|Bishop John Davies who is to be the 13th Archbishop of Wales Source: WalesOnline|
A leopard does not change its spots but many a cleric changed his stance after the Church in Wales' Governing Body decision to ordain women, ignoring the counsel of the Eastern church, Roman Catholics and, indeed, the vast majority of Anglicans throughout the world who had not been caught up in the mistaken belief that society has to inform the church rather than the church inform society as part of the Great Commission.
Whatever their reason, with the Church of Wales predicted to collapse within a generation it is again time for a change of stance to restore the sense of mystery and 'otherness' of the church so that when officials offer their "thoughts and prayers" after every tragedy their 'heartfelt' words are less of a cliche.
Many ex-churchgoing worshippers have remarked on hearing the news of bishop John's election: 'Hasn't he done well but, of course, he used to be against the ordination of women......' Readers can fill in the rest - but not for publication! The same could apply to most clergy who occupy senior positions in what have become management roles, primarily for managing decline.
'Unlucky for some', the 13th Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, has a heaven sent opportunity to make a different call, to right previous wrongs in line with the wishes of the majority of church members when they were consulted about the woeful Code of Practice devised by the Archdeacon of Llandaff to exclude faithful traditionalists whilst pretending to be inclusive.
The latest regular, adult, Sunday attendance figures in Wales make grim reading at 28,291 souls. That is 0.9% of the population, with Baptisms down 8% and Confirmations down a massive 21%.
Even funerals, a nice little earner for many a cleric, are down 4% as the popularity of secular funerals increases. Weddings are also down 4%. With more than half of the UK's population declaring no religion, the future for Christianity in this country looks bleak.
The Harris Review Recommendation [XLII (1)] that Fees for occasional offices should be paid into church accounts and go towards the cost of the Share in the Ministry Area was rejected at Governing Body. Perhaps financial self-interest will be the Achilles heel requiring a review of past mistakes.
The worst mistake the new archbishop could make is to be seen as being tarred with the Morgan brush. Archbishop Morgan's political agenda has resulted in the Church in Wales suffering a similar fate as the US Episcopal Church (TEC) under their heretical Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori.
So, is there hope? From Wales Online: "'Religion isn't something to be frightened of' - Wales' new archbishop on the challenges ahead. - The new Archbishop of Wales is on a mission to “rehabilitate” the church in Welsh culture at a time of plummeting attendances.
Referring to the "debate and controversy" on same sex marriage the archbishop-elect rather worryingly said: “I think the world outside the church certainly thinks that the church is probably out of step with society... so it’s going to remain a live issue and I have little doubt that it will come back onto our agenda probably at some point in the not too distant future.”
That does not sound very encouraging if the church is to uphold the Christian faith against the tide of secularism but bishop John deserves a chance to prove that he is his own man, not a Morgan clone. To “rehabilitate” is to to return someone to a good, healthy, or normal life or condition. That should indicate a return to traditional Christian values, the 'otherness' and mystery of faith. Further secularisation, twisting scripture to mean something different after millennia is not rehabilitation, it is devaluation.
Looking forward to Archbishop John's Presidential address at the forthcoming meeting of the Governing Body he cannot afford to disappoint traditionalists again. The Church in Wales needs every soul she can muster. He has already expressed his wish that "traditionalists and progressives within Church in Wales can continue to worship together".
That wish is not new. Previously it was expressed by the Archdeacon of Llandaff based on terms dictated by Barry Morgan which ignored the conscientious beliefs of faithful Anglicans. It was a take it or leave it approach. Many have left the church, or more accurately, the church has left them, a dreadful indictment.
If that take it or leave it approach is allowed to persist bishop John Davies could well be the last Archbishop of Wales as numbers continue to fall and giving shrinks to unsustainable levels. It is indeed, time for change.
Listen to a 30 min in-depth BBC radio interview with the Archbishop here.
Archbishop John Davies shares his vision for the Church in Wales under his leadership