[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The longest serving Primate in the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan, will retire at the end of January on his 70th birthday, it was announced today (Tuesday). Dr Morgan has served the Church in Wales as a bishop for 24 years – the last 14 of them as Archbishop.
The Church in Wales was part of the Church of England until it was disestablished in 1920 as a result of the Welsh Church Act 1914. It has six dioceses and its archbishop is elected from amongst the diocesan bishops. Earlier this month the Province announced a review of the role of Archbishop.
Dr Morgan was Bishop of Bangor, in the north-west of Wales, for seven years before being translated to Llandaff – which includes Wales’ capital city Cardiff – more than 17 years ago.
“It has been an enormous privilege to serve as Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of Llandaff and to do so during such a momentous era in Welsh life,” Dr Morgan said. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride but all along I have been sustained and inspired by the people I meet, day in day out, who live out God’s love in every part of Wales through their commitment and devotion to their churches and communities.”
Archbishop Morgan’s retirement will come just over a year after the death of his wife Hilary from cancer.
“I would like to thank all those who have supported, shared and upheld me in my ministry over the years, particularly since Hilary’s death – the loss of her love, encouragement and friendship has been enormously hard to bear,” he said.
“Over the years I have seen Wales grow in self-confidence as a nation and I now have every hope that this will be nurtured and enriched with the continued support of the Church in Wales.”
The leader of the devolved government in Wales, First Minister Carwyn Jones, paid tribute to Dr Morgan’s “vast contribution” to the country. “He has had such a positive impact on the lives of so many people from Wales’ religious communities, and has encouraged the establishment of good community relations across the country,” he said.
“It has been an honour to have worked closely with the Archbishop through the work of the Faith Communities Forum, which he has served since its inception. I am grateful for his advice and wisdom on matters affecting the economic, social and cultural life in Wales and for his unwavering commitment to promote interfaith work across Wales.”
The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, also paid tribute to Dr Morgan, saying: “Barry is a man of undoubtedly strong views and clear Christian convictions. He has, from a Christian and humanitarian perspective, championed the causes of women’s rights, gender equality and social justice, and has been unafraid to speak out publicly on these and many other issues. His engagement in the public life of Wales is well-known, and he has become a respected and trusted participant in and commentator on a number of matters affecting the public life of the nation.”
Dr Morgan was a previous member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches; and has played a substantial role in the life of the Anglican Communion. He was a member of the Primates Standing Committee and served as a member of the Lambeth Commission on Communion at a time of great turmoil within the Communion. The Commission was responsible for the 2004 Windsor Report, which recommended the creation of an Anglican Covenant.
Dr Morgan was chosen by the Primates as their representative on the Church of England committee that proposed Justin Welby to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury.
This morning, Archbishop Justin paid his tribute to Dr Morgan, saying: “Barry was . . . notable for the quality and courtesy of the questions he asked. More than that his follow up and every contact since has been gracious, encouraging and full of the presence of Christ.
“Caroline and I stayed with him and Hilary about two years ago and we realised the depth of their partnership, the contribution she made to his ministry and the deep loss he has felt since her death. Barry has been an extraordinary servant of those places where he has ministered, of the Church in Wales and of the whole Anglican Communion. We will miss him very deeply indeed.”
During his tenure as Archbishop, Dr Morgan has championed many changes in the Church in Wales, including a change in its law to enable women to be ordained as bishops and the implementation of a radical strategy, 2020 Vision, to help the church grow and prosper in the approach to its centenary year. He has also played a prominent role in public life, campaigning most notably for a fair devolution settlement for the Welsh Government and speaking out on matters of moral concern.
Originally from the small mining village of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen in the Swansea valley, Dr Morgan was elected as the 12th Archbishop of Wales in 2003, following Dr Rowan Williams on his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury.
A graduate from the universities of both London and Cambridge, Dr Morgan was ordained as a priest in 1973 and during his ministry served as a university and theological college lecturer and university chaplain, as Rector of Wrexham and Archdeacon of Meirionnydd before being consecrated as Bishop of Bangor in 1993 and Bishop of Llandaff in 1999. He also served on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and on the Primates Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
Dr Morgan is Pro Chancellor of the University of Wales, a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and of several Welsh universities. He loves the poetry of Welsh cleric RS Thomas and has written a book about it.
The synodical body of the Church in Wales is its Governing Body. It will meet next month in Lampeter where members will be given a chance to pay their tributes.