerned, but each having pastoral jurisdiction over a particular area.
The theological reasoning of that 1980 report bears re-reading and I’ll come back to it in due course.
In 1992, another Working Group was set up under the chairmanship of the then Bishop of Bangor, Bishop Cledan. I was a member of it and it recommended Llandaff as the permanent Metropolitical See, with the archbishop as diocesan but an elected assistant bishop of Llandaff. The Bill to make that a reality failed. In 2007, a Working Group recommended an archbishop without any diocesan responsibilities, that is a full time archbishop as in Canada or the United States, although they call them “Presiding Bishops”.
The Bench, after receiving this report, expressed theological and ecclesiological concerns about a free-floating archbishop and so the Working Group produced a further report in 2008. Again the archbishop was to be based in Cardiff and was to be the diocesan of Llandaff but there was to be an elected suffragan who would de facto be the bishop of Llandaff. The archbishop as bishop of Llandaff would delegate most of his responsibilities to this elected suffragan.
That solution was discussed in the dioceses but again it did not find favour. The Diocese of Llandaff was in favour of the principle of having the archbishop in Cardiff but not of that particular model. The Archdeaconry of Carmarthen and the Diocese of St Asaph were broadly in favour but the scheme did not commend itself to the other dioceses. The result of that negativity was that it was not brought to the GB.
It was decided, however, that we needed a discussion at the Governing Body about Episcopal ministry and we had that discussion a few years ago. The issue, of course, will not go away and the present Standing Committee now feels it is right to test the present thinking of the dioceses on this issue. By coincidence, I intended speaking on it in my presidential address and the Standing Committee hopes that this may help the discussion in the dioceses. I am not holding my breath!!
So where to start? Let me first of all try to say something about the role and function of an archbishop in Wales as opposed to that of a diocesan bishop. Having said that, it has to be remembered that there is no separate ordination service for an archbishop. He does not belong to a separate order of ministry but to the Order of Bishops. The difference is one of role not of order.
The archbishop, as the Primate of the Province, has metropolitical powers. He can hold archiepiscopal visitations in dioceses other than his own, although no archbishop has, in practice, done so since disestablishment. He has jurisdiction over other dioceses when they have no bishop and he presides over Episcopal ordinations. He is the president at Electoral Colleges and Sacred Synods to elect and to confirm the election of bishops. If there are issues in dioceses concerning their bishops, the archbishop is involved in the discussions and any disciplinary complaints about bishops come to him in the first instance.
I will now speak about his role under eight headings.
- The archbishop presides over the Governing Body. In addition to presiding at meetings of the GB, twice annually, he has the responsibility for setting the agenda for GB meetings, with advice from the Standing Committee of which he is a member, and he chairs the Business Sub Committee.
- He chairs the Bench of Bishops four times a year for two or three days at a time. He is also the Chair of the Provincial Board of Nomination.
- He is the only Episcopal member of the Representative Body which meets three times a year and is therefore the formal link between the RB and the Bench of Bishops.
- There are other ex-officio roles, for example; Chairman of Madame Brigitte Bevan’s Charity; Member of the Powis Exhibition Fund and Trustee of the Ecumenical and Independent Pantyfedwen Trust which gives grants to churches.
- He has regular meetings with key provincial staff especially the Provincial Secretary and the Archbishop’s own Communications & Press Officer.
- There are also a large number of duties related to the archbishop’s position as Primate.
- The archbishop is often consulted by Episcopal colleagues and is invariably a member of occasional working groups dealing with subjects of particular significance to the Province – e.g the Representative Body Review Group, appointment of the new Provincial Secretary.
- The Archbishop is the first port of call and often the church’s spokesperson for the national media when religious, ethical and moral issues arise.
- Organisations that may not necessarily understand the church’s structure will look first to the archbishop in seeking to engage with the Church in Wales and this might include liaison with Government at a local, national or UK level.
- The Archbishop is often invited to preach at
- 7. significant national and institutional events e.g. opening of a new Assembly, the Queen’s Jubilee, the National Eisteddfod, 50th anniversary of the Health Service etc or to give lectures and he is the person to welcome and provide hospitality for visitors from other provinces when they come to Wales.
- He can be asked by parishes in other dioceses and by dioceses themselves to preach on special occasions.
- In addition, the archbishop has formal responsibilities within Anglican Communion structures.
- Primates meet once every twelve to eighteen months. They will meet next in January 2016.
- That could lead to being elected to the Primates Standing Committee and therefore to automatic membership of the Anglican Consultative Council. I served on both bodies for nine years as well as serving on the Communion’s Finance Committee for the same length of time.
- Any archbishop can be asked, as I was by the Archbishop of Canterbury to undertake work in the Communion. I was a member of the Windsor Commission; helped appoint the last Secretary General of the Communion and several officers in the Communion Office; was a member of a group Chaired by the Archbishop which give grants to provinces; and asked by the Primates Standing Committee to be their representative on the appointment of the current Archbishop of Canterbury.
- The archbishop attends the Primates meeting of the Porvoo Communion every two years.
- There are other duties and obligations because the archbishop is often invited to become patron of local and national organisations and it is up to the archbishop to decide which ones to accept and the degree of involvement. I am the patron or trustee of about fifty organisations at the minute and have been the Chair of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, Cymru Yfory – dealing with Welsh devolution, and I chaired a Shelter Commission on Homelessness and am still the Pro Chancellor of the University of Wales. Some of these functions will, of course, depend on the interests and personality of whoever is archbishop.
But 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.
Let me try and put this in context. The Anglican church exists for the greater good of society as a whole. 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.
The 2007 report on the Archiepiscopal See put it like this:
“Just as the parochial clergy are not merely chaplains to congregations but seek to minister and carry the good news to the whole community in which they live, so the archbishop should engage with Welsh society in its wider sense on behalf of the church”. True, the Church in Wales is not an established church and we cannot and indeed ought not to claim any privileges. But it is a church that needs proactive and effective engagement with issues in Wales and although other bishops and other people within all the churches are involved in this engagement, whoever is archbishop has to show that he or she models the theological and gospel priorities and imperatives to take the needs of the people and organisations of Wales seriously. Again, as the 2007 report points out “When the media and other organisations seek to engage with Christian churches of Wales, they most often turn to the archbishop because it is more difficult to turn to Christian denominations with more diffuse traditions of leadership”.
Now for all that to happen, the archbishop needs time to think, to pray, to read and to reflect. So why not have a full time archbishop? The two provinces, America and Canada, which have full time primates have large sprawling provinces, one with over a 100 bishops, the other with over 40 but that is not true of Wales. The Primate of Canada is wistful about the fact that he has no practical involvement in the life of a diocese. Moreover, any archbishop is first and foremost a bishop and the task of a bishop is to ordain, confirm and pastor. He is not the chief executive of the church but a Father in God and I believe he or she needs a distinctive area of jurisdiction and pastoral care which he can call his own. So I rule out a full time post, as the bishops ruled it out in 2007 on theological and ecclesiological grounds. If the archbishop had no particular area for which he was responsible, it would make him a remote figure and someone not involved in the life of a particular place and people or practically involved in the lives of parishes and clergy. For my part, it would make for an unhappy and unfulfilled archbishop and I suspect that would be true for most bishops as well.
Well you might say why not keep the peripatetic model we have? I do not think that works either. 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. Apart from the first archbishop, George Edwards, I have been archbishop for longer than any other archbishop – 12.5 years. George Edwards the first Archbishop was archbishop for 14 years and became archbishop at the age of 74 – so perhaps not one to imitate.
Archbishop Glyn Simon of Llandaff spoke about the pastoral and administrative heaviness of the post, as did Archbishop Gwilym of Bangor in his last presidential address to that diocese about the difficulties of being the archbishop from a Northern diocese. G O Williams bought a flat in Cardiff with the intention of spending some time each month there for his work as Archbishop. Diocesan commitments and travel from Bangor to Cardiff militated against this. He said in 1983 “Unless Archbishops are appointed at a younger age, are fit to continue to work a 14 hour day and remain robust enough in body and spirit for all the hard thinking and praying that are needed for the exercise of oversight today and are provided with the practical assistance to help them carry out their load – a change will be necessary. It is also difficult for the Archbishop to be located far from the Provincial office” I can empathise with both of those views, since the pastoral work in Llandaff is heavier than in any other diocese simply because of the size of its population and the number of its clergy and if I were archbishop and also bishop of Bangor, I would find myself more often than I do on the A470 and the role would be much more difficult to fulfil and I would be torn by the two roles more than I am at present.
Archbishop George, the bishop of St Davids, retired before he intended because of the workload and said as much and Archbishop Alwyn, based at St Asaph, was obviously not well in his later years.
The archbishop also needs to be located permanently in one place so that there is continuity of structure, administration, officers and records. My successor will be chosen from one of the existing diocesan bishops. As things stand, it will necessitate making accommodation available in that diocese for an assistant bishop because no archbishop as long as he is also a diocesancan exist without one, a chaplain and it usually involves building an extension to the bishop’s house. We’ve done that to two bishops’ houses already for that reason.
So no full time archbishop or the present peripatetic model – so why not the model of the archbishop as the diocesan of Llandaff and an elected suffragan who would perform most of the duties? It is certainly not a model that appeals to Llandaff because although the diocese wants the archbishop located in Cardiff, it does not want that model. Being an assistant bishop in Wales, is not an easy role for the person concerned. I could not have existed without either of the assistants I’ve had. When I tried for the first eighteen months to do so, I was totally exhausted. But the assistant bishop is a bishop with delegated authority and only acts with the authority of the diocesan and however much he asks the assistant to do and I have asked a lot, it all depends, in the end, on the archbishop. Moreover rightly or wrongly people sometimes want their diocesan and an assistant bishop can sometimes be made to feel as if he was an inferior kind of bishop.
The largest diocese of the Church in Wales in terms of population and number of clergy does not want a suffragan bishop, even if that bishop is elected to carry out most of the diocesan’s duties. An elected suffragan might not, of course, be like the present assistant bishop who is not a member of the Bench although he comes to its meetings, does not vote with the Order of Bishops, nor given an automatic place in the councils of the church. That could be rectified through constitutional reform.
But the diocese of Llandaff has a further objection. I was translated from Bangor to Llandaff as diocesan bishop. I only became archbishop 4 years later when Archbishop Rowan was appointed to Canterbury. If Llandaff was to become the permanent archiepiscopal see, with the archbishop as the diocesan of Llandaff, then the diocese of Llandaff feels that it would not have much choice in electing its diocesan because the chances are he would be chosen from among the existing bishops and therefore the diocesan and archbishop would be in practice chosen from the existing 6 bishops. (In reality 5 since a new bishop would probably not be elected archbishop immediately). Nor would it necessarily work for the archbishop either. He would have delegated most of his duties to an area bishop, as Canterbury does to the Bishop of Dover, but the Archbishop of Canterbury lives 60 miles from Canterbury, not on the doorstep, as the Archbishop of Wales would and the Archbishop of Canterbury has a large province and the Anglican Communion to care for.
I have said what I think are some of the problems of the present system as someone who has carried out the role. What the Provincial Standing Committee wants to know however is whether dioceses are willing to re-open the question in principle of having a permanent archiepiscopal see without committing themselves to any particular model. So what is being asked for is a general request for support to reopen the issue. I hope dioceses will agree to that. What I intend doing in the rest of this presidential address is to put forward where I stand on the issue. It is not in any way the official view of the Church in Wales or the Standing Committee but is a model that could be examined alongside all the other models for consideration.
For my part then I do not support the appointment of a full time archbishop; or of the present peripatetic model for the reasons I have already given. By the way 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. I no longer support the idea of the archbishop as diocesan bishop of Llandaff, with an elected area bishop to carry out the duties, either for reasons I have already given.
Let me then tentatively put forward a different model in the hope that it will not put off dioceses discussing the principle of an archiepiscopal see. I start from the premise that the archbishop needs to be located in Cardiff. 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; all other church leaders are based in Cardiff, as is the Provincial office, as is the archbishop’s communications and press officer. For meetings in Cathedral Road or Cardiff Bay, or seeing the Provincial Secretary or his own Press Officer, the archbishop is easily at hand.
The diocese of Llandaff should have two, possibly three bishops and possibly in the future, though that is not part of what I am advocating now, be linked with the diocese of Monmouth. It would be one diocese with two or three bishops, each bishop being a bishop in the full sense of that term with each bishop having his or her own territorial jurisdiction but with the bishops as a college administering the diocese in partnership. It would make sense for the archbishop to have the Llandaff and Cardiff Deaneries as the sphere of his Episcopal jurisdiction and he or she would be elected to that post as archbishop. Then another bishop or bishops, again with the status (if that is the right word) of present diocesans would be elected to other areas of the diocese and together the two or three of them would form a College to administer and oversee the administrative unit we call the diocese, with one of the other bishops, chairing the committees and councils of the diocese. There would be no need on this model for the archbishop to have an assistant since his or her Episcopal area would be small. He or she would also have more time for engagement with both the wider church and wider society.
So, there would be two or three bishops of equal status, not area bishops with delegated authority, or suffragan bishops to the archbishop but a collegial diocese. It would be a single unit for the purposes of administration, parish share, clerical power but having two or three bishops each with their own particular area of Episcopal jurisdiction and pastoral care. If one were to extend the model province-wide, one could reduce the number of dioceses whilst maintaining or slightly increasing the number of Episcopal jurisdictions to ensure a proper degree of pastoral care. We are back, in a sense, to 1980 and also to what Archbishop Glyn Simon proposed. It would be easy to make a start in Llandaff with two bishops each having equal authority, without causing too much upheaval or much constitutional alteration. The Electoral Colleges for the archbishop and bishop of Llandaff would be exactly the same as now. It would also mean that with the archbishop exercising Episcopal jurisdiction over just two deaneries, there would be no clash as there might be between an archbishop from elsewhere coming to do things in Cardiff in someone else’s Episcopal area as there have been in the past when the archbishop was not based in Cardiff. That gives the archbishop an area of pastoral concern and care, roots him or her in the life of the church, frees that person from running a large diocese such as Llandaff , especially since the work of a bishop has increased incredibly over the years. Relentless was the word used by one of my fellow bishops in describing his work recently. I also speak as somebody who has been a bishop for 22.5 years. Instant communication, new legislation on safeguarding, charity laws, and HR processes, necessary as they all are have increased the workload of all bishops. 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.
Nor is this a new pattern of episcopacy but the recovery of a more primitive one. When St Paul founded churches, he always entrusted them to two or three people and in the early church, there was never a single presbyter bishop but two or three of them working together. Single bishops or monarchical bishops were a later development in the history of the church.
I commend this to you for consideration. 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. In some respects as bishop of Llandaff and archbishop, I have obscured the problem because I have been able to do things as bishop and archbishop because I live in Cardiff. Yet the juggling of two demanding roles has not been easy and I confess that work has virtually taken over my life. That is not a model to be emulated. The model I have put forward is different from more recent ones but it is not new. It has been proposed before in Wales and returns to a far earlier model of what it means to be a bishop. I hope at least it will give you cause for thought and not put off dioceses from even discussing the issue again – because that is the crucial point – the need at least for dioceses to realise that there is a problem testified to by 5 archbishops out of the 12 since disestablishment – and to be willing to talk about the principle of where to locate him and how to use him.