Comments: Church Times on See of Llandaff

The Bishop Harries Review of the Church in Wales ensured the abolition of parishes to be replaced by what are called "Mission Areas" - what a pity he didn't achieve a similar abolition or rather, reform of the Electoral College. Had he been successful in the implementation of this recommendation we might now be looking forward to the enthronement of Jeffrey John on the cathedra of Llandaff cathedral.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 8:19am GMT

Deeply concerning revelations about Bishop David. Just another indication of the moral vacuum at the heart of the Church in Wales. In the light of this news, it makes the following letter, from last Thursday's 'Western Mail' from the Revd Professor Thomas Watkin, all the more significant:


While the controversy continues regarding how the process of choosing a new Bishop of Llandaff is being conducted, two things are certain: Llandaff remains without a diocesan bishop, and consequently the process of choosing a new Archbishop of Wales cannot progress.

However, Llandaff is not entirely without episcopal ministry. The assistant bishop, the Right Reverend David Wilbourne, remains in post. Moreover, he is the only serving bishop in the Church in Wales who was neither a member of the failed electoral college nor of the Bench of Bishops which has become mired in the allegations surrounding its conduct.

Given that the Church’s constitution wisely and properly provides for the security of tenure of such an assistant bishop even after the retirement of the archbishop he was appointed to assist, the Church could do a lot worse than invite the assistant bishop to continue his ministry as bishop of the diocese where he is already known and respected.

As someone who has known David Wilbourne as a friend for over 30 years, and as a serving priest within the diocese and a former legal adviser to the Church in Wales, I would urge careful and prayerful consideration of this solution.

Thomas Glyn Watkin

Penylan, Cardiff

Posted by Nigel Evans at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 8:32am GMT

@Fr David may not be aware that the Richard Harries commission did indeed recommend reform of the electoral college system in Wales. I was one of several people who, after the abysmal sham in Bangor in 2008, submitted that the system was wide open to abuse and manipulation. As you say, it is notable that there was no trouble imposing 'Mission Areas' on the Church; but no comparable enthusiasm from the former Archbishop and his episcopal colleagues for changing the electoral system. I wonder why?

Posted by David Richards at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 11:41am GMT

And you thought the Augean Stables was a Herculean task

Posted by Stanley Shaw at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 12:19pm GMT

We would like to fully endorse the proposal by The Revd Professor Thomas Watkin, that Bishop David should be considered as the next Bishop of Llandaff. Having heard his excellent Lenten Talks on Evangelism and having met him several times,we feel that Bishop David is the man of vision to take the Church in Wales forward. He is a man who speaks to the people from the heart and is able to inspire those to take up their cross and follow Christ,where ever that may lead them. We hope and pray that he will reconsider his resignation.

Posted by Alan and Kathy Kettle at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 2:02pm GMT

Earlier this year, I and ten other colleagues/friends with whom I once served in the Church in Wales, and who now (like me) have come to minister and flourish in the Church of England, wrote to the Welsh Bishops about the forthcoming election in Llandaff. We proposed no name, and made it clear we did not wish to influence matters in any way. We encouraged the Bench and, by implication, all electors, to trawl the net wider than Wales. We also expressed our deep concern for the Church in Wales, the speed of its recent decline, as well as the growing culture of mistrust, and suggested that the Llandaff election be postponed to allow a breathing space after Archbishop Barry Morgan's retirement. We simply offered our observations for reflection. We did not write in expectation of any reply, as we did not want to become involved in the process in any way. We did state, however, that none us felt we were being called to return to Wales at this stage in our various ministries.

We received very defensive and, to be honest, graceless replies from three diocesan bishops. Perhaps, with hindsight, we can now see why. By contrast, Bishop David Wilbourne wrote in a spirit of humility and generosity, questioning some of our assumptions, but also showing a real willingness to understand our position.

It is obvious why his face does not fit with the current Bench of Bishops in Wales. He is fortunate to be getting out of the Church in Wales so speedily. I am sure he, too, will find a new ministry in which to flourish. He can be assured of the prayers of many people who are thankful for his honesty, his humanity and, above all, his humility.

Posted by Jenny at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 2:46pm GMT

Bishop Wilbourne's closing quote from Trollope says so many things (for those who know the novel). But, surely, compared to the Llandaff situation, Trollope had far too optimistic a view of the Church and its hierarchy...

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 3:41pm GMT

Its all just so sad. Hounded out by 'hectoring bullies,' to borrow a phrase used in the Sheffield context. The church in these isles really can't afford to lose people like Jeffrey John and David Wilbourne from the episcopacy; can we? Surely both in Wales and England we need an urgent review of how potential bishops are identified and appointed. The current processes are clearly not fit for purpose. We, in both Wales and England, need far greater levels of transparency.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 9:00pm GMT

After his condemnation of liberals, I could never personally vote for Jeffrey John, but he's clearly the preferred candidate for the diocese, and discriminating against him on the basis of his sexuality is out-and-out homophobia, especially when he unquestionably lives within the church's already-homophobic teaching. As he's clearly being blocked for who he is, not for any legitimate reason, I hope a way can be found to enthrone him.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 25 March 2017 at 6:16am GMT

The situation here seems so astonishingly dire that, surely, the only solution now is an Anglican Communion visitation of some sort, to place the Province in special measures. The bishops, quite obviously, have created this mess and cannot seem to get themselves out of it. Every move they make takes the Church further and further into the black hole of disrepute. Never mind Trollope: this is worthy of Kafka!

Posted by Jane Brewer at Saturday, 25 March 2017 at 9:33am GMT

David Willbourne: I realise it is time to hand over the baton to the newly appointed Bishop of Llandaff....finish my time as Assistant Bishop on Easter Day 2017, just before the Sacred Synod approves our new bishop.

He seems to know something the rest of us don't - and the timeline about to be followed in the coming weeks.

Posted by peter kettle at Saturday, 25 March 2017 at 11:17am GMT

The dissembling Bishop of Swansea and Brecon got a bit stuck when Edward Stourton asked him on the BBC Sunday programme this morning about the Dean of St Albans statement that homophobic remarks were made during his interview. The silence was palpable, akin to a power cut, and he pleaded confidentiality. This will simply not do. Nor has he responded to the Welsh MPs letter. The Church in Wales is already in meltdown and this only confirms the fact. The College of Bishops should hang its head in shame and resign en masse.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 10:12am GMT

When someone as measured and moderate as Anthony writes in those terms, okay, I'm prepared to listen, we clearly have a very profound problem.

The irony, of course, is that Jeffrey John should already be a bishop in the Church of England. These issues are tearing apart the Churches. It is way past time to end these traumas. I've already written elsewhere how I think we should resolve things.

Meanwhile, the needs of the poor, the sick, the helpless, all over the world... are pitiable.

God have mercy.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 1:31pm GMT

I wish the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon had been asked two more questions: Why remove the unanimous choice of the Llandaff diocese from the second short list? Why on this occasion when compared to a similar occasion, Bangor in 2004 I believe, did the Bishops decide not to fill the post with the candidate who fell just short of the required two-thirds majority? Both these decisions must have been taken after the Electoral College but before the Dean of St Albans raised his concerns.

Posted by Stephen De Silva at Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 5:48pm GMT

"I've already written elsewhere how I think we should resolve things.

Meanwhile, the needs of the poor, the sick, the helpless, all over the world... are pitiable."

The problem in the Church is privilege - male privilege, class privilege, economic privilege (we still provide our archbishops with palaces), white privilege. Your suggestions for unity in diversity are all about admitting another group (guys and lesbians) into the privilege. That's not a moral way forwards. If we believe in the sick, the helpless and the poor our clerics have to put aside ALL notions of privilege. The accommodation for the ordination of women enshrined male privilege for those who wish to keep it. Doing the same for LGBT issues would be abhorrent. The need is to sweep aside all privilege, not embed it more firmly in some nasty accommodation.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 6:06pm GMT

Having had chance to listen again it seems to me that the bishop is prepared to say plenty. The only things that are confidential are those he doesn't want to say out loud

Posted by Stanley Shaw at Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 6:43pm GMT

It has been suggested to me that I should not have used the word 'dissembling' in the above post on this thread. Just to be clear of my own views on this, the Dean of St Albans has been unfairly (and possibly illegally) discriminated against and this amounts to a serious abuse of process by the College of Bishops. The breaches of confidentiality would of course normally be considered unfortunate but if confidentiality is being used to cloke this abuse then I for one have no problem with that. I used the word 'dissembling' to mean 'to hide or disguise one's true motive or feelings.' I believe that the Welsh bishops took unfair advantage of the vote and removed Jeffrey from further consideration. He received 58% of the votes. Had he received 66% or more they would have had to elect him. There is good precedent for this process in Wales leading to the nomination of a candidate who had previously failed to secure the two third's majority. I believe they took advantage of the result and removed him from further consideration, simply taking the easy option. If it can be shown that I am wrong, then I will willingly withdraw my criticism.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 8:07pm GMT

I thought Ed Stourton well and truly impaled the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon. His silence confirmed that Jeffrey John's version of events is true and the bishop was not prepared to admit the extent of the dissembling. The failure to correct inappropriate and scurrilous allegations against candidates has been a feature of Welsh electoral colleges for far too long.

The Bishop's silence was significant in another sense, too. In 2004 when the electoral college failed to elect a candidate for Bangor, the bishops appointed Anthony Crockett, who had received the most votes but not the two-thirds majority. He turned out to be a superb diocesan bishop and the Diocese of Bangor was confident and thriving when he died too soon to see his work completed. On that basis, why discount Jeffrey John?

This is a shameful sequence of events from which I cannot see the Church in Wales recovering.

Posted by David Richards at Monday, 27 March 2017 at 7:52am BST

Reading about this astonishing series of events, and reflecting on the harm done to Jeffrey John and other LGBT+ people in the fall-out (which begs questions of the bishops' pastoral competence for starters), I was reminded of a Times leader just after the Brexit vote. It strikes me that what is said about government could equally apply to the Church in Wales' bishops:

"[This] can often mark the point at which the public's understanding of reality definitively parts company with that of government...The really significant thing is when a government loses control of the narrative and can no longer tell the story of what is happening in words of its own choice, because events have ... undercut its version."

Thank God events have undercut the story of the Church in Wales bishops, but at what cost to the Church as a whole and the individuals who have been deeply hurt by their byzantine behaviour?

Posted by Colin Graham at Tuesday, 28 March 2017 at 7:51am BST

“Pregnant pause”, “Pinteresque pause”, call it what you will, but the 8 second pause by the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon prior to his very hesitant response to a question by Edward Stourton seemed to speak volumes about the current situation.

Posted by Michael Mason at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 2:28pm BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?






Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.