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Questions raised over Archbishop’s judgement in case of ‘double-job’ cleric

12 Jun 2024 6 minute read
Andy John, Archbishop of Wales

Martin Shipton

Questions are being raised about the judgement of Archbishop of Wales Andy John after the emergence of concerns relating to potential financial irregularities in his home diocese of Bangor.

Several Church in Wales sources have independently contacted NationCymru to criticise the Archbishop for creating a situation where one cleric – the Rev Canon Siôn ap Rhys-Evans – was effectively running both the diocese of Bangor and its cathedral. He has been on gardening leave since February 29.

It is understood that Rev Rhys-Evans is on gardening leave because of a complaint made about him that concerns an unrelated matter. Specific issues relating to his dual roles became apparent subsequently.

We have been told that the Archbishop’s decision to let Rev Rhys-Evans hold both posts simultaneously created a conflict of interest, with large sums of money being spent in potential breach of their charitable purpose.

Controversy

One Church in Wales source told us: “The Church is doing its best to keep a lid on this and make sure it doesn’t become a public controversy. But the fact is that the Archbishop made a serious mistake when he appointed Sion Rhys-Evans as the Sub-Dean of Bangor Cathedral in 2021. The fact that he’s in charge of both the cathedral and the diocese is a major problem and he may live to regret it.”

Rev Rhys-Evans was appointed diocesan secretary of Bangor in 2013, several years before he was ordained as a priest. That put him in charge of administering the diocese – in effect he was chief executive. He could do that job without needing to be a priest.

Then in 2020 he was ordained as a priest, having completed the required training – and a year later he was made Sub-Dean of St Deiniol’s Cathedral in Bangor. We have been told that some eyebrows in the diocese were raised when the Archbishop made the appointment so soon after being ordained.

There isn’t a Dean in charge of Rev Rhys-Evans, and as Sub-Dean he runs the cathedral. But to be called a Dean you have to have been an ordained priest for at least six years.

Inadvisable

Another Church in Wales source told NationCymru: “It is unusual and perhaps inadvisable for one individual to hold both posts. It raises governance concerns. Both the diocese and the cathedral are registered charities and therefore regulated by the Charity Commission.

“Concerns have been raised about the use of charity money to make major purchases for the cathedral, including a new set of pews at a cost of around £235,000. The suggestion is that the correct procedures may not have been followed when decisions were taken about spending the money, and that pots of money were accessed which perhaps shouldn’t have been.

“The governance arrangements are clearly compromised by having one person wearing two hats, and the Archbishop should be open about why he thought that was a good idea.

“It may be argued that the chapter [which technically runs the cathedral with the Sub-Dean] was responsible for making decisions, but most of the members are priests who have little expertise in financial matters, especially those of some complexity.”

New worshippers

This source was anxious to point out that Rev Rhys-Evans had been successful in attracting new worshippers to the cathedral: “There were between 350 and 400 people in the congregation last Christmas Eve, with extra seats in the side aisles necessary for the first time in years,” they said. “That’s very encouraging.

“But the spending of charity funds over which there is a question mark exceeds the amount that should trigger an investigation by the Charity Commission. Yet the matter hasn’t been reported to the Charity Commission.”

A spokesperson for the Church in Wales would only say: “The Rev Canon Siôn Rhys Evans is currently away from work.”

We left a detailed voicemail message for Rev Rhys Evans, but he has not responded to our request for comment.

Website

The Church in Wales’ website says of Archbishop Andy John: “Archbishop Andrew grew up in Aberystwyth. He went to Ysgol Penglais and graduated in Law at the University of Wales, Cardiff, in 1986 and in Theology at the University of Nottingham in 1988. He also gained a Diploma in Pastoral Studies in 1989 at St John’s College, Nottingham. He was ordained as a deacon in 1989 and as priest in the Diocese of St Davids in 1990 and served all his ordained ministry until his election as Bishop of Bangor within that Diocese. He was a curate in Cardigan, Y Ferwg and Mwnt from 1989 to 1991 and also in Aberystwyth from 1991-1992. He then served as vicar in the Rectorial Benefice of Aberystwyth from 1992 to 1999. Andy was appointed to the parish of Henfynyw with Aberaeron and Llanddewi Aberarth in 1999 – a parish which expanded in 2005 to include Llanbadarn Trefeglwys.

“He was appointed vicar of Pencarreg with Cwman and Llanycrwys and Archdeacon of Cardigan in 2006. He was elected Bishop of Bangor in 2008.

“As a parish priest Archbishop Andrew chaired the Diocesan Youth Committee and served on numerous Diocesan church bodies including the Governing Body of the Church in Wales. He was also an Archbishop of Canterbury Missioner on the Springboard Decade of Evangelism Group. He was deputy and then Chair of Governors in Plascrug Primary School and Chair of Cyswllt Ceredigion (a drugs rehabilitation street agency working the Minnesota model of treatment) for a decade. As Bishop of Bangor he has continued to advise local agencies on drug and alcohol related issues

“As Archdeacon of Cardigan he wrote the Evangelism Course ‘Menter’ and jointly produced the accompanying DVD under the same title.

As Bishop of Bangor, Andrew holds the portfolio responsibilities for evangelism, church growth, the Welsh language (he speaks Welsh) and stewardship. He served on the St Padarn’s Council until June 2017.

Archbishop Andrew enjoys running, staying reasonably fit, playing the saxophone and the guitar. He is married to Naomi and has four grown-up children from his first marriage.”

Unlike some other clerics in the Church of Wales, the Archbishop favours same-sex marriages taking place in church.


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richard
richard
1 month ago

Bangor has had great shepherds over the years. But things have gone down. Generally, as we all know. Clever and outstanding people have been marginalised. We all know this. But we dare not say it. And we are all scared to mention His name. Iesu. Black lives matter. But not the message of Iesu Grist.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 month ago
Reply to  richard

Interesting, the Cymru of Today spirituality is now a very distant memory from the days of Evan Roberts,Rees Howells and the last Welsh Revival.
Cymru today like the rest of Western society is secular with agnosticism/atheism being the majority.
The Church must draw a distinction from being part of the world system or preaching the message of salvation.
Mr Williams your a good Catholic would be interesting to know your thoughts on this.

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