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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Barry's Rule

  “I’ve always thought that Barry is probably rather more liberal than I am. And I’m a very old-fashioned high churchman – I know he disapproves of that, really.” - Archbishop Rowan Williams

The Gospel according to Barry pretty well sums up everything that has gone wrong in the Church in Wales and in the Church of England for that matter. Liberalism par excellence: gender politics, same sex marriage and of course his obsession with women's ordination but despite his claims, what he preaches is a minority view in the wider church, even in mainstream Anglicanism. In England where WATCH have done all they can to secularise the Anglican Church we have just witnessed the appointment of a new Bishop of Beverley. - (The Bishop of Beverley is a Suffragan Bishop in the Province of York. The Bishop’s role is that of a Provincial Episcopal Visitor, assisting in the pastoral care of those parishes that have petitioned for Extended Episcopal Care under the Act of Synod – the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood.) 

True to his word Archbishop Rowan has kept faith with those who, as a matter of synodical process, find themselves in a minority in the Church of England. He has consistently re-appointed Provincial Episcopal Visitors, bishops who share the same beliefs as those in their charge. In Wales it is a different matter. So far as Archbishop Morgan is concerned he has made it clear that there will be a replacement only over his dead body.

Back in 2008 when he first tried to force through the ordination of women to the episcopate in Wales, Dr Morgan said: "I cannot support any of the proposed amendments to the bill, which call for the appointment of a male bishop with jurisdiction for those who oppose the authority of a woman bishop. To do so, moreover, would be to sanction schism, to threaten the unity of the church" obviously blind to the fact that in ordaining women he has already sanctioned schism in the church abandoning any hope of unity with Rome and the Eastern churches as they move closer together. 

Aping members of Women and the Church he told the Guardian: "In an age when women have broken through the glass ceiling in most professions in Britain, it is strange that they still face discrimination in a church that believes there is "no male or female" in Christ. Women can become judges, surgeons, chief executives and heads of state, but in the Church in Wales - which waited until 1997 to ordain women as priests - they are as yet unable to become bishops". Treating Mother Church as though she were just another secular organisation Dr Morgan falsely accused opponents of discrimination while blatantly discriminating against them in his own church.

Papers have now been published in preparation for the meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales next week (13-14 September). Agenda Item 13 sets out Dr Morgan's new strategy to allow women to be ordained to the episcopate. As foreseen when discussions were initiated at the last meeting, the proposals are clearly intended to enable Dr Morgan to establish the principle of women's ordination to the episcopate before he has to retire. They could not be more explicit. The proposals are based on these statements:

   1. There would appear to be clear and sufficient support for the Bench to bring forward a Bill to enable women to be ordained as bishops. 

   2. There is smaller, but nevertheless significant, support, for some form of pastoral provision for individuals who, in conscience, cannot accept that this step should be taken.

In the event, 'smaller but nevertheless significant support' actually amounted to "65% of the lay members and 51% of clerical members indicated either strong or broad support for provision for individual conscientious opt-out with 16% of the lay members and 11% of the clerical members indicated strong support for such provision". Comparing these percentages (65% and 51%) with the 0.05% of Anglicans the Archbishop represents when he presumes to have an input into the selection of the next Archbishop of Canterbury it would be fair to say that there was overwhelming support for 'pastoral provision for individuals who, in conscience, cannot accept that this step should be taken' but instead what is proposed is a scheme devised to avoid Dr Morgan losing the vote a second time by seeking to ensure that the measure is safely approved in principle leaving any opposition to be dealt with (ie crushed) later.

At the same meeting the Governing Body will be asked to welcome the Report from the Church in Wales Review, Section 5 of which deals with Governance and Decision making. The thrust of this section is that the Governing Body should be making decisions based on the system of synodical government used by other churches in the Anglican Communion resulting in a proper flow of ideas and resolutions from parish or deanery to Diocese and from there to the Governing Body. The current top-down, 'Father knows best' approach results, with the rare exception, in rubber-stamping decisions already taken by a liberal Archbishop who does not take kindly to dissent. The Review panel also made it clear that they do not believe that the present system of elections to the Governing Body results in a true reflection of church opinion. In these circumstances it is absurd to try to force through legislation on such a weighty matter as the ordination of women to the episcopate when true representation is in doubt and governance is not what it should be.

The new proposals are clearly designed to get agreement in principle regardless of the fact that to date, intent to care for all in the church has not been honoured:

    1. The first Bill would deal with the following matters of principle:

Women may be ordained as bishops in the Church in Wales.

There will be a scheme of pastoral provision, to be approved by the Governing Body by means of a second Bill, making provision for those who cannot in conscience accept the ministry of a woman bishop. 

If this first Bill were to be passed and become a Canon, it would not come into force until such a second Bill is approved by the Governing Body and becomes a Canon.

    2. The second Bill would refer to the Canon enabling women to be ordained as bishops. We have purposely suggested that the scheme of pastoral provision be included – presumably as a schedule – in a second Bill in order to give as much confidence as possible to those for whom it provides that their genuinely held views are being taken seriously and that the church is being faithful to its declared intent in 1996. 

It is suggested that the two Canons would come into force on the same day.

In effect, this establishes the principle with minimal risk of losing the measure for a second time due to the Archbishop's intransigence while embarking on the charade of 'making provision for those who cannot in conscience accept the ministry of a woman bishop'. Proposals currently being considered will not provide the pastoral and sacramental oversight of a bishop who shares their views; under Barry's rule 'declared intent' has proved meaningless. If earlier promises can be broken so lightly there can be even less confidence in the new proposals. 

Even if the proposal were accepted, ultimately they may become impossible to honour. Already in England it has been projected that "unless we start growing our congregations now at the rate of three per cent each year, we will decline into near oblivion"  but in Wales congregations are declining at the rate of 5%!  As the church is increasingly feminised and numbers dwindle, it is possible that in a generation there may no male bishop to appoint from the likely two or three remaining before ultimate collapse. Without the security of a bishop who shares their faith enshrined as a Canon there can be no future for traditionalists in the Church in Wales.

The most sensible way forward at this stage is to withdraw the measure pending resolution of the proposals recommended in the Church in Wales Review for improved governance and representation. In the meantime, Barry's rule should come to an end having reached normal retirement age. He should retire gracefully leaving his successor to take the church forward not with the liberal political agenda that has resulted in decline but in faith before it collapses completely.


  1. Merddyn Llewellyn5 September 2012 at 19:10

    This just shows that the Church in Wales is a dotty little province of no importance compared with the whole of Western Christendom.

  2. By 'Divine Permission' democratic Barry does to christian principles, morals and truth, what Uri Geller does to cutlery.