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Saturday, 5 November 2016

Something fishy?

The assembled throng outside the West Door of St Davids Cathedral, Pembrokeshire                                  Source: Twitter @DavidGrundy

As far West from the great West Door as they could manage without joining the rest of the tiddlers in River Alun, the Canon Residentiary at St Davids Cathedral appears to have been delegated to lead the applause in appreciation of Archbishop Barry Morgan's 'historic' announcement that the bishop elect of St Davids is the first woman to be made bishop in Wales, Canon Joanna Penberthy.

A video of this damp squib of an occasion can be seen on Twitter and on the Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) website.  While small in size the number of people gathered is the same size as many dwindling congregations in the Church in Wales but clearly a great embarrassment to the Archbishop as the video link in the Press Release has been edited so that only the applause is heard after the Dr Morgan gives the nod.  

Most of the news coverage followed the same theme: First woman bishop Joanna Penberthy 'faced prejudice', a strategy used to stain orthodox views as being negative. This theme is often used to condemn anyone who disagrees with the latest liberal fashion and was much used by the Movement for the Ordination of Women (MOW) which has been superseded by Women and the Church  (WATCH), a feminist organisation currently insisting that God should to be referred to as female. In a similar vein, opponents of gay marriage are condemned as homophobic while anyone searching for the truth about Islam's attitude to non-Muslims is regarded as Islamophobic.

After the announcement of her election Canon Penberthy commented: "As someone who in the early years was at the receiving end of prejudice and discrimination, I have absolutely no intention of dishing that out so I think it's important that everybody feels free to be honest about their opinions and about their misgivings." That is a welcome change from the view of the bench of bishops as currently constituted and a welcome change of heart from her Newnham days when as a young evangelical student she was more inclined to the view that Anglo Catholics should leave the Church of England because they were not real Anglicans.

When interviewed a BBC Reporter put the question to Canon Penberthy, Ordaining women is still controversial to some people. How do you reach out to those who are not happy with the idea? Her reply was far more encouraging than the Archbishop's 'over my dead body' policy. She said:

"I was very encouraged to be on a conference recently organised by Credo Cymru, which is an organisation for people who don’t wish to receive the sacramental ministry of women. It was a very positive gathering of how we can learn to live together in a world where women are priests and at that point where women might take episcopal ministry. It was about how do we live together in honesty, kindness and out of the values of that one shared gospel."

Following the Living with Diversity conference it was refreshing to hear from the bishop elect that everyone should "feel free to be honest". Since Bishop David Thomas retired there has been no place in the Church in Wales for people who remain unable to recognise the sacramental ministry of women as bishops and priests on grounds of theological conviction and conscience although officially remaining "within the spectrum of teaching and tradition within the Anglican Communion". Credo Cymru's statement can be read here.

With such lavish praise heaped upon her by the Archbishop and the bishop of Swansea and Brecon one wonders why Canon Penberthy had not previously joined the ranks of senior clergy as Dean or Archdeacon. Is it merely a coincidence that the bishop elect happens to be the right age as specified by the former bishop, Wyn Evans, to complete the work he started as Dean? Some fishy business on the Alun!

Fishy or not, this episode has all the appearance of a jigsaw puzzle coming into place except for one piece which just does not fit but he will be retiring soon when all should be much clearer, hopefully putting an end to prejudice and discrimination in the Church in Wales.


  1. Interesting that the Bishop-Elect participated at the recent conference, which was more or less by invitation only, wasn't it? It would suggest that her 'surprise' appointment was not such a surprise after all ... But encouraging words nonetheless from the Bishop-Elect that appear to demonstrate a 'gracious restraint' unknown in certain archiepiscopal quarters.

  2. Everything that Abp. Barry does is carefully stage managed. I have been told that he is quite adept at manipulating any meeting especially the Electoral College. It seems he also manipulated the invitation list to the Credo Cymru conference.
    However, the America Episcopal Church has gone one better and appointed the first black woman Bishop of Indianapolis.

  3. Sitting watching 'Have I got more news for you' ,I was motivated to look up the Credo Cymru web page!
    I found the following statement " We work and pray for the reunion of all Christians on the basis of the Catholic faith of the undividedj Church as received from Christ through the apostles, based on Scripture as the Word of God for all times.
    So someone tell me what is stopping them, making the move for reunion with the 'undivided church'?


    If one of the Ladies of Llanrwst had been in this province, shall we say?, for the last decade or so, Canon Penberthy would not have had a snowball's chance in hell. Fact. Nothing like shame to take Darth's fiefdom forward.
    In the meantime remember: when asked if she was thinking of becoming the archbishop, she informed the people that she is going to do the bishopric of St David's first. That was her reply. I lie not. But birls and goys, after the first there has to be, by dint of grammer and possibly ambition , a next. Let's stay "immensely humbled".

    My Welsh speaking friends were appalled at her interview through that tongue. Cultural groping at its worst, they said. Condescending linguistic nominalism hits our vulnerable identity, they squealed. Would that there be the same acceptable fluidity between the languages as between the genders, they moaned in jest.
    Pray that bishop elect will carry all her people on her heart.
    Non bach, do your overtime, love.
    That's how you kept David on track, wasn't it?
    Thank you Non, for giving us a patron saint who is lasting longer than any prince.

  5. "That is a welcome change from the view of the bench of bishops as currently constituted and a welcome change of heart from her Newnham days when as a young evangelical student she was more inclined to the view that Anglo Catholics should leave the Church of England because they were not real Anglicans."

    Interesting that you should mention this. I was present at (and a participant in) the discussion (which grew rather heated at times) of WO in the Chaplain’s rooms at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 21 November 1978 – at which she made that remark (which I recall distinctly).