Thinking Anglicans

First Same-Sex Blessing in Church in Wales

The BBC reports that following recent approval by the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, the civil partnership of a priest in Llangollen and his partner was today blessed in a service led by the Bishop of St Asaph. It is believed to be the first such service in the Church in Wales. The Scottish Episcopal Church became the first Anglican church in the UK to allow same-sex marriages in 2017.

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Fr Dean
Fr Dean
16 days ago

Does the Church in Wales insist on separate bedrooms for its clergy in a civil partnership as I believe is the case in England?

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  Fr Dean
16 days ago

No Fr Dean but before anyone gets too interested, the Church in Wales has c 15,000-20,000 regular worshippers, a figure, that like a melting glacier, is in rapid retreat. The Church in Wales will be extinct by 2030.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Michael H.
16 days ago

Are you implying that the Church in Wales’s stand on same-sex marriage is the cause of this decline?

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  Pat ONeill
16 days ago

No, the decline is Wales-wide and all denominations. The strong chapel culture – 4 part harmony congregational singing, long sermons, memorising large passages of the Bible (my early childhood experience) – has evaporated very rapidly. In the 1970s I attended a chapel Sunday school with over 100 other children. That chapel is gone. I can’t suggest any particular reason for the decline, but Wales has fallen out of love for religion and it has happened very quickly, including in the Church in Wales.

RogerB
RogerB
Reply to  Michael H.
16 days ago

Perhaps that’s the point. What became important was the four part harmony etc. rather than ‘loving God with all your heart’.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Michael H.
15 days ago

“The strong chapel culture – 4 part harmony congregational singing, long sermons, memorising large passages of the Bible (my early childhood experience) – has evaporated very rapidly.” It is, indeed, hard to imagine why a childhood consisting of congregational singing, long sermons and memorising large passages of the Bible should fall out of favour. What child doesn’t long for that as a way to spend their weekend, and what young adult doesn’t immediately think “no, I shall ignore sport, clubs, films and any other entertainment and commit my day to this?” And as everyone other than churches themselves realise, once… Read more »

Last edited 15 days ago by Interested Observer
Tobias Stanislas Haller
Reply to  Interested Observer
15 days ago

Thank you for this, IO. It is the first real acknowledgement I’ve seen of the effect of “coercion-removal” on church attendance (and membership). Whether the coercion came from the church (with threats of hell-fire) or from social pressure (church as the “done thing”) the end to the pressure has had unremarkable and unsurprising results.

David Exham
David Exham
Reply to  Michael H.
16 days ago

It is interesting how ready people are to state as fact what can only be supposition. ‘The Church in Wales will be extinct by 2030.’ The Holy Spirit may have a different view. Hope is a Christian virtue, and while there are pastors like Bishop Gregory I shall continue to hope.

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  David Exham
16 days ago

No it isn’t supposition – it’s statistical reality. As you mention Bishop Gregory, take a look at the statistics since he became bishop of St Asaph more than a decade ago. If you can’t find them, I’ll post them. Trends are not only downwards, but sharply downwards. There comes a point where viability ceases. It happens to every church community where there are insufficient funds to keep up. Many spectacular churches in Wales have been closed and sold off in the past decade. Others are currently being advertised on the Church in Wales website for rock bottom prices. It’s heartbreaking.

David Exham
David Exham
Reply to  Michael H.
16 days ago

I accept of course that the statistics for the Church in Wales are hardly encouraging. All the points you have made are, I am sure, true. But it is still the case that statistical forecasts are not yet ‘reality’. Nobody knows what will happen over the next eight years. You cannot state as a matter of inarguable fact that ‘The Church in Wales will be extinct by 2030.’ That may be very likely, but the Church may, even at this late stage, make decisions that start to reverse trends. If, however, people have given up, have surrendered to what is… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Michael H.
15 days ago

I agree with your analysis: even if Fresh Expressions has some modest and sporadic success it will not even come close to offsetting the run off of the core cadre of regular attendees at the top end of the age distribution. This is why the ‘mainstream’ churches are largely finished in Britain, and one of the main tasks is now to salvage the buildings for public benefit and (hopefully) Christian witness. My experience of the Church in Wales is largely confined to Llandaff, Monmouth and Swansea & Brecon (with only a smattering in Bangor). To be honest, and based on… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Froghole
14 days ago

“the core cadre of regular attendees at the top end of the age distribution” As every club and society in the UK is finding, willingness to serve as secretaries and treasurers and the like is a product of cohort, not age. Many people born in the 1930s and 1940s were fortunate enough to retire in their late fifties or early sixties under generous pension schemes. This was particularly true of the middle classes. They went on to become stalwarts of the parish council and the allotment society and the WI: financially secure, healthy, skilled, happy to volunteer. People today are… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Interested Observer
14 days ago

I agree with you completely (and I must thank you for your very shrewd comments on this and other recent threads). The churches have relied on a great deal of unpaid labour from women born before the late 1940s: that is the very last generation in which the stay-at-home mother was the norm. That cohort will not be replaced. Defined contribution pensions have become the norm since the mid/late 1990s. DC pensioners must self-insure, very expensively, and only a small proportion of them will reach or come close to the lifetime allowance. The fake social care ‘reforms’ published recently will… Read more »

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
Reply to  Interested Observer
12 days ago

Very much the case here in Canada as well. My parish’s core volunteers are mostly in the 75-85 bracket, and have been in leadership roles for 20 to 30 years. The 55-70 cohort includes some very capable people. But they are occupied either (1) working hard to save money for retirement, having finally finished putting their children through university, (2) caring for elderly parents, (3) caring for grandchildren so that their children can have careers and not spend all their money on child care, or (4) financially secure and looking to travel while they still have good health. Plus, they… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  David Exham
16 days ago

The Holy Spirit cannot be limited or instructed by our expectations. She seems to be in no hurry it seems with church growth in most of Europe, Australasia and North America. The island of Ireland has seen a precipitous decline in church attendance in my lifetime.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Fr Dean
16 days ago

I suspect the Holy Spirit isn’t religious.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  FrDavidH
15 days ago

Himself didn’t seem that keen on the religious either – indeed one could say that he came to abolish religion. That deals with Spirit and Son. I wonder what Father thinks. And since I’m a heretic who wants Sophia in the Quaternity (just think of the implications for liturgical music), what does she think?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
15 days ago

I’m surprised the large number of wise women clergy don’t demand Sophia’s inclusion .It would be wonderful to sing Holy, Holy , Holy, Holy on Quaternity Sunday.

Gregory
Gregory
Reply to  Fr Dean
16 days ago

No. I don’t discuss any of my clergy’s sleeping arrangements.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Gregory
16 days ago

A wise bishop! The bishop who ordained me deacon and priest John Gladwin was an equally gifted bishop. He took a brave and principled stance for the LGBTQI community 25 years ago when the atmosphere for gay people was even more hostile both in the church and society.

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Gregory
15 days ago

God Bless you, Dear Bishop, for extending the Great Love of God as perceived in The Son. Greetings from Aotearoa/ New Zealand (Fr. Ron Smith)

Charles Read
Reply to  Fr Dean
15 days ago

‘Does the Church in Wales insist on separate bedrooms for its clergy in a civil partnership as I believe is the case in England?’

It is not the case in most English dioceses. I can only think of one or maybe two bishops who would ask about it! However, I was once sent (with the archdeacon) by my bishop to talk to parishioners who wanted to know about their vicar’s sleeping arrangements!

Jeffrey John
Jeffrey John
Reply to  Charles Read
15 days ago

“It is not the case in most English dioceses. I can only think of one or maybe two bishops who would ask about it!’. Really? I have been required to state that I am in an ‘abstinent’ partnership at least seven times, by two Archbishops of Canterbury, two Bishops of St Albans, two Bishops of Southwark and, most recently, the Bishop in Europe. Four times it had to be repeated in writing, and once it was a solemn affidavit under seal. They all squirmed of course while asking the question – especially the secretly gay ones – but I assure… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Jeffrey John
15 days ago

Charles, I was reflecting on how to answer your post when Jeffrey gave a much more considered response from his greater experience. Even if most Bishops do not enquire about these things of their ministers, the rules are there, and the uncertainty about whether an individual bishop will enforce the rules or not creates great stress for LGBTQ ministers. In my own case, as a Licensed Lay Minister who wished to legally marry his same sex partner, I was aware that the only previous LLM to get married to a same sex partner had been sacked. Nevertheless we chose to… Read more »

Last edited 15 days ago by Simon Dawson
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Dawson
15 days ago

Simon, I know of devout and gifted LLMs in the C of E who have had their licenses revoked or (in cases of trainees) their training terminated because of this issue.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
15 days ago

I know that am very fortunate in my benefice, archdeaconry, and diocese.

But one should not need to rely on good fortune, or an episcopal post-code lottery, to obtain fair treatment.

Charles Read
Reply to  Simon Dawson
15 days ago

I must first apologize to Jeffrey and others if my previous post was offensive or insensitive. I was trying to address the specific question of sleeping arrangements – we are all aware of the requirements made of clergy in same sex partnerships and most of us find them offensive. I am truly shocked at what Jeffrey recounts – I have been given to understand by several bishops that they make a cursory inquiry along the lines of ‘you do abide by the House of bishops requirements don’t you? ‘ . Clearly many go much further and asking for declarations under… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Jeffrey John
15 days ago

Sometimes I think people forget the partners, and the psychological effect of their partner being obliged to be celibate, and the impact on the partner. It is unbelievably cruel, unnatural, and downright oppressive. The same with banning partners of gay and lesbian bishops from the Lambeth Conference. How incredibly rude! I sometimes wonder what impact the church’s theological vilification, of intimate loving relationships between gay and lesbian couples, and its call to be celibate all their lives… has on a partner who may be agnostic themselves though their partner is a Christian. What message does the Church of England’s requirement… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
14 days ago

I agree. The lack of respect for partners is cruel.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Jeffrey John
14 days ago

I’m sure that the bishops think sex only takes place under the eiderdown, with a candlewick bedspread providing additional coverage and with the lights off of course. I’d recommend that on their induction course they should have to watch George Michael’s video accompanying his song ‘Let’s go outside’. Even the lyrics on their own might be sufficiently illuminating for the episcopal band. I don’t even think that it would have been so much prurience at play in your case, dreadful as it was; I just think many senior clergy are nosey and gossipy. If a bishop had ever asked me… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Fr Dean
14 days ago

Fr Dean presents an amused, cosy fluffy picture of what is going on, with naïve and innocent bishops struggling to understand the lives of their LGBTQ ministers. My experience is different. I believe that most bishops know exactly what is going on, and have a very real knowledge of the issues, and the pain that is being caused by these policies. Some bishops support the policies because of their own faith position, which I can have some respect for. But many more bishops, whilst knowing of that pain, continue to collude with the policies, or fail to oppose them, simply… Read more »

Last edited 14 days ago by Simon Dawson
Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Simon Dawson
13 days ago

Simon I must apologise if I gave you the impression that I’m anything other than deadly serious. With several exceptions the bishops are good people doing bad things. We must call them out on that but nor should we be complicit in their hypocrisy either. Because we have been abused for being gay we can all too easily internalise homophobia and pretend to be straight or pretend our civil partnership is solely expressed as holding hands under the apple tree when it’s not. It’s very easy to assume the identity and role of victim as a gay Christian; so instead… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Fr Dean
13 days ago

Thanks for your comment Fr Dean. I think I was feeling a bit emotionally raw and ragged after Jeffrey John’s post, so I too apologise if my own text was a bit sharper in tone than it need have been.

Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis
Reply to  Jeffrey John
14 days ago

Jeffrey I am appalled by what you write and it has haunted me all day. How dare these people, some of whom I know, act and pry in this manner.
It is degrading and I really do not understand why you have to tolerate such abusive behaviour. Well might they squirm…..I wonder when they were last asked about their sex lives…..perhaps you should have said “I will tell you about mine if you will tell me about yours!” A journalist would have a field day with this information (hint, hint!)…but I suspect you are too much of a gentleman…..

Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis
Reply to  Jeffrey John
14 days ago

Perhaps if any of you named bishops are reading this an apology would not be out of place or at least have the balls to explain yourselves publicly.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
Reply to  Charles Read
14 days ago

As a lay person I would be suggesting that ordinands be recommended to lie to their bishops, and no doubt some bishops would prefer such lies. But what an appalling situation into which to put anyone. And what a way to start ministry with a lie. If Christian belief if based on truth then Christian minister should not have to lie. And the church should not require them to, neither should it dress up the need to lie in evasion or casuistry.

Kate
Kate
16 days ago

Felicitations to the happy couple.

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
16 days ago

God Bless them both.

Fr John Emlyn

Father Ron Smith
14 days ago

What still surprises some of us who were once members of the C.of E., is the continuing hypocrisy practised by the House of Bishops, for whom the “nod, nod; wink, wink” philosophy is still alive and ill – at least in the Statutes if not in the minds and hearts of the bishops who are fully aware of what the term same-sex relationship means and yet have, apparently, to ‘live with’ the anomoly of the pretence involved. Honestly has always been ‘the best policy’ – especially with regard to spiritual realities – so that a continuing ‘ambiguity’ of what a… Read more »

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
14 days ago

I totally agree Fr Ron, particularly about how many vocations, or even promotions, have been prevented from fulfillment. If the House of Bishops are using Scripture to justify the prejudice, why are clergy allowed to remarry after divorce. Some clergy are twice divorced, on their third marriage and ultimately it’s the ex-spouse who suffers by having to leave the vicarage. There is no hindrance to the ministry of divorced-remarried clergy, while a same sex couple may have been together for decades but it’s clear just from this discussion, the prying they’ve endured and the thwarted promotion (Reading, Llandaff).

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
14 days ago

I was told recently of an incident at one of the so-called ‘Shared Conversations’ in which a priest, in conversation with two bishops, and in the context of intrusive questioning, asked them when they last had anal intercourse with their wife. After the moments of shocked silence he reminded them that it was just such intrusion that priests in same sex relationships were regularly and continued to be made to suffer.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Richard Ashby
13 days ago

Mrs Thatcher commissioned a report into the sex lives of the great British public in the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Apparently 12.5% of heterosexual couples liked it up the wrong un in those days. Your chap could equally have asked the bishops if they ever had sex whilst their wives were menstruating.

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