|Source: New Directions|
This is the conclusion of the Rev'd Professor Thomas Glyn Watkin, a former Professor of Law at Cardiff and Bangor and former First Welsh Legislative Counsel to the Welsh Government. Between 1981 and 1998 he served as Legal Assistant to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales.
Professor Watkin writes: "The interpretation placed upon the rubric by the Legal Sub-Committee not only circumvents the Church's due processes for alteration to rites and discipline. In its consequences, it displays a scant respect for - or an inchoate understanding of - the rule of law in Church affairs."
Professor Watkin wrote at the beginning of the article: "In a letter to the Church Times on Friday, 27 January, His Honour Judge Andrew Keyser QC responded to my letter in the edition of 13 January concerning Confirmation and Admission to Holy Communion in Wales. In his lengthy and carefully-worded letter, he quoted the views of the Doctrinal Commission on the issues, but he revealed nothing of the reasoning behind the Legal Sub-Committee's conclusions. The two pieces of unanimous legal advice to which he refers, and the reasons why other interpretations were deemed "unpersuasive", remain firmly hidden from scrutiny,
In a February blog entry, Church in Crisis, a letter from Professor Watkin to the Church Times was reproduced. In it he wrote, "The Church in Wales Book of Common Prayer, enacted by various canons, declares that confirmation is a rite, and its rubrics provide that confirmation is generally necessary to receive holy communion. The Church's constitution provides that alterations to rites and discipline may be made only by canon.
"The Welsh Bishops wish to allow those who have been baptised to receive the sacrament without need of confirmation. They are attempting to do this by pastoral letter, without any authorisation by canon. The Archbishop has written in this paper (Letters, 25 November) that the change makes confirmation 'a service of response and commitment to God's grace given at baptism and at the Eucharist for those who want to make such a commitment'.
"...The Welsh Bishops state that they have legal advice assuring them that the 'step does not require any change in the present Canon Law or Constitution of the Church in Wales'. A polite request to make public that legal advice met with an equally polite refusal. That the alteration is controversial is clear from recent correspondence in these columns (Letters, 14 October and 23/30 December)."
The Article Riding Buckleshod over Canon Law in New Directions gives a fascinating insight into how the Church in Wales under Barry Morgan seemed able to receive the advice they wanted to hear to justify their actions. Professor Watkin is not alone in his concern. Some of the highlighted text from a previous article in New Directions by the Venerable Martin Williams, the former Archdeacon of Margam: The Civil Law was all that mattered; Canon Law is swept away; These are existential concerns about our identity; Not once in the documents is "Eucharist" used; and, It is hard to imagine what the bishops have in mind. The Archdeacon concludes, "The Church in Wales is in a very deep crisis indeed."
The Church in Wales claimed to be "re-adopting the practice of the early church on admission to Communion – the sharing of bread and wine – in an effort to strengthen ministry to children and young people in particular". Ministry to children and young people will not be strengthened by making Holy Communion commonplace. It is the mystery and awe that counts. Something deeply spiritual. The 'otherness'.
The Doctrinal Commission's seal of approval was used to authenticate the former Archbishop's divisive views on same sex marriage. Always careful to implicate the bench with 'collegiality', Barry Morgan's views have prevailed by one means or another. Sadly I hear that he can be seen still lingering around Llandaff Cathedral like a bad odour, no doubt trying to exert influence on his form minions.
Much discontent is apparent from comments received under previous entries. If ever there were a time for a fresh start this is it, starting with the new Bishop of Llandaff, not tainted by political intrigue but steeped in holiness and righteousness. Someone the bench will look up to, not kowtow to.