|In concert: Tabernacle Chapel, Morriston - 'The Cathedral of Welsh Non-Conformity'|
Now one might be forgiven for concluding that this plan may have been uppermost in the mind of the Archbishop while using the convenient conclusions of the Harries Review to nudge unsuspecting congregations in a predetermined direction. Concerns have been expressed about an indecent haste in trying to implement the recommendations of the Harries Review before they have been properly considered. Forward in Faith (Wales) reports: "The reaction to the Church in Wales Review leaves plenty of us with great concerns. At one meeting recently an Archdeacon reminded those present that at this stage the question should be: do we agree that ministry areas need to be created? and then how do we do it? Not vice versa. In some areas of the Review suggestions are quoted as giving permission for a new development without the necessary agreement of those involved. Some dioceses also seem to be moving ahead in a piecemeal fashion. This cannot be good for the unity of the church."
Unity as he sees it is close to the heart of the Archbishop of Wales. He has refused to secure a future for members belonging to the catholic tradition who would value the prospect of unity with the wider Apostolic Church of East and West on the grounds that the unity of the Church in Wales would be threatened! He argues that to appoint a bishop or bishops with jurisdiction for those opposed to the ordination of women would "alter irreparably the Church in Wales as we know it. It would be to sanction schism and for these theological reasons the bishops, as guardians of unity, could not give their support for such a measure." - Excuse me?
There have already been calls for the Church of England to decide whether it is a Catholic or Protestant body. The latest move by the Church in Wales makes their position abundantly clear. No wonder Anglo-Catholics have constantly to struggle against the tide of liberalism which has overtaken their church. Like headless chickens Dr Morgan and his bishops have tried everything to reverse the decline of the Church in Wales except the blindingly obvious, neatly summed up by Damian Thompson here. Over the years I have encountered many Nonconformists who have been brought to the Anglican faith through the awe of sacramental worship, perhaps no more important a figure than the present Archbishop of Canterbury who, according to Rupert Shortt's biography Rowan's Rule, changed his allegiance from the Presbyterian Church after visiting All Saints, Oystermouth: All Saints' provided the classic, moderately high church diet known as Prayer Book Catholicism. Preaching and musical standards were high; incense would make its appearance on major feast days. This was far richer than Park End Chapel [in Cardiff]. John Walters, Rowan's oldest friend, later quipped that the Williamses were like the Russian envoys in medieval Constantinople who felt transported to heaven by the splendours of Byzantine worship and quickly decided that Christianity should become the new faith of the Slavs [p.32].
All that has changed. As Anglo-Catholics continue to be marginalised much of the mystery of Anglican worship has ebbed away. So have congregations. As costs escalate, maintaining the 'parish share' with declining numbers becomes increasingly difficult as is the cost of maintaining a top-heavy structure. With no parish ties in the future and Anglican services becoming increasingly reminiscent of politically correct school assemblies, local self-supporting chapels will have an increasing appeal for those who are left. As one adherent with a liking for good Welsh hymn singing put it to me, "Rousing hymns with a good gossip afterwards; there's nothing like it".
Readers with access to BBC Wales will be able to watch the latest reality show this evening at 10.35pm, Vicar Academy. The mind boggles.