Church in Wales unveils major overhaul
The Church in Wales faces terminal decline without some radical re-thinking, an external review group has found
Published 20 July 2012
The Church in Wales has unveiled radical plans to ensure its future ahead of its centenary in 2020.
The Church makes 50 recommendations for change in a report published today.
They include setting up supersize parishes run by teams of vicars and lay people. These would replace parishes with larger “ministry areas” and mirror the catchment areas of secondary schools. They are intended to address the problem of small, unsustainable parishes and overstretched priests having to serve multiple parishes.
The report also recommends that churches invest in ministry to young people and come up with “creative ideas” to ensure they stay at the heart of their communities.
To implement the vision, churches are being asked to enable their buildings for use by the whole community.
Other recommendations include: training lay people to play a greater part in church leadership; developing new forms of worship to reach out to those unfamiliar with church services; encouraging financial giving to the Church through tithing.
The report was commissioned by the Church in Wales after the Governing Body concluded at its September 2010 meeting that the Church “cannot go on doing the same things in the same way”.
Present challenges for the Church include the imminent retirement of large numbers of clergy, the shortage of ordinands, declining church membership and the “almost total distance of young people in Wales from the church”.
“This makes the present time a Kairos moment, that is, a moment of crisis and judgement with the possibility within it of creative response to what Christ is asking of us at this time,” the report states.
The Church brought in the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Professor Charles Handy of the London Business School, and former Convenor of the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Standing Committee, Professor Patricia Peattie, to carry out the review into the Church’s ministry and structures.
Around 1,000 people offered their views to the review group in public meetings across Wales.
The report notes: “The dominant note was undoubtedly the fact that the Church in Wales offers warm, friendly and welcoming communities.
“This was particularly apparent to people who had come from outside to live in Wales.
“What worries people, however, is that this positive element is hampered by too many aspects of the organisation and structure, together with a cultural context which is frustrating the creative energy which is ready for change.”
The report concludes that the recommendations outlined in the report are “not just essential but urgent”.
The review group acknowledges that some of the recommendations will “unsettle familiar ways of thinking” about the Church’s ministry.
“But the Church cannot go on the way it is without sinking further into decline,” the report warns.
“In unsettling times there is an element of risk which cannot be avoided, and which has to be faced for the sake of the Gospel.
“If the Church in Wales has the resolve and persistence to bring these changes about, it could well provide a good model for other churches in the Western world which are facing a similar situation.”
Welcoming the report, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan said, “We are enormously indebted to the Review Group because it has absorbed a great deal of information about us as a church in a short period of time and has made some very perceptive and insightful comments and recommendations.
“I am also grateful to members of the Church in Wales who in large numbers have enthusiastically engaged with the process.
“We, as a church, will have to give serious consideration to this report and its recommendations from parish up to province and decide where we go from here.”
Lord Harries said, “The review team found the Church in Wales to be very warm and welcoming and there are many good things happening. But in order to serve the people of Wales effectively, particularly its young people, we believe some radical re-thinking is necessary.”
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