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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Local Mission Areas mask decline

A tranquil looking St Thomas a Becket Church in Haverfordwest, one of 12 redundant buildings being sold                BBC/DYLAN MOORE/GEOGRAPH

In September BBC News reported that data from the Church in Wales showed 115 Anglican churches have closed over a 10-year period, about 8% of the total, with 1,319 still in use.

One of twelve redundant churches currently being offered for sale is the former St Thomas à Becket’s Church, illustrated. It is a Grade II listed building in Haverfordwest in the diocese of St Davids. There are three others in the diocese, the former St Cain’s Church located in the village of Llangain, Carmarthenshire, the former St Mary’s Church, Ambleston 9 miles north-east of Haverfordwest and the former St Mary’s Church, Bryngwyn near Aberporth. 

The BBC report highlighted the fact that "the last census revealed Wales had the highest number of people with no religion in the UK" but instead of mission and evangelism the Church in Wales is re-organising into Local Ministry Areas (LMAs), something nobody wants but was nodded through by Archbishop Barry Morgan's followers after the change was recommended in the Church in Wales Review. The policy is being put into effect at varying speeds in the six dioceses.

By contrast there has been no action on diocesan structure (Section 15. Dioceses: their number and administration) which supports six diocesan bishops, six deans, numerous Archdeacons and an ever expanding number of LMA facilitators, coordinators, etc, not to mention their expensive administrative supporting structures.

In addition to appointing the first woman Dean of St Davids, the first female bishop of St Davids has 'promoted' another women to her senior staff, the Revd Marianne Osborne, as the diocesan Ministry Area Development (MAD) Officer. In an earth shattering announcement the Bishop "stressed that the harsh realities of a changing world meant new ways of working are now essential. We simply don’t have the money to sustain the existing pattern of ministry, she said". Odd that she has money to expand her senior staff! Well, there will be even less money as the oldies die and the disillusioned follow the sane and stop funding a church that lost its way while trying to be relevant to an indifferent society.

The differences by diocese are marked. In Monmouth where dissent earns a black mark, its CEO bishop has been racing ahead, beating parishes into the desired LMA shape as their Diocesan Conference 2017 Edition of Grapevine illustrates. Googling 'Local Ministry Areas' suggests that apart from St Davids the other dioceses have much catching up to do. One can understand Llandaff being behind with the  more pressing need to keep their Cathedral functioning but no doubt bishop June will want to catch up when she has finished working on her parity policy to ensure that ability and seniority are replaced by women and gender issues (see previous entry).

The bishop of St Asaph has been busy with his more important LGBTQI+ agenda, ensuring that the allegedly unwelcome in our midst are more visible and well supported. This follows the well tried policy that normality springs from familiarity. The bishop of Swansea and Brecon will of course have had other things on his mind with the Jeffrey John affair and the vacancy which he has now filled as Archbishop of Wales. 

Bangor? Well who knows what is going on in the Diocese of Bangor but their bishop comments on  an ITV Report to be broadcast this evening on S4C that "the main Christian denominations in Wales are suffering 'an alarming decline”'in membership leaving some fearing Christianity 'will disappear'."

The report claims that the Church in Wales "remains the largest denomination" with 45,759 members on its electoral roll which compares with 98,878 in 1990 - a drop of 54%." The reality is worse with regular Sunday attendance down to 28,291 according to 2016 figures.

"The Church in Wales are currently implementing a plan named ‘2020 Vision’. This plan is intended as a growth strategy to re-energise the Church before its centenary in 2020. 

"Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Rev Andy John is a member of the 2020 Vision strategy implementation group. He told the programme changes are afoot to make the Church 'more appealing'."

From another report a quarter of Anglican churches childless: "Twenty-five per cent of Church of England services do not have a single youngster among their congregations". I would imagine that the position in Wales is no better and probably worse given that Wales has the highest number of people with no religion in the UK.

'Fiddling while Rome burns'?

Postscript [26.10.2017]

Mathematics to solve Monmouth Local Ministry Areas problem.

The bishop of  Monmouth has proclaimed that  "A third archdeaconry is to be created in Monmouth Diocese following overwhelming support for the move at this year’s Diocesan Conference (21 October)". He said, "As Bishop I am charged with the leadership of this Diocese.  Faced with such a challenge I could ignore it and almost certainly let the Anglican presence in the Valleys fade away. Or I could do – what any organisation would do – let alone the church – invest in the area and try and turn it around."

Currently, the Archdeacon of Monmouth is working with 8 Ministry Area Leaders, while the Archdeaconry of Newport, which includes the Valleys, has twice that number at 16, a total of 24.

The solution? Divide 16 by 2 and hey presto, 3 x 8 = 24.
Also, 16 - 4 = 12, 8 + 4 = 12. 12 + 12 = 24 the number started with at no extra cost.

Ah! But “We need mission and evangelism otherwise this Diocese will find it difficult to survive,” bishop Richard warned. Back to 2005.

Monmouth has been here before. In 'Hope for Monmouth, the diocesan strategy document' which was launched at the Diocesan Conference in October 2005 the previous bishop wrote at length in his Preface, including this under 'Mission':

 "Mission includes evangelism but it also includes pastoral care, social concern, teaching the faith, peace and justice issues and worship. What is important is that we connect with all of them! A church that has fine worship but no social concern will become like a cult; a church that is good on pastoral care and social action but is weak on the study of the scriptures and worship will be a church without a gospel. Our worship must connect with our own discipleship, with evangelism and with the suffering world."

What happened?

From my entry Church in Wales attendance down 5% 2014-2015

Attempts to bolster numbers by adding 'Non-traditional Acts of Worship' such as Animal blessings, Café churches, Teenscreen clubs and Interfaith engagement have served only to emphasis the decline: "Overall, it would seem that just over 30,000 people in total participate in some form of nontraditional worship, compared with 36,000 in 2014".

The Membership and Finance Report (pdf) is way down the Agenda at item 19 for the next meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales to be held 14 - 15 September 2016. There will be a Motion: That the Governing Body do take note of this report.

Given the seriousness of the situation one would have thought that 'taking note' of the Report is somewhat short of the mark but with "Evangelism" coming last on the agenda it puts the current state of the Church in Wales in context.


  1. None of the respondents to my comment on your previous article about the St Davids' diocesan conference have taken up the main point: the Bishop appears reluctant to continue to use retired clergy. The reality is that they have kept the wheels of this diocese turning for many years.
    When they were ordained, many priests accepted that theirs was a vocation for life, not to be arbitrarily curtailed when they reach the age of 70, particularly when they wish to do more and have much still to offer.

    It is unclear at present just how rigidly this preference against using experienced, traditional priests will be enforced, yet judging from the number of times the advice is repeated, it is clear where the Bishop's wishes and intentions lie.

    Apart from being short sighted, this attitude discards valuable resources, by which the Church could benefit hugely. It also prevents older priests from continuing to exercise their priesthood. This is not merely hard to justify, but seems to come close to being sinful. Further, an unwelcome, deeply offensive ageist attitude is being detected among some of the St Davids female clerics, which is unenlightened in a generation when 70 is the new 50 ad 80 the new 70. How many would seriously argue, for example, that David Starkey and the Pope have both lost their marbles?

    It may be that the Bishop of St Davids will realise that her mistake when she fails to service even those churches that she wishes to. It is not, I regret to state, a happy beginning.

  2. The last comment should be signed Rob

    1. It looks to me as if the Wench of Abergwili is embarking upon a gender reassignment operation Rob. The very thought is sufficient to make my eyes water !!

  3. The children and young people are in the fields or sport centres playing football or rugby on a Sunday morning, so I there may be difficulty in incorporating this into the 2020 vision. Parish teams? Team ministry?

    1. The children and young people are undoubtedly much safer in the fields and sport centres playing wholesome and healthy football and rugby than attending "Messy Church" SS. At least they will not have their minds scrambled and their spiritual development stunted by the current confused and secular agenda of the CiW.
      The liberals would do well to ponder Jesus' image of a millstone and deep waters.

  4. Can anyone explain what is the thinking behind and what is driving the thoughts of these two Wenches in the CIW other than to rid it of all clergy who are not of the female gender?

  5. I think that the answer to your question of why the Wench of Abergwili is reluctant to allow the retired clergy to exercise their indelible priesthood Rob is because these Reverend gentlemen have spent a lifetime in the Cure of Souls, preaching the holy gospel of Jesus Christ and dispensing valid Sacraments to his faithful followers in a way in which the recently "ordained" can not do.
    If she succeeds in silencing these good and faithful fathers and is successful in replacing them with her own unlearned, politically correct, confused and feminist gender benders then she will have destroyed the Christian faith in St. David's at a stroke.
    C'mon Ty Ddewi.!

    1. What is being seriously maintained by the more extreme users of this blog? That elements of the the Women's movement, aided by a sympathetic former archbishop, have hijacked the Church in Wales, and that the women clerics masquerading as genuine, orthodox priests are, in reality, substituting the promotion of feminism for the Gospel (which seems to them a side issue)? that too often the most influential appointments are being given to comparatively inexperienced women, that more experienced and more gifted male clerics are sometimes bypassed, so that the Church is failing to benefit from the ministry of better candidates? It is a devastating charge. The questions must be asked: What happened to vocations? Where are the holy women of Christendom who truly loved the Lord? Sadly - I have to write this - in hurtfully wishing to deny (it seems) priests over 70 the opportunity to love their Lord by exercising a continued ministry - bar emergencies (what a cheek!)- the bishop concerned is providing evidence to support this view, which needs to receive most serious consideration.


    2. You are correct that exceptional priests are being overlooked for senior positions because they are male. Many are also being overlooked in favour of dull and uninspiring personalities. Let's hope that the next group of archdeacons appointed are able to react with their clergy and lay people and are not non entities. Come on + Andy. You need an Archdeacon with a personality and a presence.

    3. What would Jesus say?25 October 2017 at 18:42

      +Andy needs a personality and a presence!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Next Archdeacon in the Church in Wales? Trans-Lesbian 500/1 odds on favourite.

  8. Don't forget, this Misery Area nonsense began in Bangor!

  9. It is astonishing for any group to put all their eggs in one basket without proof it works.
    People in Llandaff have talked for a few years about how many people have fled Ministry areas in Monmouth and Swansea/Brecon and worshipped over the border.
    Monmouth are unable to fill Ministry Team leader jobs despite advertising that they particularly encourage women to apply.
    Cwmbran is a young, large, growing town. Previously with 6 full time clergy. They currently have no full time clergy, although have budgeted for two! The lay readers have been ordained and spend most of their week on funerals. Parish share has remained the same, yet surely it should reduce?
    The area that now includes Malpas could not fill the team leader role so put in a curate, which seems unfair to me, without the experience needed to lead 3 parishes.
    The bench seem to ignore the figures and continue this pretence that this will lead to growth.

    1. Its not because of ministry areas Danny its because they can find Anglican churches with some life in them. One example of a thriving multi churches parish is Tidenham in the diocese of Gloucester a stone's throw from the Wye and west of the Severn. I know Anglicans from Chepstow cross over to worship there.

    2. It might be helpful if you explained what is this 'life' which appears to be absent in the churches of Monmouth Whamab?

  10. Pondering Pastor: A new Archdeaconry for Monmouth. The Bishop's keynote address at the diocesan conference hit the nail on the head, let's hope his strategy will reap a harvest in the valleys.

  11. Has anyone told the Bishop of Monmouth that we've been here before? Does anyone remember how a certain former Bishop of Llandaff, soon after assuming office in 1999, created a third archdeaconry? At the time, many of us asked what the point was. Now, we can see all-too-clearly, that is was an exercise in re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titatnic - displacement activity to avoid having to face inevitable decline on a massive scale. This latest ruse from Monmouth will do nothing to promote growth, it will create a top-heavy diocesan machine, costing more money, and offer absolute tiddly-squat to the 'poor bloody infantry' who are doing their best to keep the show on the road while some ineffectual noise bag gets a nice fat archdeacon's stipend.

  12. Dear Hymn Singer - Not so very long ago the diocese of Chelmsford increased its number of Archdeacons to seven (Barking, Chelmsford, Colchester, Harlow, Southend, Stansted & West Ham). The reasoning behind this was to enable the Venerable ladies and gentlemen to become more "Missional" (horrible word!). I hope that aim has become a reality and that the Magnificent Seven have been liberated in order to engage more fully in Christ's mission to the county of Essex and East London.

    1. Don't worry, Fr David, not much chance of any 'missional' archdeacons here in Wales. We've had two up here in Bangor, and (in relatively close succession) they've been called to be missionaries somewhere else - in the Church of England - where their skills and insights are not suffocated in a deluge of desperation and incompetence. We've only had one archdeacon travel in the other direction, from England to Llandaff and, on her watch, the decline has accelerated, chiefly because she has been too busy pursuing her pet causes instead of resourcing and inspiring the parish clergy for growth. As we await the third archdeacon of Bangor, all informed comment seems to suggest it will be 'more of the same - and worse.'