[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Church in Wales has launched a review into the role and responsibilities of the province’s Archbishop. Currently, the Archbishop is elected by and from the six diocesan bishops in the principality, meaning that the Archiepiscopal see can move around Wales. But a review into the structure of the Church in Wales, carried out by a team led by the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, recommended that the Archbishop should always occupy the See of Llandaff, supported by an area bishop who carries out most diocesan functions. This would be similar to the model adopted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose functions within the diocese are carried out mainly by the Bishop of Dover.
The Diocese of Llandaff includes Wales’ capital city of Cardiff, and it has been suggested that having an Archbishop based in Llandaff – like the current Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, makes it easier for the Archbishop to engage with the Welsh Assembly – Wales’ devolved parliament – and with the nation’s main media outlets.
But the proposal has not met with universal approval. Some people outside Llandaff say that this would deprive other dioceses of having the “esteem” associated by having the Primate as their bishop; while some people inside Llandaff fear that having their bishop always as the Primate would deprive them of the care and attention they want from their bishop.
The review announced today (Thursday) is the latest in a series of reviews carried out over the past five years; and follows an address by Archbishop Barry Morgan to the Church’s Governing Body last year in which he said that the current situation was “at breaking point.”
He told the Governing Body’s members – the synod of the Church in Wales – that four of his predecessors had also criticised the current model. “Now when five of the twelve archbishops of Wales have said to the church that this model is hard to sustain, the church needs to take that seriously,” he said.
In his speech, Archbishop Morgan – the longest serving Primate in the Anglican Communion – did not propose any particular model, but, in asking the Church to once again consider reform, said that the Archbishop should be permanently based in a particular area to avoid the costs of relocating administrative support. And he also discounted some models, such as that used by the US-based Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, whose Primates are full-time leaders of their provinces with no diocesan responsibilities.
“The Primate of Canada is wistful about the fact that he has no practical involvement in the life of a diocese,” Archbishop Morgan said. “Moreover, any archbishop is first and foremost a bishop and the task of a bishop is to ordain, confirm and pastor. He is not the chief executive of the church but a Father in God and I believe he or she needs a distinctive area of jurisdiction and pastoral care which he can call his own.
“So I rule out a full time post, as the bishops ruled it out in 2007 on theological and ecclesiological grounds. If the archbishop had no particular area for which he was responsible, it would make him a remote figure and someone not involved in the life of a particular place and people or practically involved in the lives of parishes and clergy. For my part, it would make for an unhappy and unfulfilled archbishop and I suspect that would be true for most bishops as well.”
In explaining the role of a bishop, Archbishop Morgan said that “Whoever the archbishop is, that person is seen as the ‘symbolic head’ of the Church in Wales and viewed as the church’s chief representative by many organisations and institutions.
“Let me try and put this in context. The Anglican church exists for the greater good of society as a whole. Just as a parish priest is concerned, not just with internal narrow parochial affairs but the community in which the parish is set, so too the archbishop ought to have a concern, not just for the structures and internal affairs of the Church in Wales but for the wider society in which the church is set and therefore a concern for a whole range of issues which confront our nation and world because it is God’s world and God has a concern for everything that happens in it.”
Now, the Church in Wales has commissioned a team to conduct a further review and says it hopes “that as many people as possible will participate” as they seek views from across the Church and wider society.
It is beginning its work by inviting “initial views on the Archbishop’s role and how he or she might best be supported in the future.”
The working group is made up of six people representing each of the Church’s dioceses, as well as former Welsh Government minister, Edwina Hart; and the former Principal of St John’s College, Nottingham, Christina Baxter, the former chair of the House of Laity of the Church of England’s General Synod.
“There is no doubt that the Archbishop of Wales is a prominent figure, not just in the Church in Wales but also in Welsh society,” the chair of the working group, Professor Gareth Lloyd Jones, said. “We need to be sure that what we ask of our Archbishop in future is reasonable, and appropriate for today’s Wales. This is why we are keen to consider the views of people from not only the Church but all walks of life across the country our Church in Wales serves.”
They are expected to issue their report by Easter next year.
Under the Church in Wales’ constitution, Dr Morgan is expected to retire from his post before he reaches the age of 70 at the end of January 2017.
People who wish to contribute to the consultation are asked to contact the working group by email: email@example.com.