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Sunday, 1 October 2017

Sociology replacing religion

The Bishop of Llandaff, June Osborne delivering her first presidential  address
 to members of the Llandaff Diocesan Conference.      Source: Church in Wales

"As someone whose first love was sociology I’m fascinated by how people draw the various maps of their world so one of my earliest requests to help me understand the diocesan landscape was that we should have a large map in the office showing the physical shape of the diocese. It arrived last week and already I stand in front of it with colleagues getting them to explain to me how things work."
The Rt Rev June Osborne, Bishop of Llandaff 

The new bishop of Llandaff's first presidential address at a Llandaff diocesan conference makes informative reading. Strong on sociology but weak on theology and spirituality she should sit easily on a bench of bishops devoid of such talents. Formerly five of the bishops in Wales held Oxford Firsts in Theology.

Bishop Osborne said, "I will go on studying and using my map of the Llandaff Diocese but there’s another map going on which I’ve begun to study and that is the map of the diocese which we each carry in our heads. We’ve been doing some exploring of it today: and as I visit all the Deaneries in these next months I’ll be listening carefully to what you think ought to be our priorities because they’re writ large on your maps of how church should work."

This is far removed from the hype about the Dean of Salisbury beginning to transform Llandaff as soon as she crossed the Llys Esgob threshold. With parity high on her agenda her first move was to appoint a woman Chaplain as she began fishing for ideas on how to proceed in her new role.

Presumably the Archbishop of Wales had such imports in mind when he referred to the "huge range of talent, skill and faith" that the Church in Wales has among its people, both lay and ordained. 'Had' rather than has would have been more accurate. 

Archbishop Davies has promised  ‘more of the same’— but faster. In a pre- Primates’ 2017 conference video the Archbishop looked forward to learning from other provinces, ideas on new styles and new ways of delivering ministry, "something which we are seeking to do" in Wales he said. More of the same but faster can only mean accelerated decline. 

Consultation is a bench favourite to be ignored at will so the new bishop outlined how she was inviting clergy and lay people to help her draw up a common map of the diocese by pinpointing where they saw themselves and the part they played in it.

Sadly many of the most able clergy now see themselves in England while lay people play no part after the Church in Wales left them. 

The situation we find ourselves in is neatly summed up in the headline by Olivia Rudgard, religious affairs correspondent of the Telegraph: Number of new trainee priests hits ten-year high as 'celebrity vicars' make the Church look 'normal'

Celebrity vicars like the Reverend Richard Coles and the Reverend Kate Bottley have "made the church more accessible" according to the Rt Revd Jan McFarlane, bishop of Repton. She also highlighted the BBC's 'Broken' and 'Rev' as good media portrayals of the clergy. 

Perhaps she was not aware of the BBC series about church in Wales ordinands 'Why we’re all represented in the Vicar Academy'.

The report shows a "ten-year high" in trainee clergy with more women than men starting training as priests for the first time in sixteen years. One of the ordinands, a journalist aged 33 and mother-of-three, says she has been encouraged by moves to make the priesthood more inclusive to women, such as part-time curacies and courses that fit around childcare.

Another sociology job option of relevance to society.


  1. Meanwhile at Llandaff Cathedral, a major own goal this morning. Grumbles on the Green report that the Harvest Festival sermon at the 9am Parish service was replaced by a Powerpoint slideshow delivered by one of Gerwhine's flunkeys on the PCC. It was all about giving more money to ensure that Llandaff doesn't go the way of Guildford Cathedral (more of a likelihood than Gerwhine wants to admit!)

    What neither the flunkey nor the Dean told the congregation was the news that next week's 9am service has been cancelled to make way for all those important judges and bigwigs at the Legal Service!

    Let's hope they can do without the income from their largest weekly congregation.

    1. Has the glove puppet run out of other people's money to spend on decorating and furnishing his new executive office in the Choir Vestry?
      He'll not be getting a sou from me!
      Let him go cap-in-hand to the RB, they're so awash with spare wonga they can afford the most expensive office space in Cardiff.

    2. There is no reason why the cathedral should take a financial hit Scapegrace. A fraction of the fees charged by those so called "learned friends" should more than cover the cost. They seldom give their services Pro Bono.

    3. Those who sat through the whole dreary slideshow told me it looked like it had been thrown together the night before and had nothing in the way of concrete new projects. For the past 3 years Capon has kept promising great fundraising initiatives and bold ideas but has not produced a thing.

      The PCC guy said the Cathedral takes £10,000 a week to run. Where does that money go? He also claimed they were "cutting their cloth" to match income yet they've just taken on another verger! Nowhere was there a breakdown of spending or indeed any reason given to keep us supporting them.

      He did however admit that giving was down, and assured the 9 o'clockers (many of whom are just there to get their kids into Llandaff City primary school) that they are the "most important" contributors to the Cathedral. Of course he didn't bother adding that next week's service is cancelled to make way for the judges!

      In the end it was a lot of palaver just to tell people what they already knew. Frankly if this is the best the Dean and his cronies can do then June ought to get shot of the lot of 'em.

      I hear the 11 o'clock Cathedral service had the same performance, much to the bemusement of the regulars and the visitors who were looking forward to a Harvest Festival service. Incidentally there are no Harvest activities any more: no Sunday School kids bringing sheaves of corn etc to the altar. That would've had more impact than all the drivel about "giving more of your income".

      Gerwhine also circulated a letter announcing his many achievements, including pastoral activities that no-one ever sees. The whole thing is a pile of nonsense from start to finish, but that's true of all the letters Gerwhine writes. The letter can be found on the first page of The Bell (October) here:

    4. The ears in the walls suggested Jade the cleaner has been reinstated but I doubt she will be responsibile for very much of the alleged £10k weekly overheads.

    5. It's that time of year again, when someone notices the accounts don't add up. Mr Moore and what's left of the "music" department would do well to start looking for employment elsewhere or face the prospect of running a Monkey Music franchise.

  2. The last paragraph referring to the female journalist who is attracted by the idea of the child care-friendly job 'takes the biscuit'. To me the priesthood is a vocation of service to God's people: it is not just another job to consider. I know we have been through this all before,but a priest is not simply a different sort of social worker.The priest stands in his role,by virtue of his ordination within the Apostolic succession, as symbolic of Christ ,and to place women in this role creates theological confusion, and subordinates the meaning of priesthood. The icon in life for women is Jesus' mother Mary. The Holy Family is our model, and losing sight of the reality of this unit has created chaos and loss of reality of Christianity in the Church.
    I strongly suspect that within theological training, insufficient emphasis is placed on the importance of a regular prayer life.

    ' More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of' Lord Tennyson.

    1. Your post should be boldly proclaimed from every church tower and every rooftop in Wales Simple Soul. You are not so simple by any means but then the Charlady from Sarum Cleansing Services and her secular sociological ilk would brand you as being "in denial" for proclaiming your truth so boldly. Your contribution to this blog and to the energy of the Church of Jesus Christ is constructive. More power to you and every blessing.

  3. @The Watchman : I am honoured and humbled by your post.
    However,it has occurred to me what fun it might be at the final consummation when pseudonyms are revealed.

  4. Replies
    1. Nice one Robert but the record for the longest suicide note ever must be held by the Church in Wales. They started writing it during a certain Arch episcopal election some 16 years ago and they have not finished it yet despite missing the post several times.

  5. Sociology REPLACING Religion? I though it had replaced it a long time ago in Llandaff - and certainly since Bishop Roy retired nearly 20 years ago. If Bishop June spent a bit more time brushing-up on her theology, to enable her to be an effective teacher of the faith, she might have drawn a connection between maps and recent developments in Old Testament scholarship. I am thinking, in particular, of Walter Breuggemann and what he has to say about land, people and covenant. He talks about 'storied places' where the landscape is inherently bound up with God's activity in the past and God's promises for the future. Thus buildings are not simply shells to be disposed of on a whim; and the character of the faith community and what has shaped it cannot be relegated to 'the past' as if it can be swept away as no longer relevant.

    Oh well... another Bishop in Llandaff who seems bored with God, and who is looking for other distractions to get by until the pension kicks-in.

    1. Your post reminds me of my National Service days Athelstan. We soon learned that the most dangerous entity on any battle field was an officer with a map!
      Horror stories abound but one sticks in my mind and it concerns a subaltern who had assembled his men on the start line prior ot launching a dawn attack.
      "Follow me men I have the map." he confidently said.
      "You lead on Sir." said the Sergeant Major "The men will follow you anywhere." Then sotto voce "But only out of a sense of curiosity."

  6. Pondering Pastor: Forgive this learned rambling ... Well Bishop June has just started in office, and the bile has begun to flow from the sidelines here.
    Not theological in her ministry? I think not, the balance between theology and sociology is important in understanding spiritual needs across the spectrum of a very diverse diocese. So mapping is an excellent tool to visualise the mission and expand the vision.
    Spiritually Bishop June, is heads above many scholarly clerics, many of whom have and do seek her counsel. Her ministry at Salisbury stands as a testament to her theological acumen.
    . The cathedral of that great diocese is all the better for her time there, and moreover excelling.
    Why predicate and posture over such miniscule matters. Only a fool would consider past failures in the province. A new bishop, finding her feet in a diocese that is entrenched, inward looking and critical, born from the spores of the previous leadership. Surely, time to let a new extremely able, spiritual leader, take the rains,and take forward the diocese. Only by getting behind her and the mapping process will life get better.

    Mapping is a growing trend across many denominations, so why not CofW. If we have something to add say it. Why not suggest mapping spiritual temperatures in parishes, apathy in the cathedral precincts, or theological standing. All and more are part of the mapping process, and one would do well to get behind this key process, that will lead to decision making and forward planning/action.
    As for the demise or inferred suicide letter, surely that ended with the previous prelates demise ... I see no ermine appearing to date!

  7. Could someone please tell Pondering Pastor that it's Church IN Wales and not Church of Wales!

    1. It's what happens when someone becomes addicted to impersonating Llechryd. Repetition becomes the mother of success.

  8. Sigmund of Sarum3 October 2017 at 13:54

    I beg to differ with 'Anonymous.' To suggest that June is 'heads above many scholarly clerics' is just laughable - are we being asked to put June in the same pot as Sarah Coakley, for example, or Janet Soskice, or Judith Maltby? I think June would be the first to admit that this is not really her forte; and I am not sure how her ministry at Salisbury and this alleged theological acumen are related. All I can say, as I sit here during my lunch break in the sunshine of the Close at Salisbury, tapping away for this estimable organ, is that there seems to be a spring in everyone's step around here. Not schadenfreude, exactly; but a sense of relief that an era has ended, and a new and very different future awaits us. Let's just say that we are pleased that June is now Bishop of Llandaff. You have a strategist, not a scholar; and placing unrealistic expectations on June will not enable her to play to her strengths.

  9. Pondering Pastor: I stand corrected on the typo "of" rather then "in".

    As for my knowledge of the bishop, I speak from experience and knowledge. Strategists are in themselves scholarly to a point with that added value of having there feet on the ground. Notable clergy mentioned, remain in esteem of course. There is always a buzz about when one leader moves on and a new one is sought. This is where we rely on the guiding hand of God whose church be it; in Wales or, of England is called to serve.

    1. "There" was definitely a buzz when bully boy --Bazza finally buggered off.

  10. CiW does not need theologians, strategists or sociologists it needs evangelists and those who can lead congregations into effective mission. Wake up and smell the coffee, the demographic of our worshippers is about to fall off the precipice.

    1. Well said! Although I fear we have already fallen off the precipice. I was in a non CiW Church last Sunday and the majority of people were under 40 years the Welsh valleys too, where we are told it is hard to reach people......but as the CiW has no place for us as evangelicals we flee...... diversity is a word liberals use but don't live by.

    2. Another word which the CiW liberals use but don't live by Danny is "Inclusivity."