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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Church in Wales: Code of Practice

Governing Body members vote in favour of ordaining women as bishops       Photo: Church in Wales

The Bill proposed by the bishops of the Church in Wales to enable women to be consecrated as bishops was successfully amended by the  Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven Peggy Jackson, and the Reverend Canon Jenny Wigley. Their amendment substituted a voluntary code of practice for the statutory provisions contained in the bishops' bill. Details can be found here along with the Select Committee's recommendations.

Appendix 2 to the May 2013 Report of the Select Committee includes an Explanatory Note to the Jackson/Wigley amendment (Amendment 3):

Our amendment seeks to reflect the overwhelming view of Governing Body members (as expressed in questionnaire responses in 2012), that:- 
 a) there should be provision for women to be consecrated as bishops in the Church in Wales, 
 b) there should be recognition and provision allowed for those who in individual conscience dissent from this move, 
while also keeping faith with other aims, as expressed:- 
 a) in 2008 – that provisions for conscience should not be included in the body of  formal legislation, 
 b) in 2012 – that legislation should not include structural provision to accommodate dissent.

The resulting vote did reflect "the overwhelming view of Governing Body" which, judging by the "huge cheers" that followed, must have been made up largely of like-minded supporters. By contrast the result of the vote against women bishops in the Church of England last November was received in dignified silence. There were no celebratory outbursts but complaints followed alleging that the Synod vote did not represent the will of the Church. It did but not part of it - the Church of England. Nevertheless a campaign was launched to set aside the rules and fast track legislation which included a process of facilitated discussion and reconciliation. This process should provide a model for the Church in Wales to restore the trust that has been lost.

After the Governing Body vote the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said, “While we, as bishops, welcome the decision that women can now be ordained as bishops in Wales, we recognise that there are some people who do not. We want to make sure that adequate provision is made for them so that they will still feel valued and accepted in the Church and will continue to worship and minister alongside us.  We have been entrusted to draw up a Code of Practice within a year and we are keen to consult as widely as possible with church members in order to reflect their views as best we can.”

The Church in Wales suffers from a lingering problem. Those with conscientious objections to the decision to ordain women no longer "feel accepted and valued within the Church". The lack of trust caused by the decision of the Bench of Bishops not to replace the Provincial Assistant Bishop has to be addressed if "adequate provision" is to have any meaning.

On the face of it the Church in Wales made its position clear in a press release hereAs part of the legislation passed, the Bishops are required to draw up a Code of Practice to ensure all members of the Church, including those with conscientious objections to the decision, continued to feel accepted and valued within the Church. [My emphasis - Ed.]

The Jackson/Wigley duo explain their amendment as follows:
Our amendment seeks explicitly to restore the relationship of Trust between the body of the Church in Wales and the Bench of Bishops, and to reassert the desire for this trust to lie at the heart of the bishops’ ministry and their role as a focus for unity.
Our amendment would bring Church in Wales legislation more closely into line with other churches in the Anglican Communion who have passed legislation to enable the consecration of women bishops - in particular the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church of Ireland. In none other of the churches of the Anglican Communion so far has provision been made for conscientious dissent in legislation, but only in Codes of Practice. We do not believe that Wales should be the one to set a new precedent on this matter. 

Wales need not be alone. The bishop's role as a focus for unity has suffered badly in Wales while the Church of England, of which Wales was part until disestablishment, has avoided the problem through the ministry of Provincial Episcopal Visitors, a ministry retained under a code of practice based on guiding principles which are to be read together in a spirit of "Simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality" (GS 1924) here:

 Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be prepared to 
acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the 

 Since it continues to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, 
including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those 
provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as 
priests or bishops, the Church of England acknowledges that its own clear 
decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of 
discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God; 

 Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological 
conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests 
continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican 
Communion, the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to 
flourish within its life and structures; and 

 Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of 
England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that 
maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to 
mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England. 

The expressed intention of the Jackson/Wigley amendment was "to bring Church in Wales legislation more closely into line with other churches in the Anglican Communion who have passed legislation to enable the consecration of women bishops". In the Church of England, "pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority designed to maintain the highest possible degree of communion and contribute to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England" is an essential part of the new deal. Members of the Church in Wales deserve nothing less. The Church in Wales has 'simplicity' in its legislation. Now it needs 'reciprocity and mutuality' in its application to allow mutual flourishing if the bishops are to regain their credibility.

If the challenge is beyond the Bench permission must be granted and arrangements made for bishops to cross borders in the new spirit of church unity. That at least will ensure that all members of the Church, including those with conscientious objections, feel accepted and valued again.

Written submissions have been invited and should be sent to the Provincial Secretary at 39 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9XF, or to before 31 December 2013.


  1. What, no comments? Its been a quiet week following recent revelations Ancient Briton - "And the Lord came to them walking on the waves". I am referring to Jesus of course, not you know who!

  2. Preferably Enforcer any comments (submissions) should be made to the Provincial Secretary demanding the the bishops remain true to their word and make available acceptable sacramental and pastoral provision for whom it is intended, not simply on their own terms.

  3. It is of some comfort to learn that Canterbury recognises the 'Free Church of England' and the Synod will make some concessions to traditionalists, albeit not enough.

    I'll be amazed if Wales's 'Bench Sitters' and also Dr Wonga, will ever get another shot at reconciliation as good as this for a long time to come.