Archbishop of Wales in 'significant change' warning

For the first time in its history, the Church in Wales is inviting outside experts to review its structure and funding. Kate Morgan reports.

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The Archbishop of Wales is urging officials to be open to "significant change" ahead of a large-scale review.

Dr Barry Morgan said the Church in Wales must adapt to cope with the decline in clergy, waning investments and falling congregations.

Three independent experts are to assess its use of buildings and financial resources.

The church's organisational structure could also change, he warned.

In a speech at a meeting of the church's governing body at Swansea University, Dr Morgan said: "It is envisaged that the group will ask fundamental questions about the life of the Church in Wales and make specific recommendations.

"In commissioning such a review, we will all have to be prepared to take seriously its findings and to be open to the possibility of significant change in our structures, ministry, use of buildings and other resources if it is seen to be in the best interests of the church and its mission to the people and communities of Wales as we look ahead to the next decade.

"In particular, it will examine whether the resources available to the Church in Wales are being deployed efficiently and effectively to enable the mission of the church."

Church in Wales figures from 2008/09

  • Average attendance continues to fall by 2%
  • Average attendance among young people has fallen particularly sharply
  • The level of total direct giving has fallen for the first time since statistics began in 1990
  • For the first time since 1993 total parish income is less than expenditure
  • The proportion of parish expenditure spent on buildings has increased from 28% to 31%
  • Source: Church in Wales

The independent review group will examine all aspects of the church including its leadership, structures and use of resources to make sure it is fit for purpose as it reaches its centenary in 2020.

It will be made up of three experts in church management - Lord Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, Professor Charles Handy, former business professor at London Business School, and a third still unnamed person.

The archbishop said there were three main challenges facing the church in the 21st Century.

They were the issue of leadership as clergy numbers fall, the impact of the recession on its investments, and its structure as congregations continue to dwindle.

The review group is expected to report back next year. They will also be able refer to work already begun by church governing body members and the bishops.

In his speech, Dr Morgan also reminded members that the challenges facing the Church in Wales were trivial compared with those facing other Anglican churches.

He urged them to contribute to a collection for the Global Anglican Alliance - a body recently set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the most vulnerable members of the Communion, such as the churches in Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

The church's governing body will continue to meet on Thursday at Swansea University.

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