Experts to Look at the Future of Church in Wales; 'FUNDAMENTAL' ISSUES TO BE CONSIDERED BY SPECIALISTS

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INDEPENDENT experts will be brought in to address "fundamental" issues in the Church in Wales, Archbishop Barry Morgan announced yesterday. An expected fall in clergy numbers, the impact of the recession on investments and shrinking congregations are seen as three key challenges facing the church.

Lord Richard Harries, the retired Bishop of Oxford, and Professor Charles Handy, a leading management expert known for his work at London Business School, will explore how the church can have a secure future.

The Archbishop yesterday warned that it needed to be "open to the possibility of major change".

Speaking to members of the church's governing body at the start of its two-day meeting at Swansea University, he said the independent group would be free to examine any aspects of the denomination.

He said: "In other words, is the Church in Wales fit for purpose as a channel of God's grace for individuals, for our communities and for our nation?" A third expert, who has yet to be named, will join the group.

Dr Morgan said: "In commissioning such a review,wewill all have to be prepared to take seriously its findings and to be open to the possibility of significant change in our structures, ministry, use of buildings and other resources if it is seen to be in the best interests of the church and its mission to the people and communities of Wales."

It is hoped the group will report back by next year.

The 2008-09 Membership and Finance Report found average attendance had continued to fall by 2% and had dropped "particularly sharply" among young people. Direct giving was also down and, for the first time since 1993, total parish income was less than expenditure. Meanwhile, the proportion of parish expenditure spent on buildings increased from 28% to 31%.

Key long-term sources of income are also under threat. …