In response to my previous entry, commentator O.wot.a.blunda wrote:
"In the meantime morale among the clergy is at an all-time low. The misery areas or whatever they're called now are a complete shambles, with PCCs and all sense of order having gone to the wall. No one wants to be a ministry area leader except for newly ordained clerics who haven't a clue how to run a parish much less a ministry area. Some long-time clerics I suspect would rather drink poison than take up that role.
I'm surprised that you haven't spent more time discussing this awful mess on the Ancient Briton blog. Who would have thought that the Church in Wales review would have resulted in such a dreadful mess." [My emphasis - Ed.]
Perhaps this should serve as the opportunity for other readers to share their experiences. To date the hopes expressed in the lead video are not evident. Instead there is anecdotal evidence of disillusionment and regret.
"Let anyone with ears listen" said one of the propagandists in the video. The expectation was for a "new flourishing", a vibrancy resulting in "re-imagining ministry, revitalising the churches and rejuvenating the people".
The Anglican News Service explained the plan thus:
"From ministry areas to community cafes, changes happening in churches across Wales can be seen in a short film now available online. The 2020 Vision film highlights stories from each of the six dioceses in Wales which show how they are responding to the Church in Wales’ strategy for growth."
There has been no growth, only decline, contrary to the expectations of Ministry Area devotees, much like the suggestion that women priests would revitalize the Church and halt decline. The reverse is true.
The only 'benefit' for the Province of Wales accrues to the bishops and an increasing number of senior staff while the workers beaver away to develop a system nobody really wanted apart from Archbishop Morgan's devotees. Compare the inactivity on other recommendations in the Review to trim administrative offices and downsize, possibly to three dioceses [Section 15 of the Church in Wales 'Harries' Review].
Better still the Church in Wales should be returned to the Church of England so that England and Wales can at least go down united. Prior to disestablisment in 1920, there were four dioceses in Wales. The Diocese of Monmouth was created in 1921 and the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon in 1923.
In 2008 "new figures" compiled after an analysis of membership of religious bodies revealed the numbers attending church on a monthly basis could fall from 200,000 to fewer than 40,000 over the next four decades, less than the average attendance at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge football ground. Church in Wales regular attendance figures were already down to 28,291 in 2016.
The bishop of Bangor said in Sept 2013 that the speedy adoption of Ministry Areas was for positive reasons about "new ways of doing church" but he acknowledged that "it is undeniable" that the Church in some places is in crisis. The position is much worse in 2018.
The "landmark report" by Church in Wales which recommended replacing parishes with ministry areas, was summarised by Wales Online in September 2012.
The Church in Wales claims that "Ministry Areas reflect huge changes which have taken place in our society. The parish system, as originally set up with a single priest serving a small community, was put in place when people lived and worked in the same parish. All this has now changed – the communities to which people now belong are very varied and people travel freely."
Given that the entire province of Wales with its six diocesan bishops including an archbishop is about the same size as a diocese in the Church of England, one has to wonder why the struggling Church of England has not adopted the idea.
Law & Religion UK commented: "Our post in July 2012 observed that many of the symptoms underlying the CiW Review were present, to a greater or lesser degree, in the Church of England, and there is clearly much for those within both Churches to consider" but there were important differences. Unlike other churches in the Anglican Communion [the CIW] does not have a fully developed system of synodical government. Suspending parishes in the Church in Wales is a much easier matter, legally, than it is in the Church of England and Deaneries, as at present constituted [in the CiW], are not always a natural geographical unit - fuller details here - indicating that it was easier to get away with in Wales.
Readers of Highlights which reports on the Church in Wales’ Governing Body meetings might have expected a fuller explanation of 'progress' but the cat was let out of the bag by the Revd Dr Stephen Wigley representing the Methodist Church who "welcomed the greater co-operation between denominations brought about by the change to Ministry Areas", strengthening the view that the Church in Wales looks to Nonconformists and the 'Uniting' church for survival, see more examples here, here, here and here.
The first Ministry Area in the diocese of Monmouth was formally inaugurated in April 2015, consisting of nine parishes in and around Usk. Three years later the "Job of the week" announced on Twitter is for Director of Mission and Archdeacon of the Gwent Valleys. Details here.
Remuneration & Benefits package
• Archdeacon’s stipend of £37,115 p.a.
• Final salary pension scheme
• 4-bedroom detached house in Abercarn village, with easy
access to the Archdeaconry and Newport (the administrative
centre of the Diocese)
• Expenses for all travel from home
The path to nonconformity is becoming expensive. Clearly there is little to shout about. If the Ministry Area scheme were a success I would have expected to find some positive signs but 'Googling' reveals nothing of substance.
Perhaps commentators will provide more insight.