The Church in Wales

The Church in Wales has consecrated the Rt. Rev. Joanna Penberthy, the first woman to serve in its episcopate, as the 129th Bishop of St Davids on Jan. 21.

Penberthy, formerly in charge of the Glan Ithon benefice in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon, was elected in November and consecrated Jan. 21. Her enthronement is scheduled for St. Davids Cathedral on Feb. 11.

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The Most Rev. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, described Bishop Penberthy’s consecration as a historic occasion. The Church in Wales voted to allow women bishops in 2013 after two decades of debate and controversy about women in leadership.

“While being made bishop is awe-inspiring, I am very much looking forward to joining the people of St Davids diocese as we seek to live out and share our faith in the risen Christ,” Penberthy told the BBC.

Morgan said ordained women in Wales had faced a long struggle to reach this point.

“The great thing about our women clergy is that they did not give up or become cynical or bitter,” he said. “They dared to trust and dared to hope and so are part of a long and distinguished company of people in the Old and New Testaments who trusted in God’s promises and hoped against hope that all would be well.

“What matters is not gender but suitability, character, gifts, and that was why Joanna was elected as bishop.”

Archbishops on the Reformation

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a joint statement on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, saying the Church of England will share events with Protestant church partners from continental Europe.

“The Reformation was a process of both renewal and division amongst Christians in Europe,” Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Jonathan Sentamu wrote. “In this Reformation anniversary year, many Christians will want to give thanks for the great blessings they have received to which the Reformation directly contributed. Amongst much else these would include clear proclamation of the gospel of grace, the availability of the Bible to all in their own language, and the recognition of the calling of lay people to serve God in the world and in the church.”

They also cited some of the Reformation’s troubled legacies. “Many will also remember the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love. Those turbulent years saw Christian people pitted against each other, such that many suffered persecution and even death at the hands of others claiming to know the same Lord. A legacy of mistrust and competition would then accompany the astonishing global spread of Christianity in the centuries that followed. All this leaves us much to ponder.”

They said the Reformation “should bring us back to what the Reformers wanted to put at the center of every person’s life, which is a simple trust in Jesus Christ” and should “lead us to repent of our part in perpetuating divisions.”

The statement calls on all Christians “to seek to be renewed and united in the truth of the gospel of Christ through our participation in the Reformation anniversary, to repent of divisions, and, held together in him, to be a blessing to the world in obedience to Jesus Christ.”

One Queen’s Chaplain Resigns

Fallout from a Quran reading in Glasgow Cathedral at an Epiphany service continues, with one its most vocal critics resigning as a chaplain to the Queen. The Rev. Gavin Ashenden has left his position to remain in the discussion.

“I think it’s clear to me that accepting the role of chaplain to the Queen does not give one a platform where one can speak controversially in the public space,” he told reporters. “So in those circumstances I think one has to choose between whether one wants to accept an important honor or whether one chooses to continue a debate in the public space.”

Ashenden said the reading from the Quran had caused serious offense. Another vocal critic was the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, who was born into a Muslim family. One concern commonly asserted by critics is the message it sent out to Christians in Pakistan or Syria, who face persecution.

In recent months Ashenden has expressed criticisms of the Church of England’s policies and of its archbishops.

A student, Madinah Javed, read from the lectern in Arabic from the chapter of Maryam, or Mary. The chapter tells the Muslim version of Christ’s birth by the Virgin Mary. It includes the Islamic teaching that Jesus is not the son of God and should not be worshiped.

The cathedral’s provost, the Very Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth, has said readings from the Quran in the cathedral are part of efforts to build relationships between Christians and Muslims in Glasgow.

“Such readings have happened a number of times in the past in this and in other churches and have led to deepening friendships locally, to greater awareness of the things we hold in common, and to dialogue about the ways in which we differ,” Holdsworth said.

There are 33 Queen’s chaplains. It is an honorary role that mostly involves leading worship at various royal chapels. It’s unlikely that any of them have the ear of the Sovereign. It normally falls to the Archbishop of Canterbury to offer spiritual advice to the monarch.

Abp. Wabukala to Lead Ethics Body

The Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala, former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya, is the new chairman of his country’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. The Kenya Gazette reported his appointment Jan. 17.

“He is eminently qualified and respected leader who will deliver his mandate at the helm of the commission to the expectations of Kenyans,” said a statement by Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s president.

Another Call to Evangelism

The Church of England’s Towards the Conversion of England (1945) ranks as a popular but also neglected report by the Church of England.

The Rev. Canon Max Warren, while serving as general secretary of the Church Missionary Society, hailed it as “one of the most remarkable statements ever authorized for publication by the Church of England.”

Rather than take a lead in the report’s implementation, Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher devoted his considerable energies into a massive single-handed revision of the Church of England’s canon law. Other wings of the church were on the whole wary of the kind of evangelical enthusiasm the report represented.

It might be argued that rarely does action from the center energize the Church of England for evangelism. The 1988 Lambeth Conference called for a Decade of Evangelism. The Alpha Course, which began as a local initiative and incubated in the London parish of Holy Trinity Brompton, became a global force during that decade.

Now another Church of England evangelism report, Setting God’s People Free, will go before the General Synod in February. It says the Church needs to experience a major culture shift to help lay members spread the gospel in their everyday lives.

Setting God’s People Free calls for Christians to be equipped to live by their faith in every sphere, from the factory or office to the gym or shop, to increase numbers of Christians and their influence in all areas of life.

One of the paper’s concerns is a need to address tensions between clergy and laity that can often lead to congregational paralysis and ineffectiveness.

The paper is regarded as a key element of the lay leadership strand of Renewal and Reform, an initiative by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to help the church grow.

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