Church in Wales (Welsh: Yr Eglwys yng Nghymru) is a member Church of
the Anglican Communion, consisting of six dioceses in Wales. Like many
Anglican churches, it recognizes the primacy of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, (who does not however have any formal authority in
Wales except for minor roles in the case of failure to elect a
bishop and in a court set up to try an archbishop, as well as direct
authority as metropolitan in a handful of border parishes remaining in
the Church of England). The Archbishop of Wales serves concurrently as
one of the church's six diocesan bishops. Once the state Church,
disestablishment was effected in 1920. This means that, unlike England,
Wales no longer has a state Church. The name the 'Church in Wales' ('Yr
Eglwys yng Nghymru') came about by accident: The Welsh Church Act 1914
had referred throughout to "the Church in Wales", being a phrase to
indicate the portion of the Church of England that was in Wales. A
Convention of the Welsh Church in 1920 considered what name to use, and
favoured "the Church of Wales", however, using a name different from
that given by the Act would be a legal problem, so "the Church in
Wales" was chosen.
Christianity in Wales can be traced back to the Romano-British period.
Wales became a refuge for other Brythons following the pagan
Anglo-Saxon invasion of what became England, so much so that the Welsh
refused to co-operate with Augustine of Canterbury's mission to the
Anglo-Saxons. However, a combination of Celtic Christianity's
reconciliation with Rome and Medieval English conquest of Wales meant
that from the Middle Ages until 1920, the Welsh dioceses were part of
the Province of Canterbury, in communion with the See of Rome until the
Reformation, and continuing afterwards as part of the Church of
England. From the time of Henry VIII, Wales had been absorbed into
England as a legal entity and the Established Church in Wales therefore
was the Church of England.
During the 19th century nonconformist churches grew rapidly in Wales,
so much so that, eventually, the majority of Welsh Christians were
nonconformist, although the Church of England remained the largest
single religious denomination. The Welsh Revival of 1904 made the gap
to the High Churchmen who dominated the Church of Wales particularly
conspicuous. A number of high profile incidents where evangelical
clergymen were expelled by bishops helped to create a legacy of
ill-feeling among the people against the Church of Wales.
At the beginning of the 20th century, under the influence of
nonconformist politicians such as David Lloyd George, the Welsh Church
Act 1914 (which was delayed by the outbreak of the First World War) was
passed by the Liberal Government 1905–1915 to separate the Anglican
Church in Wales from the Church of England. The bill was fiercely
resisted by the Conservatives, and blocked in the House of Lords,
eventually being passed by the use of the Parliament Act. Welsh
disestablishment was also a way of asserting a national identity. The
absence of any Welshmen from Welsh bishoprics for 150 years caused real
resentment. The Act both disestablished and disendowed the
"Church in Wales", the term used to define the part of the Church of
England which was to be separated. The Church was split from the Church of England in 1920.
Disestablishment ended the Church's special legal status and Welsh
bishops were no longer entitled to sit in the House of Lords.
Establishment has limitations as well as advantages: for example,
priests of the Church of England are barred from sitting in the House
of Commons, but this no longer applied to priests in Wales. The Church
in Wales was independent of the state. This meant the tithes or church
tax were no longer available to the church, leaving it without a major
source of income. To counter this, a successful fund-raising drive was
undertaken and by the end of the 20th century the Church of Wales was
in a better financial position than the Church of England!
1920 to the present
Parishes overlapping the border were allocated either to the Church in
Wales or to the Church of England, with the result that the line of
disestablishment is not exactly the same as the England—Wales border. A
few districts in Monmouthshire and Radnorshire remain attached to
parishes in the diocese of Hereford and consequently established. The
Oswestry deanery was detached from the St. Asaph diocese. Today, the
Church in Wales is fully independent of both the state and the Church
of England, and is an independent member of the Anglican Communion like
the Church of Ireland or the Scottish Episcopal Church. The Church in
Wales is currently undergoing numerous changes and debates,
particularly the appointment of women to the episcopate, and the
recognition by the province as a whole of the equality of Welsh and
English languages in all parts of Church life.
The Church of Wales has provided the first Welsh-born
Archbishop of Canterbury: The Most
Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams was consecrated and enthroned as Bishop of
Monmouth in 1992, and Archbishop of Wales in 1999. He was appointed by
the Queen (proposed by the Crown Appointments Commission)
to be Archbishop of Canterbury in July 2002.
Following disestablishment in 1920, the Church in Wales fared better
than the nonconformist churches, which suffered decline in the
twentieth century. The Church in Wales like other Anglican churches
does not have 'membership'. However, there were 75,000 communicants on
Easter Sunday, 2004, (with adherents and visitors this will be more
like 90,000 attendees).
The Church in Wales is Episcopalian church governance like other Anglican churches.
There are four Anglican dioceses in Wales which were part of the
Province of Canterbury, prior to the creation of the Church in Wales,
and each led by its own bishop:
The Diocese of Bangor, The Diocese of St Asaph, The Diocese of St
David's, The Diocese of Llandaff, and two further dioceses have been
created since the creation of the Church in Wales as a seperate entity:
The Diocese of Monmouth (in 1921) created from the eastern part of Llandaff diocese, roughly the ancient county of Monmouthshire. The Diocese of
Swansea and Brecon (in 1923) created from the eastern part of the
St David's diocese, and including the City & County of Swansea with
the traditional counties of Breconshire and Radnorshire.
Unlike bishops in the Church of England, each bishop of the Church in
Wales is elected by an 'Electoral College' which consists of
representatives of the diocese seeking a new bishop, representatives of
the other five dioceses in Wales and all the other Bishops of the
Church in Wales. Currently the Church in Wales does not consecrate
women as bishops, and this was reconfirmed by a close vote in 2008. The
Archbishop of Wales, the head of the Church in Wales, is elected by and
from the six diocesan bishops and continues as a diocesan bishop after
In addition to the six Diocesan Bishops, there are currently two
Assistant Bishops within the Church. In 1996, the Church in Wales
approved the ordination of women, and the Provincial Assistant Bishop
was appointed to provide pastoral care for those who could not in good
conscience accept the ordination of women. As in other churches, there
are now many female priests and deacons in active ministry in the
Church. It has become customary for the Archbishop to appoint an
Assistant Bishop to help within the Archbishop's diocese.
The Representative Body is responsible for the care of the Church's
property and funding many of the activities of the Church, including
priests' stipends and pensions. The Governing Body functions as a kind
of parliament (similar to the Church of England General Synod) for the
Worship and liturgy
Some have suggested that the Church in Wales tends to be predominantly
High Church, (using many of the traditions inherited from the Oxford
Movement). However, even though the province in terms of theology and
liturgy is more liberal and Anglo-Catholic, there is a tradition of
evangelicalism, especially in the south of Wales, and the university
town of Aberystwyth. Since the 1960s there has been a revival of
evangelicalism within the Church in Wales and the Evangelical
Fellowship of the Church in Wales exists to support evangelicals.
The publication of the 2004 Holy Eucharist and 2006 Rites of Christian
Initiation are the largest reforms in liturgy in nearly forty years. It
is hoped that by the end of the decade that the 2004 Eucharist rite
will be the sole celebrated rite within the province, leading it to
become more a eucharist-centered church than before. The Standing
Liturgical Commission are preparing resources for Morning, Evening and
Doctrine and practice
Central teachings of the Church in Wales is the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, including:
Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God. He died and was resurrected from the dead.
Jesus provides the way of eternal life for those who believe.
The Old and New Testaments of the Bible were written by people "under
the inspiration of the Holy Spirit". The Apocrypha are additional books
that are used in Christian worship, but not for the formation of
The two great and necessary sacraments are Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist
Other sacramental rites are confirmation, ordination, marriage, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction.
Belief in heaven, hell, and Jesus's return in glory.
The threefold sources of authority in Anglicanism (and the Church in
Wales is Anglican) are scripture, tradition, and reason. These three
sources uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way.
In the last 30 or so years, the Church in Wales has taken a liberal
stand on various issues like economic justice, ordination of women, the
inclusion of gays and in some areas, such as human sexuality, the
Church in Wales like other churches, has faced resistance.
Like many other Anglican churches, the Church in Wales has entered into
full communion with the Old Catholics. The Church in Wales is also a
member of the Porvoo Communion.