Review of The Gathering 2012

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SOURCE - ARTICLE: Meirion Lloyd Davies - “The Treasury”
DATE: May 2013

The trouble with historians is that they are obsessed with the past. They are more interested in preserving past patterns than in facing present crises. This came abundantly clear as I read the interesting and (intentionally ? ) provocative article by the Rev. J. E. Wynne Davies ‘From the Archives’ in your March issue. As you would expect from a person of Ellis Wynne’s abilities he makes a number of perceptive points.

For example he rightly says that we are still awaiting a ‘Botwnnog in reverse’ a development I advocated for a number of years in local and national committees. It is most unfortunate that this has not happened. In fairness I should say that this is in large measure because there has been no immediate need in any Anglican parish. In Botwnnog we did not have a minister within reach while there was a local clergyman. For better or for worse it has not been the case that there was a non Anglican minister available in a parish where there was not an Anglican minister.

There are a number of inaccuracies in the article, for example, when the author says in the style of the tabloid press, that in an united communion service that ‘if the incumbent were taken ill on the church steps the service could not proceed’. This is utter nonsense. For a number of years now there has been no such ruling. I have personally on my own celebrated at a united communion service using the covenanted form without the ‘assistance’ of an Anglican priest. This has happened on a number of occasions for me and for others in many different parts of Wales.

The article deals largely with the matter of the reconciliation of ministries which has always been the major stumbling block for church unity throughout the world. I was ordained by the Presbyterian Chuch of Wales to serve our Church. The writ of my ordination extends no further than that. If other churches (i.e. denominations) graciously accept my ordination I am grateful but I have no right to accept it. Some churches would not see my ordination as interchangeable with theirs. So be it. I would not accept the ordination of some sects myself. An Independent congregation of, shall we say, ten members are within their rights to ordain one of their own without any prior training on a bright sunny morning. So be it again, but I would not accept such a person as a full minister in my denomination.

All Churches have their own particular emphases which they rightly insist would be essential in any united church. For example we have always maintained that the ministry should be open to both women and men and that lay people should play a full and equal part in the courts of the church. Ironically what has happened is that the Church in Wales, before any formal union, accept these principles and have largely implemented them. It goes without saying that for Anglicans episcopacy is for them an essential. It is almost universally accepted that an united church will be Episcopal. The stumbling block is how we move to an Episcopal form without suggesting reordination, which every non Episcopal would reject. In most church union schemes throughout the world it is suggested that the leaders of all the churches would in a service of reconciliation lay hands on the respective ministers. The nonconformist suspicion is that this is reordination by the back door. If that were the case it would be the reordination of every Anglican priest as well.

I readily agree that there is fudge here but I would argue that an element of fudge is worth it to secure a much greater good i. e. the union of the church. Readers will know that I devoted twenty five years of my ministry in the cause of Church unity because I passionately believed that the deadly crisis facing the Faith in Wales would be quite considerably lessened if the churches came together. I then turned towards other interests of mine because I felt disenchanted, not with the church union negotiations, but that there was no urgency in the churches to move forward and no desire to break free from the shackles of the past. Sadly another twenty five years have elapsed and we have not moved forward but the crisis has deepened dramatically. Are we to see things deteriorate further while we continue to insist that yesterday’s patterns are adhered to ? Please God no.

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