CofE parishes: Lessons from Wales

The new series of Westminster Faith Debates addresses The Future of the Church of England: the first of these debates took place in St Mary’s University Church, Oxford on 9 October with a consideration of Parishes – what future for the parochial system?, for which an underlying problem is:

 “the parish system, as originally set up, with a single priest serving a small community is no longer sustainable. It was put in place when people lived and worked in the same parish, when they did not travel except occasionally to the local market town and when it was assumed that church and nation were of one faith”

“Many people . . . are conscious of the statistics . . . the expected retirement of large numbers of clergy in the next few years, the shortage of ordinands, the joining of more parishes than can be adequately ministered to by a single priest, declining church membership and the almost total distance of young people . . . from the church.”

However, these quotations are not from the debate but from the Church in Wales Review, an external report commissioned by the Standing Committee and Bench of Bishops following the September 2010 meeting of the Governing Body. At this meeting there was common message coming from the members that:

“[t]he Church in Wales cannot go on doing the same things in the same way; some things need to change and we are open to – and indeed encourage – that possibility”.

and the review was established “with particular reference to its structures and use of resources, to increase the effectiveness of the Church’s ministry and witness”. In September 2012, the Church’s Governing Body unanimously welcomed the Report and its 50 recommendations which included:

  • replacement of parishes by much larger ‘ministry areas’, served by a team of clergy and lay people;
  • full-time youth workers for each archdeaconry;
  • creative use of church buildings to enable them to be used by the whole community;
  • training lay people to play a greater part in church leadership;
  • investing more in ministry for young people;
  • developing new forms of worship to reach out to those unfamiliar with church services; and
  • encouraging financial giving to the church through tithing.

Dioceses and parishes commented on the recommendations to the Standing Committee which coordinated subsequent action on the Report’s recommendations. A Review Implementation Group was established to devise a systematic implementation strategy to consider and, where agreed, put the recommendations into action. This strategy – 2020 Vision – has endorsed a set of core principles identified as being the central vision of the Review, and these relate to the those recommendations relating to:

  • Ministry Areas;
  • Collaborative ministry; and
  • Ministerial training.

Further details of the progress to date are contained within the July 2014 Report The Review Revisited: Change is Happening. Links to other documentation on the review are available here, and highlights of Governing Body meetings are summarized here.


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. Important points arising from this CiW initiative are these:

  • the findings of the Review were endorsed by the Governing Body in 2012, and the Church as a whole is in the progress of implementing the recommendations;
  • radical changes are envisaged for the three key areas that have been identified, and it is anticipated that it will be 2020 – one hundred years since the CiW came into existence – before these are addressed.

However, with regard to possible “read-across” to the Church of England, the 2012 Report highlighted important differences:

  • “Unlike other churches in the Anglican Communion [the CIW] does not have a fully developed system of synodical government. This may save it from some of the cumbersomeness of the system, as experienced elsewhere, but it means that there is no proper flow of ideas and resolutions from parish or deanery to Diocese and from there to the Governing Body and the Representative Body”, [Section 5, page 4]; and
  • “Suspending parishes in the Church in Wales is a much easier matter, legally, than it is in the Church of England’, [Section 6, page 6].”

and in relation to the thorny area of deaneries,

  • “Deaneries, as at present constituted [in the CiW], are not always a natural geographical unit. Where they are, then a Deanery may prove to be a good basis for a new Ministry Area. However, with the development of ministry areas, deaneries as we know them will cease to have a role and should then no longer have a place in the structures”, [Recommendation IV, page 8].

Y Ddraig Goch ddyry gychwyn?

3 thoughts on “CofE parishes: Lessons from Wales

  1. It is precisely schemes like these which are killing off the Church in various English dioceses and now in Wales. Impersonal “teams” (often consisting of just one cleric, since having “teams” does not increase the number of personnel available) are the very opposite of what it is to be Anglican. Hint: take a look at Article XIX.

  2. Pingback: Religion and law round-up – 19th October | Law & Religion UK

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