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Monday, 6 March 2017

Dodgy legal advice leads to Eucharistic free for all

Source: New Directions
Readers of the March 2017 edition of Forward in Faith's magazine New Directions (£) will have read the worrying conclusion by a leading law expert that the Pastoral Letter from the bishops of the Church in Wales authorising the reception of Holy Communion based on Baptism alone was based on dodgy legal advice.

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.


  1. In the U.S. 30 years ago or so, Confirmation as a requirement was quietly dropped in TEc and similar reasoning was put forward that it would welcome newcomers and children, The long term results have been devastating as pre-teens and teens stopped coming to church, having no "first communion" to look forward to, and since they no longer needed to study the Catechism, several generations of young Epsicopalians have grown up with no understanding of what we believe and no knowledge of the history of Anglicanism. The ultimate consequence is the massive decline of the denomination. Bishops loved the elimination of the need for Confirmation because it freed them of the duty of visiting parishes that had confirmands and all of the questioning of those young people on what parts of the Catechism they remembered from their classes.

  2. Once again Underground Pewster, early evidence of the damage done to the Anglican Church by progressives.

  3. By Heck Your Grace!! Does thee think this 'Worshipful brother Kyser' geezer standing and posing here with thee looking obedient as a whipped puppy, will be easier to handle than Professor Thomas Glyn Watkin? (The Church in Wales and the Rule of Law. google)

    Noooooowww look into my eyes, and...... repeat after me...........

  4. Christian Badger7 March 2017 at 15:26

    Dear AB - I am one of those 'liberal progressives' but nevertheless enjoy reading your thought provoking blog - well done. Shame to hear such vitriol from your contributors but at least in Scapegoat, someone is fighting back.

    What I don't quite understand is this: your basic premise is that the decline in church attendance is due to the liberalisation and'secularisation' of the church. No-one can deny that the attempts by liberals to appeal to non-churchgoers by liberalising has failed. But surely this is not the cause of the decline? The decline predates liberalisation. Liberalising was thought (by people including myself I confess) to be the answer but it is not. The real problem today is that society just does not believe in God whether explained by conservatives or liberals. No-one is connecting except for evangelicals who paint a somewhat black and white image of the complexities and mysteries of the divine without sufficient emphasis on sacramental spiritualism or worship. At least we can agree that it is a depressing state of affairs. My vague hope is that the faint stirring of mysticism that is occurring might help a wider population so desperately in need of spiritual help. I have been much taken by the approach of Richard Rohr especially in his new book The Divine Dance.

    1. Concerning dodgy legal advice AB. What about the panic concerning the dodgy clergy pension fund discovered by the former Rector of Benllech in 1994,? They thought the Provincial Court might be a good final resting place for him. How they must have wished they'd been more polite to him.

    2. @Christina Badger

      Thank you for you post and, to be entirely honest, I FULLY appreciate that Ancient Briton has not censored or blocked by postings to this blog. S/he has earned my respect for that because I know there have been times when my sense of anger on behalf of homosexual people has meant that I have expressed myself intolerantly at time - I apologise for that and have tried to moderate my contributions.

      I too have been much taken my Richard Rohr's writings and also that of Rob Bell - they both come from stables that I have not really had much experience of myself. But their attempt to remain biblically faithful whilst being realistic in terms of where society is (if we can use such generalisation) provides much food for thought.

      Whilst reading this blog often angers me, if we could all get to a place of mutual flourishing in the way we deal with each other, then AB might well be providing a service for us as a church.

      All I would ask is that AB uses their editorial rights to delete any postings that refer to people as prats or twats or duds or this or that - it's not edifying and does nothing to build us up as a church.

      If here could become a place of honest theological encounter, that would be superb. Is it what AB intends?

      Much appreciated.

  5. Confirmation like membership is implicit in Biblical teaching. The beauty of it is that it balances the need to include the children/infants of believers by admitting them to covenant community through baptism yet requiring the need for a profession and commitment of faith inherent in the scriptural symbolism of baptism through the rite of confirmation.

    Changing an ancient practice such as this by pastoral letter?

    What next, I wonder? Answers on a postcard to....

  6. We owe the Reverend Professor Thomas Watkin a debt of gratitude for highlighting the errors in the Bishops' Pastoral letter. What continues to be unbelievable is the fact that the relevant legal advice remains hidden from scrutiny. What have these people got to hide? Don't they realise (or care) that their lack of accountability leads to suspicion, and that suspicion undermines confidence in the hierarchy and their actions. That confidence, which has in any case been severely eroded in recent years, cannot be put at further risk. Recent events have shown that people are tired of hierarchies and are ready to move against them. Take care bishops! The days of "fixing" matters behind the scenes are over. The departure of the master of these dark arts gives a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a new atmosphere of trust and accountability in the C in W. To miss that opportunity will lead to further decline and eventual disaster for the church . As the Venerable Martin Williams has said "the Church in Wales is in a very deep crisis indeed." In the meantime let us hope that real theologians and lawyers such as the Reverend Professor will maintain their vigilance and continue to make their concerns known. The powers that be may eventually realise that there is a limit to the extent to which they can continue to operate their "undercover" procedures.

    Fed Up

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