Three former deans wrote a letter to The Times this week:
Sir, Deans have been part of a system of checks and balances in the English Church, at least since the Reformation, when papal powers were divided between the Crown and the Archbishop of Canterbury (report, Oct 16).
Deans of cathedrals of the New Foundation (formerly monastic communities) are successors of their abbots and priors. Indeed, on the eve of the Reformation there were more abbots in the House of Lords than bishops. Canon law lays down that the government of the Church of England is by “archbishops, bishops, deans and archdeacons . . .” But suffragan bishops and archdeacons are already appointed by diocesan bishops: deans, therefore, appointed by the Crown, represent an independent focus in the life of the Church.
If the Crown wants to repudiate its responsibility in this regard, some other method of appointing deans should be found, because deans have a community rather than a purely ecclesiastical function.
Rather than abandon the appointment of deans by the Crown, consideration should be given to the appointment of all deans (including those of the parish church cathedrals, until recently called provosts) by the Crown.
Dean Emeritus of Durham
Dean Emeritus of Wells
Dean Emeritus of Rochester
The Church Times has a report by Bill Bowder Deans question power of diocesan bishops.