Church in Wales Elects Its 14th Primate

Archbishop Andy John | churchinwales.org.uk

By Mark Michael

The Rt. Rev. Andy John, Bishop of Bangor, was elected as the 14th Archbishop and Primate of the Church in Wales by the church’s Electoral College in its December 6 meeting at Holy Trinity Church, Llandrindod Wells. John will succeed John Davies, who retired in May after four years as the church’s primate.

John, 57, a native of Aberystwyth and a Welsh speaker, has served the Diocese of Bangor in Northwestern Wales for fourteen years, and, in accordance with Church in Wales polity, will continue as bishop there while serving as primate. His enthronement as archbishop will be held at St. Deiniol’s Cathedral in Bangor in due course.

John said, “As we look forward to the future, we face many challenges, but we do so not alone. We face the challenges with God’s grace and with one another, because together we are so much stronger, so much better. I am confident that the Church in Wales will be able to respond with energy and vision and vigor. It is my enormous privilege to serve our church to this end.”

John trained for the ministry at St. John’s College, Nottingham, a recently closed progressive evangelical Church of England theological college. He was ordained in the Diocese of St Davids in 1989, and served several parishes there until he became Bishop of Bangor in 2008. During his priestly ministry he served as a missioner during the Springboard initiative, an important part of the 1990’s “Decade of Evangelism,” and wrote the evangelism course Menter which was used in parishes across the church.

Youth ministry has also been an area of focus for him, and he has been heavily involved in drug and alcohol related issues, chairing the governing board of Cyswllt Ceredigion, a rehabilitation agency in Aberystwyth as a priest, and continuing to advise community groups focused on the issue while serving as bishop.

Bishop John was a vocal supporter of changing the Church in Wales’ teaching and practice on same sex relationships. He was among the bishops who voted to approve the blessing of same-sex partnerships and civil marriages last September.

In 2019, he wrote to his diocese, “Over a period of time, in which I have ministered alongside those in same sex relationships and have wrestled with how to be faithful to God and open to the Spirit, I have come to believe that the Church should now fully include without distinction those who commit to permanent loving unions with a person of the same sex. I further believe that the best way to do this is for the Church to marry these people as we do with men and women.”

Anglicanism was the established religion of Wales until 1920, when the dioceses located in Wales were separated from the Church of England, and formed into an independent and disestablished church. Since 1923, the church has had six dioceses and a regularly meeting synod, the Governing Body. The church’s membership has declined significantly over the past fifty years, from 91,247 in 1996 to 42,441, or 1.6% of the total population of Wales, by 2018.

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