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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Church in Wales Review - Managed decline?

There is something about the Church in Wales Review that reminds me of the days of absent priests and nonconformity in Wales but this is no revival. It is about managed decline. The report reads like a management solution to a secular problem with the phrase 'fit for purpose' being singularly inappropriate in a religious context. This is the nub of the problem. While traditional sacramental devotion can be found in isolated areas, the main thrust of mission in the Church in Wales is to appeal to the uninterested using secular criteria which loses any sense of the mystery that gives people a break from the rigours of modern life. Declining numbers, fewer ordinands, redundant churches all indicate the imminent collapse of a top-heavy system that for too long has had to be supported  by hard-pressed congregations whether or not they agree with the direction in which their church has taken them. The supposed panacea of embracing feminist theology is likely to see its conclusion in the creation of a privileged, priestly few paid for by dwindling congregations singing popular hymns with a few prayers thrown in and an occasional Eucharist, a small step to lay presidency using the feminist argument that a priest has only to say a few more words than a deacon. For those who will not have already departed to join an Ordinariate there must be a point at which congregations realise that without regular sacramental worship they will be better off in a self-supporting chapel. A sort of revival but not for the Church in Wales. 

As indicated in my previous entry the entire Province of the Church in Wales has an Electoral Roll membership of just 57,000 while the average number turning up on a Sunday and keeping the ship afloat in 2010 was only 35,028, down 5% on the previous year. The diocese of Oxford of which the Review Chairman, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, was formerly bishop, has an electoral roll membership of 54,000 managing with three bishops. The Church in Wales with its falling membership has six dioceses (up from the four when the church was disestablished in 1920) and seven bishops! If the Church in Wales were setting up now it is admitted that there would be only three dioceses, a solution offered by many contributors to the review. A nod in that direction is made with the recommendation that the number of administrative areas be cut to three but consideration of reducing the number of dioceses has been kicked into touch. However, even if that were to happen the number of bishops would remain at seven. So congregations will still have to support seven bishops in the manner to which they have become accustomed while many congregations will be left without a regular priest in Ministry Areas concocted to support the church in her death throws. There is no apology from the bishops for the mess in which the Church in Wales finds itself as a result of their mismanagement. Just another scheme to support them, this time to manage terminal decline. One can only wonder what form of 'worship' they will come up with if Recommendation XIV is adopted:
 In each Ministry Area there should be, in addition to traditional 
services, at least one service every week, preferably more, in 
which the form and style of worship is such as will resonate with 
those unfamiliar with church culture. It should be on a day and at 
a time which reflects the pattern of life of those to whom it is 
meant to appeal.  

Any suggestions?

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[ Click HERE to sign the Rev John P Richardson's petition to retain Clause 5 (1) c ]


  1. Any suggestions?

    resign from a church you no longer love?

  2. Sorry Ancient Briton but Lord Harris's suggestions were made to Barry Morgan and the Provincial Finance Board as far back as 1994.They are not new, save only to sufferers of temporary amnesia (Archbishop for one), recent converts, or those who were doing something else at the time.

    Such, it was claimed, were held legally impossible to implement. Having signed the declarations of canonical obedience we were not allowed further explanation.