THE CHURCH IN WALES is no longer to have its equivalent of a “flying bishop” to provide pastoral oversight for those clergy and parishes that cannot in conscience accept women priests. The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, made this statement on behalf of the Bench of Bishops at the meeting of the Church in Wales Governing Body in Lampeter last week.
Twelve years ago, when the Governing Body (GB) took the decision to enable women to be ordained to the priesthood, the Rt Revd David Thomas was appointed as an assistant bishop to provide alternative oversight. At the end of June, Bishop Thomas retired, and it was not clear until the Archbishop’s announcement whether he would be replaced.
Dr Morgan said that the decision in no way reflected on the ministry of Bishop Thomas, who had earned the gratitude of the province for the way he had worked closely with the diocesan bishops. But the Bench had now reviewed the need for such pastoral care and concluded that it was no longer either necessary or consistent with Anglican ecclesiology.
“All Church in Wales clergy and parishes are in communion with their respective diocesan bishop, regardless of whether or not they agree on every issue. Episcopal oversight and care for all within each diocese is the responsibility of the diocesan bishop.”
There remained a continuing place for those unable to accept women priests, he said, “and we will continue to be sensitive in our appointments, both in terms of the views of parishes and in ensuring that clergy from different parts of the Church are given the opportunity to progress in their ministry.”
This decision by the Bench of Bishops followed the defeat at the last meeting of the GB in April of the proposal to ordain women as bishops. The Bench had been unanimously in favour, as had a large majority of the laity, but the clergy turned it down by 27 to18 (News, 11 April).