The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Church in Wales

The Church in Wales is a member Church of the Anglican Communion.


From the Reformation until 1920, the Anglican Church in Wales was part of the Church of England, and the state church in Wales was the Church of England. During the 19th century the non-conformist churches grew rapidly in Wales. Eventually, the majority of Welsh Christians were Nonconformist, although Anglicans remained the largest single religious denomination.

At the beginning of the 20th century, under the influence of nonconformist politicians such as David Lloyd George, the Welsh Church Act 1914 was passed to separate the Anglican Church in Wales from the Church of England. In 1920 the Church in Wales was disestablished. This meant that, unlike in England, Wales no longer had a state Church.

The Church in Wales is as a result fully independent of both the state and the Church of England. The Church in Wales recognises the Archbishop of Canterbury as the honorary spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican community, although the Archbishop of Canterbury has no formal power over the Church in Wales.

Prior to the creation of the Church in Wales, there were four Anglican dioceses in Wales, all part of the Province of Canterbury, and each led by its own bishop:

In 1920, two more dioceses were created:

Monmouth was created from the eastern part of Llandaff diocese, largely corresponding to the traditional county of Monmouthshire. Swansea and Brecon was created from the eastern part of the St David's diocese, largely corresponding to what is now the City & County of Swansea and the traditional counties of Breconshire and Radnorshire.

Unlike bishops in the Church of England, each bishop of the Church in Wales is elected by an 'Electoral College' which consists of representatives of the diocese seeking a new bishop, representatives of the other five dioceses in Wales and all the other Bishops of the Church in Wales. The Archbishop of Wales, the head of the Church in Wales, is elected from the six diocesan bishops and continues as a diocesan bishop after his election. Currently the Church in Wales does not consecrate women as bishops.

Diocesan Bishops

  • The Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan - Bishop of Llandaff and Archbishop of Wales
  • The Right Revd John Davies - Bishop of St Asaph
  • The Right Revd Anthony Crockett - Bishop of Bangor
  • The Right Revd Carl Cooper - Bishop of St David's
  • The Right Revd Dr Dominic Walker - Bishop of Monmouth
  • The Right Revd Anthony Pierce - Bishop of Swansea and Brecon

Provincial Assistant Bishop

  • The Right Revd David Thomas

In 1996, the Church in Wales approved the Ordination of Women, and a seventh bishop was appointed (the Provincial Assistant Bishop) to provide pastoral care for those who could not in good conscience accept the ordination of women. As in the Church of England, there are now many women priests and deacons in active ministry in the Church.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury (The Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams) is the first Welsh Bishop since the Reformation to be the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was elected Bishop of Monmouth in 1991 and then elected Archbishop of Wales in 1999. He was appointed by the Queen (having been proposed by the Crown Appointments Commission) to be Archbishop of Canterbury in July 2002. He was succeeded as Bishop of Monmouth by the former Bishop of Reading, the Right Revd Dr Dominic Walker, and was succeeded as Archbishop of Wales by the Bishop of Llandaff, the Right Revd Dr Barry Morgan.

The Representative Body is responsible for the care of the Church's property and funding many of the activities of the Church, including support for priests' stipends (like salaries) and pensions. The Governing Body functions as a kind of parliament (similar to the Church of England General Synod) for the Church.

Greater detail on the structure of the Church can be found on the Church in Wales website

Church Traditions

While the Church of England has a broad spread of Christian traditions, the Church in Wales as a whole tends to be predominantly High Church, that is to say that many of the traditions inherited from the Roman Catholic church tend to get the most emphasis. This is perhaps a reaction against the Protestant traditions which dominate Welsh Christianity as a whole. Indeed, Anglo-Catholicism (the Anglican tradition most inclined towards Catholicism) is particularly strong among parishes in industrial south Wales. However there are also many thriving Evangelical parishes within the Church in Wales.

While the Church in Wales as a whole has tended to lag behind the Church of England in accepting developments such as the Ordination of Women, the Church in Wales does not seem to have suffered very much from the rifts and partisan disputes that have affected the Church of England in recent years.

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04