Some of you will be aware that on Saturday, 18th March, the Rev Stuart Bell, former Rector of the Rectorial Benefice of Aberystwyth, accepted ordination to the episcopate from Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church of North America and others.
While many of us have held Stuart in enormous respect for his ministry, the Bench of Bishops cannot receive or accept his episcopal ministry, founded, as it is, on a repudiation of the bishops’ own ministry and a breaking of Communion with the Church in Wales.
In these difficult circumstances, sadly there now exists some distance, not sought nor desired by the bishops of the Church in Wales, between us and the Anglican Convocation in Europe (ACIE), which is the group to which Stuart is now affiliated.
We understand that the issue over which Stuart has decided to take this action is the decision of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales to permit same-sex couples to have a blessing on their civil unions, and this step is characterized as a repudiation of Biblical authority. Naturally, this is not an interpretation which the bishops of the Church in Wales can accept, although we have been clear that clergy, leaders and members of the Church in Wales have a diversity of opinions on this matter, and have sought to provide space in our common life for freedom of conscience and difference.
We have to be clear, therefore, about how relationships are changed with Bishop Stuart now and those who are members of the Anglican Convocation in Europe. A decision by members of ACiE to stand apart from the oversight of the bishops of the Church in Wales, and of the Churches of the Anglican Communion in communion with us, means that Church in Wales clergy should stand back from receiving communion at services held under the auspices of the ACiE. No ministers affiliated with the Anglican Convocation in Europe should exercise ministry or leadership in a Church in Wales context unless the explicit written permission of the appropriate Church in Wales diocesan bishop has been given.
We would like to be as generous and open in our relationship with former colleagues and brothers and sisters in Christ in the future but we have to recognize the reality of the step which has been taken. We will be happy to address any further questions or perspectives that arise in people’s minds.