Review of the governance of English Cathedrals

The Church of England has announced the establishment by the two Archbishops of Cathedrals Working Group, (CWG), to look into the way its cathedrals are governed, their accountability and how financial decisions are made. The working party will include financial specialists and other experts and will be chaired by the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, with the Dean of York, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull, as his deputy.

The inquiry has been prompted by a recent report into the financial problems at Peterborough Cathedral, which resulted in a formal Visitation Charge by the Bishop, the Rt Revd Donald Allister – on which we cross-posted the reflections of the Dean Emeritus of Durham, Michael Sadgrove. In response to a written question, on 13 March 2017 Dame Caroline Spelman explained:

“The Cathedral is going through a cash flow crisis. It is taking too long to pay some bills, and paying the staff at the end of the month has been a close thing twice recently.” In response to requests from the Bishop and cathedral Chapter the Church Commissioners have provided advice, support, and financial backup to help the cathedral in this situation. Whilst some progress is being made, this week the Commissioners intend to increase the loan facility they have made available to the cathedral.”

With regard to co-incident early retirement of the Very Revd Charles Taylor, she stated: “There has been no reason to review the appropriateness of procedures and practice relating to the resignation”.

In his Visitation Charge, Dr Allister wrote that the cathedral “seems to have complied with the Cathedrals Measure 1999, but the accountability, scrutiny, and safeguards in that Measure were clearly insufficient to prevent the problems that occurred” and concluded as follows:

“I urge the Archbishops’ Council, the Church Commissioners, and the House of Bishops, to look at whether the current Cathedrals Measure is adequate, and to consider revising it. The Peterborough situation has convinced me that the high degree of independence currently enjoyed by Cathedrals poses serious risks to the reputation of the whole Church, and thus to our effectiveness in mission. A closer working relationship of Cathedrals with their Bishop and Diocese would be of benefit to all, both practically and spiritually.”

As a report in The Guardian pointed out, Peterborough is not the only cathedral to be facing severe financial problems: plans to build houses on surplus church land at Guildford in order to provide funding for the cathedral were rejected by the local planning authority, while at Exeter, the Bishop’s Visitation Charge commented on “the parlous state of the Cathedral’s finances”, the Dean, Jonathan Draper, announced that he would retire at the end of August and the Canon Precentor resigned her post with immediate effect.

The Church of England’s press release is as follows:


“The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have set up a Cathedrals Working Group, CWG, in response to a request made by the Bishop of Peterborough in his January 2017 Visitation Charge on Peterborough Cathedral for a revision to be carried out of the adequacy of the current Cathedrals Measure.

The CWG will review aspects of cathedral management and governance and produce recommendations for the Archbishops on the implications of these responsibilities with regards to the current Cathedrals Measure.  It will be chaired by the Bishop of Stepney, Adrian Newman, the former Dean of Rochester Cathedral, and the Dean of York, Vivienne Faull, will be the vice chair.

The Working Group will look at a number of different areas of Cathedral governance, including training and development for cathedral deans and chapters, financial management issues, the procedure for Visitations, safeguarding matters, buildings and heritage and the role of Cathedrals in contributing to evangelism within their dioceses.

The Bishop of Stepney and the Dean of York said:

‘Cathedrals contribute uniquely to the ecology of the Church of England, and we are a healthier, stronger church when they flourish. We are pleased to have this opportunity to review the structures that support their ministry, in order to enhance their role in church and society Cathedrals are one of the success stories of the Church of England, with rising numbers of worshippers. They are a vital part of our heritage and make an incalculable contribution to the life of the communities that they serve. This is an exciting opportunity for the Working Group to look at the different aspects of how Cathedrals work, and to ensure that the legislation and procedures they use are fit for purpose for their mission in the 21st century.’

The Group will report back initially to the Archbishops’ Council, Church Commissioners and House of Bishops in December 2017. Full membership and terms of reference for the Working Group may be found below.

Terms of Reference

The Cathedrals Working Group has been established by the Archbishops in response to the request from the Bishop of Peterborough in his Visitation Charge “to look at whether the current Cathedrals Measure is adequate, and to consider revising it”.

The Working Group will therefore review the sufficiency of the Cathedrals Measure in relation to governance structures in cathedrals, with particular reference to:

  • Financial management
  • Major buildings projects
  • Safeguarding
  • Accountability, oversight and scrutiny.

The Working Group will also review:

  • Leadership capacity, including training and development needs for Deans and Chapters
  • The relationship of cathedral governance structures to other key partners, especially the Diocesan Bishop, Diocese and Church Commissioners
  • The planning, execution, communication and implementation of Cathedral Visitations.

The Working Group will report back initially to the Archbishops’ Council, Church Commissioners and House of Bishops in December 2017, with any recommendations for the revision of the Cathedrals Measure and any other relevant findings.

Membership

Chair: Rt Revd Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney

Vice-Chair: Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of York

Mrs Julie Dziegel, member of General Synod (Oxford) and of the Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee

Andrew Holroyd OBE, Executive Chairman, Jackson Canter Solicitors, Lay Canon of Liverpool Cathedral

Carl Hughes, Global Leader, Energy & Resources, Deloitte Consulting

Richard Oldfield, Chairman, Oldfield Partners

Baroness Maeve Sherlock OBE

Jennie Page CBE, Former Vice Chair of the Cathedral Fabrics Commission for England, Vice Chair, Church Buildings Council

Dr Fiona Spiers, former Regional Director for Yorkshire and Humber, Heritage Lottery Fund

Rt Hon Jack Straw MP

Rt Revd Tim Stevens, former Bishop of Leicester.”


Comment

Michael Sadgrove’s post Peterborough Cathedral: thoughts on the visitation report provides some valuable observations on the visitation report and the work of the Cathedrals Working Group. He concluded these comments:

“I am not against revisiting the Measure: it has been in operation for fifteen years and it would no doubt be good to review after the experience of a decade and a half. And I entirely endorse the sentiment that the closer the relationship between Cathedral, Bishop and Diocese, the better for all concerned, and the better for the mission of God.

But I dispute the conclusion that the degree of independence enjoyed by Cathedrals poses the risks the Bishop identifies. We are regularly told that the mission and outreach of Cathedrals is one of the big success stories of the Church of England; indeed, in their press comment on the Peterborough visitation, the Church Commissioners go out of their way to underline this. Cathedrals they say offer spiritual sanctuary for millions of people each year and are the jewels in the nation’s heritage crown. Cathedrals must be doing something right! Whether or not that is related to their freedoms from direct episcopal or diocesan control I leave it to others to judge”.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Review of the governance of English Cathedrals" in Law & Religion UK, 10 April 2017, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2017/04/10/governance-of-english-cathedrals/

One thought on “Review of the governance of English Cathedrals

  1. This announcement is a welcome prompt response to Bishop Allison’s plea, and to the question I asked about it at the General Synod in February 2017. This is the question and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reply (taken from the record of proceedings):

    “56. Mr David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) asked the Presidents of the Archbishops’ Council: The Bishop of Peterborough, in his recent Visitation Charge to Peterborough Cathedral, concluded with “Reflections for the House of Bishops and the National Church Institutions” that included this paragraph:

    “I urge the Archbishops’ Council, the Church Commissioners, and the House of Bishops, to look at whether the current Cathedrals Measure is adequate, and to consider revising it. The Peterborough situation has convinced me that the high degree of independence currently enjoyed by Cathedrals poses serious risks to the reputation of the whole Church, and thus to our effectiveness in mission. A closer working relationship of Cathedrals with their Bishop and Diocese would be of benefit to all, both practically and spiritually.” (para 30).

    In response, a spokesperson for the Church Commissioners, in a formal statement published by the Church of England media centre said:

    “The Commissioners and the Archbishops’ Council will consider carefully Bishop Donald’s reflections concerning the governance of cathedrals under the Cathedrals Measure. Any considerations would include consultation with the House of Bishops, dioceses and other cathedrals prior to deciding whether to bring forward any proposals for change.”

    Will the Archbishops’ Council please indicate their timetable for considering Bishop Donald’s reflections and the indicated consultation with the House of Bishops, dioceses and cathedrals?

    The Archbishop of Canterbury (Most Revd & Rt Hon Dr Justin Welby) replied as President of the Archbishops’ Council: The Archbishops’ Council has not met since Bishop Donald’s Visitation Charge was published and has, therefore, not yet had the opportunity to consider the matters raised in the Charge. I am sure it will wish to consult the Church Commissioners, House of Bishops, Deans, Chapters and Dioceses as part of the process of developing any response to Bishops Donald’s Charge.

    Mr David Lamming: Given the important place of cathedrals in the worship and mission of the Church, and given that the situation that led to the visitation at Peterborough Cathedral is not unique—and I have in mind also the financial difficulties experienced at Exeter—will the Archbishops’ Council treat Bishop Donald’s reflections as an urgent matter for their consideration when they next meet and when will they next be meeting?

    The Archbishop of Canterbury: I am sure someone can whisper when we are next meeting. I cannot remember, to be honest. Next month, in March. And, “Yes”—answering your questions the other way around.”

    I note that the Working Group is to report to the Archbishops’ Council, Church Commissioners and House of Bishops by December 2017. in the light of the Church Commissioners’ statement (see above), it is to be hoped that the Working Group will consult with all dioceses and cathedrals before reporting. Can we expect, too, that the report will be presented to the General Synod in February 2018 – if only to be the subject of a ‘Take Note’ debate, which would allow synod members to comment on its findings and recommendations.

Leave a Reply