Perhaps it would be appropriate for me in this post, one of the first on the blog, to give you a general introduction to the Welsh language Church scene. I’m not at all interested in Church politics neither in the rivalry between traditions and denominations but i think it’s important for me to introduce the different strands of fabric that make up the Welsh language church at large.
First of all I should introduce the three old traditionally Calvinistic denominations. We have the Presbyterian Church of Wales (formally known as the Calvinistic Methodists), then we have the Union of Welsh Independents and finally the Baptist Union of Wales. Both the Presbyterians and the Baptists have both Welsh and English streams within them but on a whole the Welsh and English sides operate independently. The Union of Welsh Independents is made up only of Welsh language Churches. Historically Wales has been very much a Calvinistic rather than Arminian country and that is reflected in that fact that the Wesleyan Methodist Church is currently and historically the weakest nonconformist body in Wales. Perhaps it’s underdog status was also the by product of it being the only nonconformist Church in Wales who’s gravity of power did not lie in Wales itself; Methodist churches in Wales were administrated from the Methodist’s headquarters in Manchester, England. Finally The Church in Wales is a member of the Global Anglican Communion and gained autonomy from Canterbury following the disestablishment of church and state in Wales in 1920. The issue of Welsh disestablishment is of great importance to understand the Welsh Christian psyche and Welsh identity in general and it is a subject I’m sure I will return to in future posts. Despite The Church of Wales being statistically the strongest force in the land, it is without doubt that the Welsh language community since the Methodist Revival have overweeningly been nonconformists and remain so.
There are no Pentecostal, Apostolic or Charismatic Welsh language churches. The only new wave of Welsh churches since 1900 have been the Evangelical Churches bought together loosely under the banner of The Evangelical Movement of Wales. There are 9 all together based at Cardiff, Carmarthen, Tregaron, Aberystwyth, Talsarnau, Llanrug, Bangor and Llangefni. The first, the Aberystwyth church where I was bought up, was established in 1966 and the youngest i believe I’m right in saying is the Cardiff church which was established late 1980s. How and why these churches came about is something I’m sure I will return to in detail in future posts. But for now I will just say that although the people who established these churches (which included most of my immediate and extended family) were sincere and were doing it out of love for their fellow Welshmen their Churches identity has been shaped by what they are against more than what they are for. Their, or perhaps I should say our, public image has been that of guardians of the truth rather than bringers of hope. Finally on to house churches; I only know of one Welsh house church and that is in Bangor.
So there you have it, but where are the Evangelical Christians then? Well, this is perhaps the problem or the blessing, depending on which way you look at it. Evangelical christians are spread pretty much evenly and therefore thinly between all the different traditions. All the old main denominations have Evangelicals in their ranks; in-fact by now the old Liberal leaders are dying out, literally, opening up many leadership positions to people of Orthodox if not even Evangelical persuasion. Having said that, all denominations still have major problems and the problems are deep-rooted and nothing short of a reformation of Lutherian vigor can deal with the rot effectively.
What is missing in the Welsh language church scene therefore is what is know in the English world as reformissional churches. And that, my friends, is what i think, talk, cry, loose sleep and pray most about these days.