Comments: Cathedrals Working Group

Sensible decision but, given the uproar in York over ringers, making the Dean of York vice chair is possibly contentious.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 3:24pm BST

"Possibly contentious."

Indeed -- or worse.

If this CWG began due to financial problems in Peterborough, why is safeguarding in the remit?

Is Archbishop Sentamu using this CWG to send the 30 York ringers sacked by Dean Faull a message?

Why would he want to do that?

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 4:40pm BST

You can have all the financial management you like, but if there isn't the money to keep the show on the road, that's what the accounts will tell you. The real question is not how are cathedrals to be managed but what are they for, what fundraising activities might be compatible with that, and whether given those two things they are sustainable on the present basis. The difficulty is that the "what/who is it for" question is contested, and even more contested is the compatibility of fundraising activities. But these are questions being faced by parish churches the length and breadth of the country, for which different church communities are finding very different kinds of answers. Tinkering around with management and structures won't get to the heart of the key questions, which include whether cathedrals have a special call on central church funds. For example, if strategically chosen non-cathedral parish churches (not necessarily the obvious candidates either) were supported as cathedrals have been, would they be as successful in their communities?

Posted by Mark Bennet at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 5:03pm BST

This announcement is a welcome prompt response to Bishop Allister’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.

Posted by David Lamming at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 6:21pm BST

It does seem surprising that there is so little representation on that group of clerics currently in cathedral ministry.

I'm kind of hoping that the English Cathedral Deans shortly announce that they are going to have a review of episcopal ministry and announce an appropriate working group to take this forward.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 7:01pm BST

Mr Bennett hits several nails on heads. Considering large urban churches (I have two such, and a third smaller one) get no central support, I think we do pretty well to keep any sort of show on the road bearing in mind huge towers, rickety roofs, deteriorating stonework, damp, enormous barns impossible to heat, and so on. Spending what little reserves some of them have in order to pay the share is crazy. So we don't. But I've never really understood money - I'm like Mr Micawber. Maybe it's my Cumbrian rural Wesleyan upbringing in the 1950s and 60s.

Posted by Fr William at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 8:05pm BST

I wish the CWG well but I doubt making changes to the Cathedrals Measure will make much difference. It's about people. Get the right people and the mission will flourish, by the grace of God. Stuff the great and good on your Cathedral Council and allow the Dean and Chapter to just hope the money will come in (I see the CWG is long on lottery expertise) is bound to lead to problems. The membership of the group seems quite long on theology (fair enough), but also with the predictable accountants, lawyer (one) and asset manager (one). Not much sign of governance consulting expertise or people skills generally. Is anyone under 50?

Posted by Anthony Archer at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 8:59pm BST

Does anyone else share my fear that the conclusion of the report will be "more centralisation, more episcopal control"?

Posted by Sam at Monday, 10 April 2017 at 10:19pm BST

This is the death knell of the unique contribution cathedrals make to the ecclesial topography of the Church of England. Mark Bennett asks what cathedrals are for. Apart from being the seat of the bishop in each diocese, and therefore central to the Church of England's ecclesiology, they are also places of primary mission. They attract large numbers of people, notably those in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are repelled by the 'you are very welcome on our terms' mentality that people encounter in too many of our parish churches. They offer space, intelligent preaching, are usually staffed by gifted clergy; they offer worship which is enlarging and music which offers many people a non-formulaic way to encounter the Christian faith and glimpse the glory of God. They challenge the contemporary tendency to tolerate inferior worship and vapid preaching, which is why some parish clergy are discomforted by cathedrals. I well remember a well-known evangelical incumbent being wrong-footed after his parishioners came back from an ordination service in a cathedral, and expressed a desire for the music of John Tavener in their regular worship, because they had been touched by its ethereal difference.

About 20 years ago, the late great Bob Jeffrey, said, with characteristic foresight, that Cathedrals were providing excellence on the cheap, and that the Church centrally, the dioceses, and those who worship in them would have to support them more realistically if they were to survive and flourish. We didn't listen.

In recent years, the 'God Squad' (in the shape of evangelical bishops who have no experience or understanding of the uniqueness of cathedrals) have seized on their seeming success, and we have seen a slow erosion of the 'terroir' which has contributed to the 35% growth cathedrals have experienced over the past decade.

This is indeed about episcopal control, and if you wonder what two evangelical primates have in mind, just visit the website of Sydney Cathedral in Australia. Welby may have been a cathedral dean, as was Adrian Newman; but I am not confident (based on their respective modus operandi at Liverpool and Rochester) that they 'get' what draws people to cathedrals, and why there needs to be well-resourced centres of excellence that are not clones of HTB.

Posted by Colin Graham at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 8:14am BST

Actually, Anthony (post 10 April @ 8.59 pm) there are two lawyer members of the CWG: Andrew Holroyd (solicitor) and Jack Straw (barrister). Andrew's CV on his firm's website has this encouraging concluding comment: "Andrew welcomes the chance to solve problems at an early stage before they develop into more serious issues." (By the way, yesterday's announcement gives him an OBE; he was further awarded a CBE in 2008.)

Posted by David Lamming at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 8:30am BST

I think Sam is absolutely right in his fears....and I rather suspect that is what lies at the heart of the problem. The unique position of cathedrals is their strength....and in any case it would make a bishop's undoable job even worse...of course cathedrals will occasionally have problems...but let the leadership support them not take them over....their independence allows them to experiment and try new things, some of which may well be controversial and the bishops can distance themselves and not have to take ownership.

Posted by Robert Ellis at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 9:26am BST

I understand the anxieties being expressed by some people here about reducing cathedrals' autonomy and a feared drift towards overbearing episcopal control. However I suspect that the Working Group will operate in a more nuanced way.

It is altogether reasonable to want to financially safeguard what are both primary communities of mission and priceless treasures of heritage. That does not mean 'bolting on' an evangelical or HTB modus operandi via episcopal interference.

What probably will be really important for this Working Group is that they seek out, reach out and listen to the people already deep in the heart of cathedral life and governance. I suspect it may be found important not only to avoid overbearing episcopal interference but to actually ringfence elements of cathedral life independence, but with checks to prevent failure and mechanisms for stopping too much power and influence falling into the hands of individuals (who may have either a benign or a malign influence). Collective responsibility and powers seem important, and mechanisms for financial accountability (albeit, therein lies the danger for control).

With regard to the leadership, it would be entirely wrong to 'label' Adrian Newman 'evangelical' in an HTB mould. He is an independent thinker, acute, liberal-minded and by no means a clone of Justin Welby. He is also humble-hearted and humane.

In many ways I'm almost disappointed by his appointment to this Working Group position, because I'd personally prefer the Church's focus being on his appointment to London or another Diocesan position. We desperately need his voice and influence in the House of Bishops.

I think a key thing in the work of this Group should be that it does not lead by its own preconceived agenda, or its own voices, but seeks to involve and include the voices, insights, and visions of Cathedral communities themselves - without offering them carte blanche or autonomy for reckless financial 'laissez-faire'.

I still maintain that the whole of our heritage of churches and cathedrals across the country deserve more government financial support, because our church buildings are heritage of the nation, priceless treasures with huge overheads for responsible maintenance, love and repair. The actual living communities of Christians perhaps deserve some dislocation from this huge financial burden.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 11:32am BST

Kelvin you hit the nail on the head. It is the English college of Bishops that should come under investigation, and the present managerial roles of the present Archbishops. Plenty of management, but lacking spirituality, and theology.
The usual story of episcopal jealousy of effective cathedrals.
By their fruits ye shall know them.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by Fr John Emlyn Harris-White at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 12:04pm BST

I wonder if John Emlyn has read Bishop Donald Allister's Visitation Charge, which prompted the appointment of the CWG. This is not about "episcopal jealousy of effective cathedrals" but a response to proper concerns about some cathedrals (not just Peterborough) that are not fully effective and thereby risk prejudicing Church's mission. To address these concerns is a joint responsibility of the Bishop, Diocese, and the Cathedral Chapter. It is worth quoting what Bishop Allister said in paragraph 4 of his Visitation Charge: "I believe it right, mutually beneficial, and in accord with the Christian Gospel, that Bishop, Cathedral, and Diocese should work together and support each other as much as possible. We all have the same calling: to proclaim Jesus Christ, and to enable his disciples to worship him and bear witness to him."

Posted by David Lamming at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 1:46pm BST

"concerns about some cathedrals . . . that are not fully effective"

Hang on. "Effective" and "in annual financial surplus" are not the same thing.

If "effectiveness" is the issue, then how is the CWG to measure that?

Let's all remember that when a charity is looked at by people whose primary business is money, those people tend to focus on the metric that they can grasp most readily.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 2:39pm BST

Andrew Holroyd is a former President of the Law Society of England and Wales and known to me. He is a good person. However, as to his honour, gone are the days when there was an automatic knighthood on offer!

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 3:02pm BST

Unfortunately, Welby and Sentamu cannot use this ruse to deal with their bête noir. Christ Church, Oxford is not only NOT subject to the Cathedrals' measure of 1999 - the CWG won't get within miles of Tom Quad. Martyn Percy is as safe as houses (or The House, to be precise). He must be the only dean laughing about this inquisition.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 7:02pm BST

With the Dean of York as Vice Chair, I don't think this is a land grab by the bishops as some suspect. Why would the bishops want to become responsible for the financial mess some cathedrals are in? Any new restrictions will be in the measure explicitly rather than moving any control to the bishops.

After the Guiding Principles, the appalling Bishops Reflection Group and the fiasco in Sheffield, I know people are suspicious of the bishops' motives - understandably so - but in this case I don't think that there are hidden agendas. I think the CWG is probably just what it is claimed to be.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 9:40pm BST

We Anglicans, in Christchurch, New Zealand, have a somewhat different 'Cathedral' problem.

With the earthquakes, which partially destroyed our 'Cathedral in The Square', our diocesan authorities quickly realised that replacement would be a fiscal impossibility. After due process, our diocesan synod decided to demolish the badly damaged building and replace it with a modern, less expensive (to meet the insurance $40 million payout) safer, more worship- convenient and quake-proofed building.

However, local heritage interests - not necessarily Anglican worshippers - decided to pursue relentless litigation to prevent the Church from doing what it deemed best to replace a structure that had proved inadequate to deal with the local seismic conditions.

As a result of this, and the Church's inability - because of ongoing litigation - to move forward with the planned project, there has been a stalemate, leaving a ruined building at the heart of our city.

The heritage people are trying to lay the blame the delay on our Bishop and the Church Property Trustees, who actually own the building in trust for the diocese. The reality is that the heritage enthusiasts for identical replacement of a no-longer efficient building are holding the Church to ransom for its restoration - when the Church simply does not have the funds, nor any hope of raising the $120 million to restore the building.

Will the Church of England sooner or later not find itself in the very same situation? Coventry Cathedral is an excellent modern building raised up in the middle of a city whose original cathedral was badly damaged. Do we need to conserve expensively-maintained buildings that no longer fulfil the specific criteria for which they were originally built?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 11 April 2017 at 11:27pm BST

I had better start with a confession. I am a member of the Chichester Cathedral Council and chair of the Cathedral Community Committee. My comments are my own and I have not discussed the establishment of this Working Group or my views with anyone.

While there have been two recent Visitations which have resulted in the resignations of Deans and other clergy can it really be the case that the other 40 English cathedrals are all in such a state as to require this sort of enquiry? I have to ask, why have the remarks by the Bishop of Peterborough at the end of his Visitation Charge about the presumed wider implications for the Church and its Cathedrals been so influential. What is the hidden agenda?

As Michael Sadgrove has pointed out in his response to the Bishops remarks (see TA 7 January 2017) the Diocesan Bishop has considerable influence over the governance of the Cathedral. In particular he appoints the Chair of the Cathedral Council and has a right to attend and to speak at Council meetings. This influence should not be underestimated but how often is it exercised? The choice of a Council Chair and regular attendance of the Bishop along with a Council membership which has the necessary expertise and commitment are crucial to the right governance of any Cathedral. The question is, do the Bishops want to make the existing system work better or are they looking to a few failures to justify a major change?

The terms of reference of the Working Group, as set out above, are almost entirely managerial and it is true that Cathedrals, like parishes, need good management. They need professionals to manage people, finances and buildings, progress development projects and control budgets. Clergy are not and should not need to be experts in these areas. Their role is pastoral and liturgical, educational and evangelistic and yet nothing is said about these areas of Cathedral life. And what about the Cathedral Community about which also nothing is said at all? Cathedrals are one of the few success stories of the Church. Perhaps the Working Group should look at ‘Spiritual Capital: The Present and Future of English Cathedrals’ published by Theos in 2012.

Lastly there is no indication as to whether and how the Working Group will invite contributions from those who work in, volunteer or attend and support their Cathedrals. I hope this isn’t going to be another closed door exercise with its conclusions handed down from on high for the rest of us to like it or lump it.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 11:18am BST

Kate, are the bishops in some sense responsible because they have visitation rights? (Regardless of whether the bishops end up exercising those rights?)

It's possible that this review will result in more day-to-day control by the bishops, so that the more drastic remedy of a visitation becomes less necessary.

But I'm going to show my ignorance and ask a more basic, background question.

As matters currently stand, whether under this Measure or other law, is each cathedral required to make its annual financial statements public?

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 12:58pm BST

The problem with future maintenance and upkeep of Cathedrals and especially listed Parish Churches is an issue that needs addressing now. How many parish churches will have to be closed and mothballed in the next 10 years? We all know it's inevitable with falling numbers and the CofE can't afford it. I know in France it's the Government that has responsibility, but in this country would the same be true??

Posted by henry dee at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 1:44pm BST

Jeremy wonders "whether under this Measure or other law, is each cathedral required to make its annual financial statements public".

Yes they are. They must be displayed in a public place (section 27(3)(b) of the Measure).

Other than that they are required to present their financial statements to the Cathedral Council, the College of Canons and the Church Commissioners, under the Measure (sections 3(6)(c), 5(4)(a) and 27(3)(a) respectively). Section 27(3)(a) also provides that a copy must be sent "to any other person who requests it".

The Measure does not apply to "the cathedral church of Christ in Oxford", but the Dean and Chapter of that Cathedral is a registered charity whose details can be obtained from the Charity Commission.

But as corporations they are not registered at Companies House, nor are they registered as charities with the Charity Commission, so their financial statements are not available via any of those bodies.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 3:55pm BST

Thanks, Simon Kershaw. Very informative.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 4:04pm BST

Isn't part of the reason for the stalemate over cathedrals because of this strange Anglican (or just English?) idea that the bishop is just a visitor to his/her cathedral and not its chief pastor? How did this tradition arise and when does it date back to? If bishops saw their role as analogous to a parish priest: the normal liturgical president of the community and hence its pastor, instead of a distant administrator/manager, lots of problems might be solved.

Posted by David Emmott at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 5:00pm BST

The annual report and financial statements for St Albans Cathedral are published on their website:

I am not sure about other cathedrals.

Posted by Verulamius at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 5:05pm BST

Isn't the Diocesan bishop automatically on the Cathedral council? That's the body which has final scrutiny of a cathedral's finances and proposed budgets. If a cathedral has gone wrong financially the Diocesan bishop has failed in his duty of scrutiny as a member of the Council. The checks are already in place. They're simply not properly used by those to whom they are entrusted, notable amongst whom is the bishop

Posted by Commentator at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 7:38pm BST

The bishop is not technically a member of the Cathedral Council, but he "is entitled to be present and speak, but not to vote, at meetings" (to quote the 1999 Measure).

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 8:34pm BST

So is this an attempt by bishops to get the right to vote at Cathedral Councils?

The question then becomes: Is there any history of bishops raising concerns, but not being able to act on them (or not being able to convince the Council to act on them), due to lack of voting power?

Seems unlikely.

To draw an analogy to arts organisations: Are bishops more like executive directors--the green-eyeshade, managerial types?

Or are bishops more like artistic directors--the people who want to spend money on unquantifiably valuable things?

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 12 April 2017 at 8:45pm BST

Having reviewed the Measure a bit more closely, I'm beginning to think that cathedral governance does need a review.

In particular I wonder whether section 1--the purpose of cathedrals--is too narrowly drawn.

To be the seat of the bishop and a "centre" for worship and mission? What kind of duty is that? I don't know what that means--and I expect that Deans and Chapters do not either.

So they run their cathedrals for their own convenience. But that is wrong.

Aren't cathedrals supposed to serve the public?

Shouldn't this principle be written into the measure?

And to whom are chapters accountable? Are they self-perpetuating? Shouldn't cathedral chapters be elected by the cathedral communicants?

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 21 April 2017 at 3:30am BST

There is a difference between the older cathedrals and the newer ones. The old cathedrals (those that were cathedrals before 1836) never had parishes, and there are no parishioners' rights. They exist to be cathedrals, to be the seat of the bishop, and their deans and residentiary canons are appointed by the Crown and by the bishop. They have legal title to the property (though most of the historic property and assets outside the close have long since been transferred to what is now the Church Commissioners).

Cathedral Councils were created to keep an eye on the Chapter, to represent the "stakeholders" -- the bishop, the congregation and employees, the churchgoers of the diocese, the wider "county", and also to be a "critical friend" to the Chapter. Many Cathedral Councils probably perform this role quite well, but I think that a number of them sail fairly close to the line and have not been overly-tested. I have been a member of the Council of an older cathedral since they were created in 2001, so I do have some experience of their strengths and weaknesses.

Councils -- like canons whether residentiary, honorary or lay -- and a number of other interested parties are not well-represented on the review (though there is one lay canon). But my advice would be that a better understanding of the role of the Council might help to avoid repeats of recent events. That might be via a code of practice about how Councils should operate -- and of the sort of expertise and experience that should be included among its membership, so that it can ask the questions that need to be asked before any matters get out of hand.

And some of that expertise and experience, e.g. in finance and property management, needs to be in the Chapter too. That's largely what lay members of Chapter can bring.

The situation in the newer cathedrals may be a little different, as their buildings and their assets are, with exceptions, on a different scale from those of the older ones.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Friday, 21 April 2017 at 10:48am BST

"They exist to be cathedrals, to be the seat of the bishop, and their deans and residentiary canons are appointed by the Crown and by the bishop."

Am I the only one who thinks this is a problem? Seems like
Deans and Chapters are private religious clubs, accountable to no one.

And this is how the cathedrals of an established church are run! It's positively mediaeval.

Cathedrals should be more like parishes--that way chapters will be accountable to the communities they are meant to serve.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 21 April 2017 at 12:54pm BST
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