Archbishop of Wales to step down

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The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, is to retire in May after four years as leader of the Church in Wales.

Archbishop John, who will shortly celebrate his 68th birthday, has also served as Bishop of Swansea and Brecon for the past 13 years. The 13th Archbishop of Wales, he was also the first Bishop of Swansea and Brecon to be elected as Archbishop. He will retire from both roles on May 2.

During his tenure as Archbishop, John Davies led the Church in Wales as it reached its centenary last year and also as it faced one of its toughest challenges in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Anglican Communion, Justin Welby, paid tribute to his wisdom and skill, describing him as a “valued colleague”.

Announcing his retirement, Archbishop John, said, “Leadership is both a privilege and a challenge. During my time as both Bishop and Archbishop I have tried to exercise the first and face the second with vision, courage and patience, always hoping to make the Church better equipped, better understood, less mysterious and more welcoming. In the current exceptionally trying circumstances, I have been immensely impressed with the compassion, imagination and innovation with which so many have responded, succeeding in making the Church more accessible and, dare I say, relevant.

At all stages of my ministry, I have been fortunate to have the support of many valued lay and ordained colleagues, from both within and outside the Church, and a wonderfully loving and understanding family.

I thank all of them for that support, without which, the task would have been all but impossible.”

Archbishop John has been profoundly interested in matters of social justice, speaking out on a range of issues, including homelessness and housing, rural problems, assisted dying, organ donation and poverty. He has been chair of Housing Justice Cymru since it was launched in 2016, and has served as a trustee of Christian Aid, chairing its Wales National Committee for almost nine years from 2010.

At the same time, he has focused on the need for the Church in Wales to refresh its vision, its image and purpose, to embrace change and, through doing so, to aim for growth. He has urged members to be more ambitious and courageous in evangelism  and he oversaw the launch of a major £10m Evangelism Fund for projects aimed at achieving better engagement with and fuller understanding of Christian life and the Christian Gospel.

Tributes

Leading the tributes to Archbishop John, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said, “I have very much enjoyed working with John during his time as Archbishop of Wales. I have greatly valued his wisdom, his passion for the Gospel and evangelism , and his skill and diplomacy in dealing with often complex situations.

He has been a valued colleague not only as a fellow Primate in the United Kingdom and Ireland but also in the wider ANGLICAN Communion.

“The Coronavirus pandemic meant that I was not able to visit last April for the anniversary of the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, but I very much hope that it will be possible to come to Wales before John retires to thank him in person for his support and wise counsel.

“I wish John and his wife Jo well as they move into retirement and pray that they will continue to thrive. I know how much the Church in Wales and the wider Communion will miss him.”

The Bishop of Bangor, Andrew John, who is the Church’s senior bishop, praised Archbishop John’s leadership. He said, “John has been steadfast and resolute in these most difficult of times, bringing much needed stability and offering a reassuring voice, both to those in the Church and to those in the wider community.

“On behalf of his fellow bishops, I thank him for the oversight he has given us and send him our very best wishes for a long and happy retirement.”

The chief executive of the Church, Simon Lloyd, said, “Archbishop John has brought his extensive experience, encyclopaedic knowledge, sense of humour and deep love for the Church to his role. He has been a persuasive advocate for change and led the Church into identifying and resourcing many new opportunities. I wish him and his wife Jo a long and happy retirement.”

James Turner, chair of the Church’s Representative Body, said, “The dedication, care and commitment that has been a mark of Archbishop John’s ministry has been particularly to the fore over the past year. His guidance and support for the Representative Body has been invaluable and he carries the good wishes of all into his retirement.”

As Archbishop, John Davies is President of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales and its members will bid him farewell at the next meeting which will take place online in April.

Following Archbishop John’s retirement, the Bishop of Bangor will lead the Church until the election of a new Archbishop later in the year.

Journey of ministry

Originally from Newport, Archbishop John has led the Church in Wales since the retirement of Dr Barry Morgan in January 2017, first as its senior bishop, and then as Archbishop, following his election in September of the same year.

He began his training for ministry following a career in the legal profession. After graduating in law from the University of Southampton, he was admitted as a solicitor in 1977, specialising in criminal law. He was heavily involved in the life of the church at parochial, diocesan and provincial level and eventually left the law for ministry and was ordained in 1984. After ordination, he completed a Master’s degree in Canon Law.

Archbishop John served in the Diocese of Monmouth in a variety of rural, post-industrial and urban parishes, and he also served as Diocesan Schools’ Officer and Officer for Ecumenical Affairs. He was appointed Dean of Brecon in 2000, and during eight years in that role oversaw significant improvements to the fabric and liturgy of the Cathedral. He was elected as the ninth Bishop of Swansea and Brecon in 2008.

He retained a keen interest in issues of crime and punishment, with a particular concern about the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders, the nature of criminality and the effects of poor social and educational standards. Having served as the chairman of the trustees of a large hospice in Newport, he also has a deep concern for the just provision of healthcare, not least for those in the final stages of life.

A former church chorister, organist and choirmaster, Archbishop John has a passionate interest in church music. He is married to Jo, a nurse, and has recently become a grandfather.