Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford: Governance Review

The plans for this review have been published in an advertisement for the appointment of an Independent Chair, along with the full text of the Candidate Brief for the position of Independent Chair, Governance Review.

The advertisement says

…The Governing Body of Christ Church has resolved to commission a review of its governance. The purpose of the Review is to ensure that Christ Church’s statutes, by-laws, and governance arrangements meet the needs of the institution in the 21st century. The last comprehensive review of the foundation’s statutes was conducted in 2011. The Review will encompass the governance arrangements of all aspects of Christ Church, including the Cathedral, College, and School.

We now seek to appoint an independent Chair, who will, having consulted Governing Body, Chapter, and other parties, prepare a report setting out recommendations for the Governing Body to consider. The Chair will demonstrate appropriate knowledge of charity governance, an understanding of collegiate educational foundations, and ideally familiarity with the Church of England. They must have no current or recent connection with Christ Church.

At the conclusion of the Review, the Chair will be asked to prepare a report setting out recommendations for the Governing Body to consider. Christ Church has committed to publish the Review in full in 2023.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 29 April 2022

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Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

It seems a little surprising to note the requirements of “appropriate knowledge of charity governance, an understanding of collegiate educational foundations”, but only “ideally familiarity with the Church of England”. That seems to put the Cathedral at the bottom of the list of priorities.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

A characteristically shrewd assessment. I suspect that policy will follow process, and that the terms of reference set by the governing body will prove to be very influential in determining the outcome. If the cathedral is at the bottom of the list of priorities, then that is because in the eyes of the great majority of the governing body (who will be indifferent or hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular), that is precisely where it belongs. That, then, is part of the problem for the Church: for the bulk of the college, the cathedral is historical baggage,… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

These matters are relevant not merely to Christ Church or Oxbridge, but to all chapels and institutionally funded chaplains in the education sector. Why do we need them? If we do, what is their function? Think how existing religious centres might benefit were students and staff to attend local churches. An interesting article in the current Church Times about privilege and establishment (https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2022/8-april/comment/opinion/c-of-e-is-paralysed-by-its-privilege-in-society) pushes me further and further towards the view that the C of E should have no more privileges than any other religion, and ideally that all should be treated as any other hobby group.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago

Many thanks, and I am inclined to agree (viz. the recent Rustat decision). At times the Church seems to be the owner occupying middle class at prayer, or posing at prayer. Mr Ford writes “If we continue on the current trajectory, the only church communities that face a chance of thriving in the future are the ones that already are“. This is part of my beef with STP: their plea is that assets must be retained by parishes, but what that really means in many places is that those who already have will simply accrue more, and to the devil… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

From the Candidate Brief: “The Review should also consider the impact of the Cathedrals’ Measure 2021 on Christ Church.” As the Measure specifically does not apply to Christ Church, this surely must be the strongest hint that some separation is contemplated on the part of the GB.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

I disagree. The whole section sets out a work item as follows: “The relationship between the Governing Body and the Chapter, and the relationship between Christ Church Cathedral and the Diocese of Oxford and the Bishop. The Review should also consider the impact of the Cathedrals’ Measure 2021 on Christ Church.” So this is to do entirely with the relationship between the Governing Body and the Chapter (and Diocese). Although the House is largely exempted from the Cathedral Measure 2021, it isn’t entirely so: the Bishop appoints canons, ie the members of the Chapter. (The 2021 measure amends the 1963… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

There is provision for the Bishop to appoint an additional Canon (who shall not be a member of the Governing Body). I think you may have confused the Bishop’s powers to appoint non-residentiary canons, but no matter. As you say, the subject of separation is speculation on the part of contributors to this thread. There are many and complex factors, the principal one being, it seems to me, the question of the continued endowment of the Cathedral, the choral foundation and school, and a re-constituted Dean and Chapter, if that were to happen. A case, I respectfully suggest, for all… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

It’s worth reading the charitable objectives from the candidate brief, in particular the first one. (From memory it mirrors what is in the Statues.)   The advancement of religion, in particular but not exclusively by the provision, support, conduct and maintenance of Christ Church Cathedral as the Cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford, together with its Choir. (Emphasis added)   The college needn’t only consider the diocese in meeting its religious advancement objective. For example, the college might decide that also building links with something like the United Reformed Church would better serve its equality objectives – indeed it is… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Kate
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

I’m afraid this simply disregards that we are discussing a Cathedral of the Church of England. You have referred to the wider purposes of the House, in that context meaning the College. The Statutes are very specific that the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church have all the powers ordinarily vested in the Dean and Chapter of a Cathedral Church.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

I think there might be something in what you write. However, I suspect the phrase you have put into bold is also intended to cover the many livings that are in the gift of the dean and chapter: in other words, its charitable purpose respecting the advancement of religion not only relates to the cathedral but its wider ecclesiastical community scattered across the country. At one time the college had the patronage of 110 churches (although several of these were held in plurality); that number is likely to have fallen significantly, but will still remain considerable. Indeed, college patronage formed… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

The question at hand, however, is whether the candidate brief has underplayed the knowledge needed of the Church of England. I can see why those looking through a Church of England lens are likely to think so: the church, not the college, is their focus. However, the relationship between the college and church is out of scope, and when one considers what is to be covered by the final report, I don’t see a need for more than a general familiarity with the Church of England.

Tim
Tim
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

It is worth noting also that Dr South’s generosity continues to benefit incumbents in Christ Church livings. One assumes that, in drafting his will, Dr South had in mind former colleagues now serving in parishes far from Oxford and sought to supplement what Froghole describes as the ‘pension fund’.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

I should add that an assault on the clerical residuum (for this is what the terms of reference will almost certainly amount to) is hardly anything new. In Christ Church there has long been resentment against the powers of the dean and chapter, and this resentment endured even after the latter lost most of their powers in 1868. At Merton, a beleaguered Mandell Creighton proceeded to priests’ orders in 1873, after the reforms of 1870-71; he fled to the college living of Embleton, Northumberland, the following year (“…it was the habit in Oxford to assume that a man who took… Read more »

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
1 month ago

Looks like a stitch up to me. A review carried out exclusively by Christ Church with a nominally independent chair. No reference to input from the University or Diocese.

The Church of England should be making its own preparations for separating the cathedral from the college. There must be no more repeats of the Percy fiasco.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Sam Jones
1 month ago

If only matters were that simple! For an understanding of the legislative complexities which would have to be overcome (involving, I suggest, the Crown, the Privy Council and State legislation) see David Pocklington’s article “Christ Church Oxford: Governance Review” in Law & Religion UK 8 April 2022. The sting in the tail is in David Pocklington’s final sentence in answer to the question: how would this be achieved?

https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/04/08/christ-church-oxford-governance-review/

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Many thanks for the link. A couple of things struck me about it. First, there is no reference to John Drury in the list of prospective interviewees, since he is still very much in Oxford (as fellow of All Souls’), whilst Christopher Lewis is in Aldeburgh. Secondly, a number of the items in the scope of the review look to me to have been set, or at least inspired, by the Charity Commission, especially items 5 (governance lessons), 7 (employment status), 9 (committee structure), 10 (external advice), 12 (assets) and 13 (conflicts of interest). I am not confident that the… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Sam Jones
1 month ago

Again, that’s not quite true. The candidate brief suggests, for example, that the Chair should meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Oxford. I don’t, however, see anything about the university.

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

The Bishop of Oxford and the Archbishop of Canterbury are hardly neutral in this Kafkaesque fiasco. They both have history and ‘form’ in relation to Martyn Percy, in Welby’s case going back to ordinand days at Cranmer Hall.

Angusian
Angusian
1 month ago

In the light of recent events, It would be fascinating to see who would apply for a very poisoned chalice

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Angusian
1 month ago

Import a leading foreign business leader who will make radical and reasonable proposals before returning whence s/he came having pocketed an astronomic fee (a mere pimple on ChCh’s budget). The report will be considered, rejected, then consigned to history. Isn’t this the likely prognosis of any report even vaguely related to the C of E?

And they all lived happily ever after. Anyway who cares?

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