A third archdeaconry is to be created in Monmouth Diocese following overwhelming support for the move at this year’s Diocesan Conference.
The motion to ‘Create an archdeaconry of the Gwent Valleys from the Archdeaconry of Newport – consisting of the deaneries of Bedwellty and Pontypool’ was put forward by Bishop Richard.
Introducing the motion, Bishop Richard reminded everyone that the church needs to be fit for purpose for the mission of God and spoke of a “crisis point” in the Valleys and the need to “invest in the area and try and turn it around.”
He said: “The Diocese is in three distinct areas – rural, urban and Valleys. In order of viability, the rural are holding their own and indeed, in some areas, growing. The urban is being rationalised and is making some headway. However, the Valleys area has been sinking at far greater rate and has reached crisis point. The figures of the annual returns from the Valleys make grim reading.
“As Bishop I am charged with the leadership of this Diocese. Faced with such a challenge I could ignore it and almost certainly let the Anglican presence in the Valleys fade away. Or I could do – what any organisation would do – let alone the church – invest in the area and try and turn it around.”
He spoke of two basic needs and identified others – the need for consistent support and direction and to think creatively how we can start new church where the church we know has almost died.
Currently, the Archdeacon of Monmouth is working with 8 Ministry Area Leaders, while the Archdeaconry of Newport, which includes the Valleys, has twice that number at 16.
A third archdeacon would help give effective support and guidance to Ministry Area Leaders and their teams.
Bishop Richard explained: “Talking to Ministry Leaders they clearly felt the need for further support and encouragement from senior staff. The role of Archdeacons today has changed. They are no longer clergy looking after the church yards and buildings. They are encouragers and enablers of clergy. In this respect the time that they need to spend and work with Ministry Area Leaders is expanding.”
Secondly, the new Archdeacon will encourage and develop new ways of growing the Church.
Bishop Richard said: “Many Dioceses appoint Directors of Mission to fulfil this role. They can be very effective. This would be an option but by combining this role with the third Archdeacon role it would enable us to give specific support to the valleys as well for the mission development work for the whole of the Diocese. It’s a two for one!”
While sympathising with those who believe that the introduction of a third archdeacon would simply be another manager, when what is required is another priest, Bishop Richard sees this as too short-sighted.
He talked of something more ‘radical’ being needed to turn around the Diocese and to realign church in a different way that engages with communities and encourages New Church growth.
“We need mission and evangelism otherwise this Diocese will find it difficult to survive,” he warned.
Several people spoke out in support of the creation of this new role within the diocese and the motion received an overwhelming majority in the vote.
Watch this space!