"Radical re-thinking for the Church in Wales" is the main headline in Highlights of the Church in Wales Governing Body September 2012. The highlights can be read here. Described on the Church in Wales website as a 'full round up of news from the Governing Body meeting', it appears to be more of a rubber stamping of the Archbishop's decision making process with only positive comments allowed. I note the absence of any opposition to Dr Morgan's plans under 'Women in the Episcopate'; simply a rehash of the proposals and a dismissive: "After debate, GB agreed through a majority vote for legislation to be drawn up in this way". Just what the doctor ordered!
Introducing the Church in Wales Review Report Lord Harries, the Review Chairman, said: “The parish system is no longer sustainable—we have to radically rethink the way we look at our ministry, and begin with the concept of an area ministry”. I doubt that the average person in the pew has fully grasped the significance of the loss, not just of the parish priest but of the whole concept of the parish system, something that has stood the test of time, as has the traditional concept of priesthood within the church. Wanting the best of both worlds, the bishops have become very adept at insisting that the church should become more relevant to society but where is that relevance when the overseers (managers) take no responsibility for the mess they have created? Further on in Highlights some interesting facts could not be hidden:
+ There is a continuing decline of between 2 and 4% in attendance on Sundays and the major festivals.
Presenting the Membership and Finance Report from which these quotes are taken, Canon Mike Starkey said, "The membership statistics show that we are doing what we have always done with diminishing returns. How can we move forward? “We have a visionary and radical new Report which charts a way forward. But while restructuring is a good thing, that alone will not get us to the core of our problem. We need to ensure that we are renewing the Church, not just re-engineering it.” Concluding his report he pointed to Russell T Davies as a Welsh role model—he renewed a tired classic in Dr Who to make it fresh for new generations, proving it is possible to both satisfy the guardians of tradition and engage with a new constituency.
Secure in their bishoprics there has been no apology for the mess the bishops have created with their 'half-baked initiatives - “So often in the Church we move from one half-baked initiative to another, often at great financial cost with little or no thought at measuring outcomes and the difference we make, and learning lessons for future strategy and work.” - Highlights September 2011. Concluding his Presidential Address, Dr Morgan preceded a self-congratulatory poem with this quote:
"Cardinal Carlo Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan, and said to be the best Pope the Roman Catholic Church never had, in his last interview before his death this month said of his own church, “The church is 200 years behind the times. Why doesn’t it stir? How can we liberate the embers from the ash to reinvigorate the fires of love? Are we afraid? Faith is the foundation of the church – faith, trust, courage”."
"Our culture has aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and our cassocks are pompous," the Cardinal said. "The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change, starting from the Pope and the bishops."
The message is clear.