Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford publishes independent Governance Review

Updated Thursday

Christ Church press release

Dominic Grieve KC has completed his independent review of the governance of Christ Church and a report setting out his recommendations to the Governing Body.

Christ Church commissioned the review to ensure that its governance meets the needs of an Oxford University college in the 21st century. It has made a series of important recommendations, which are set out below.

Now that the review is complete, the Governing Body will consider its conclusions and the changes necessary to ensure that Christ Church has an effective system of governance in place. Implementing these reforms will require consultation with the University, the Church of England, and the Charity Commission, and the approval of the Privy Council and Parliament.

The press release linked above contains a 43 paragraph summary of the recommendations.

The full text of the review (218 paragraphs) is linked here.

Update

The Diocese of Oxford has published this: Dominic Grieve KC completes governance review of Christ Church, Oxford

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Froghole
Froghole
1 year ago

This strikes me as being a fair, dispassionate and cogent review: whilst I might have desired a cleaner cut, some sort of compromise was likely. The separation of the headship of the college from the deanery is a sensible, and long overdue, recommendation and will open the headship to a far wider range of candidates. The process of secularisation commenced with the royal commission of 1852 (with colleges laicising fellowships pursuant to the 1854 Act), and accelerated with the Cleveland commission of 1874 (which largely dwelt upon finance) and the Selborne/Burrows commission of 1880. The result of the latter was… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

I am only half way through it but why would the Canons vote to allow the headship to move away from them? Indeed, can they lawfully vote for such a detrimental thing (from the perspective of the religious part of the organisation)? This review was commissioned by the Governing Body and as such it is partial in terms of the relationship between the GB and the Canons.

From the perspective of the Canons, beefing up the senior censor role would probably make more sense.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kate
Father David
Father David
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

Couldn’t agree more, Froghole! When it comes to things Ecclesiastical you are a veritable polymath. Dominic Grieve KC was our excellent MP when we lived in Buckinghamshire. Such a shame that the electors of Beaconsfield chose not to retain his services because of his highly sensible views on Brexit! Yes, the separation of the conflicting roles of Dean and Head of House is a move long overdue but it would be unfortunate if future deans were to be evicted from the historic Deanery to make way for the installation of a new Head of House. Just think of all those… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Father David
1 year ago

Fr. David: Many thanks. I think that the intention is that the new head of house would occupy the SW canonry in Tom Quad, which was inhabited by the occupant of the Hebrew chair until Cuthbert Simpson moved into the deanery in 1959, and thereafter by the occupant of the moral & pastoral theology chair. Now that Nigel Biggar has retired it is conveniently empty. It is not, actually, an especially desirable canonry; though large, it is right over St Aldates, with the noise and choke of endless bus fumes. The objective is to retain the deanery for the dean,… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

I would need to check but the proposal will require a change in the Statutes and I think that requires both the Governing Body and the Canons to agree to the change.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 year ago

I think it’s fairly clear that the existing Statutes will either be replaced or extensively revised. There are numerous other legislative changes. Fresh Statutes would be tidier.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 year ago

That’s inevitable, and probably desirable but there must surely be a chance any change to the balance of power will face resistance?

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 year ago

Indeed, and it remains to be seen whether Dominic Grieve’s proposals are carried by all parties.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Kate
1 year ago

It may do. However Section XXXVII of the statutes refer only to the GB, but Section 7 (2) of the Oxford & Cambridge Universities Act 1923 requires two thirds of those voting within the applicable meeting of the GB to vote in favour. It is possible under Section XXXVII for the GB to make special arrangements for the role of the chapter to approve arrangements relating specifically to the cathedral and their own status, but I am not aware of any such special arrangements having been approved and, as such, it is not evident that Mr Grieve’s proposals will require… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

Mr Froghole, if I may say so, I have long marvelled at the immensity of your knowledge and experience. So much so that at times I have wondered if you aren’t superhuman, a product of Artificial Intelligence.

This takes the cake and the biscuit, or whatever Oxford dons have with their tea. How can a mere human being know who occupied a particular house in 1959?

You really must write a book, sir, if not about who lived where in the fifties, then about all the churches you have visited. You owe it to posterity. Bravo.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  T Pott
1 year ago

That is most kind (and apologies for my weakness for acronyms – usually an attempt to beat the character limit). My own family would be amused by the reference to AI and would presumably note that, though I might be artificial, I am certainly not intelligent. As to Christ Church I have a slight advantage insofar as I studied there a long time ago, and met people whose memory of the place went back to well before the war. Also, wanting to familiarise myself with my surroundings I read many of the available materials about the place in the college… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

Elizabeth Goudge, in her memoir Joy of the Snow, gives a detailed description of Christ Church in the 1920s, when her father was Regius Professor there. She also describes their house in some detail. As I recall it overlooked St Aldate’s, but my memory may be faulty.

Her novel Towers in the Mist imagines Tudor Christ Church, and she reports that her father approved the research she had done on it. I have no idea whether historians would bear this out.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 year ago

Many thanks. It may well be that this is the case. Although many of her topographical descriptions of the college are impressionistic and/or semi-fictionalised she describes ‘Canon Leigh’s’ house as being on the south side of Tom Quad and with a small garden. Her father (Henry Leighton Goudge) held the regius chair of divinity 1923-39, and I have copies of his commentaries on 1 & 2 Corinthians. My understanding is that the canonry for that chair (long annexed to the 5th prebend) was on the north walk of the quad. There are descriptions of the Hebrew professors S. R. Driver… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 year ago

Sorry, I was referring to Towers in the Mist in my previous response. In The Joy of the Snow she does refer (on 201-02 of the 1974 edition) to Tom Tower being on the right and the cathedral on the left, and also the gate (Fell Tower) to Peckwater Quad being over the garden wall, which means that her father’s canonry was on the north walk. Query whether it was right next to Fell Tower or a couple of doors down; I mention that because when I was there the canonry next to Fell Tower was occupied by the sub-dean… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Froghole
1 year ago

Under these proposals, Christ Church continues to be a peculiar with the Dean as Ordinary of the Cathedral and the Crown as Visitor. There may be good reasons for maintaining the status quo, but it would remain an anomaly vis-à-vis every other C of E cathedral. Possibly ‘a cleaner cut’ should have been faced up to, or may yet emerge if other involved parties take a different view.

Steven DeLay
Steven DeLay
1 year ago

An embarrassing whitewash.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
1 year ago

Inevitably these are preliminary thoughts and subject to correction: 1. Christ Church remains a non-‘Royal peculiar’; as now the Bishop of Oxford is both neither the Ordinary nor the Visitor. They continue to be the Dean and the Crown respectively. 2. The Dean will (again as now) be susceptible to discipline and potential dismissal at the hands of the Governing Body and the C of E’s CDM. 3. Christ Church will be the only C of E Cathedral where the Ordinary is subject to CDM by the local bishop who otherwise has limited, indeed virtually no jurisdiction within the Cathedral.… Read more »

Pete Hobson
Pete Hobson
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 year ago

Of course the widely discredited CDM is due to replaced by the proposed new Clergy Conduct Measure, which is due its first reading at Synod this July, the text of which is yet to be unveiled. It is not clear to me the relative speed under which CCM and revision of Christ Church statutes will proceed but this might be a useful point to be made in the synodical deliberations.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Pete Hobson
1 year ago

A period of years has already been mentioned as a possibility for revision of the Christ Church Statutes (and, I suppose, other potential associated legislation), so the new Clergy Conduct Measure will substantially precede that in time. But there is a strong case for rationalising the application of C of E disciplinary procedure in relation to the Dean of Christ Church. Were circumstances to change later, it would be easier to amend the CCM than the Statutes.

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
1 year ago

Very little here could not have been sorted out before all the bullying and wasting of charitable monies.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
1 year ago

Deadline looming (31 May) for Christ Church to file its annual report and accounts for 2022. How it has disclosed the shocking waste of charitable funds will be watched very carefully.

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Anthony Archer
1 year ago

Especially by the Charity Commission – and with the new dean designate, Sarah Foot, one of the central figures in the saga with whom the Commission conducted its correspondence, due to take up the post a month later on 1 July 2023. It remains to be seen whether this will happen. It will be recalled that in a letter dated 29 December 2021 to the trustees’ solicitors, BDB Pitmans LLP, copied to all members of the Christ Church Governing Body (i.e. the charity trustees—including Foot), they were advised that “it is a criminal offence under Section 60 of the Charities… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Lamming
11 months ago

Yes, in the light of the Official Warning, and that third obligation which you quote, it would be extraordinary if they miss the deadline for submission of their accounts. It’s worth continuing to reflect on the eviscerating condemnation they received from the Charity Commission: In the context of a long running and costly dispute with the former Dean, the Commission has determined there has been mismanagement and/ or misconduct in the management and administration of the Charity. This is because the trustees have not: (a) managed the Charity’s resources responsibly (b) ensured that the Charity is accountable. It had better… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

The accounts were received by the Charity Commission yesterday (30 May) but are not yet available to download.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

Let’s wait to see the full accounts, but the high level position for the year ended 31 July 2022 was total income of £45,381,000 against total expenditure of £50,728,000, an excess of £5,347,000. Expenditure of £8.65 million incurred in ‘raising funds’ looks very high. The rest is included under ‘charitable activities.’ One employee is included in a total benefits (remuneration et al) band ‘over £500k’, which might be connected with asset management. Interestingly ‘donations and legacies’ were £3.58 million, above the recent average. The question inter alia is whether these accounts ‘comply with the legal requirement to ensure the Charity… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Anthony Archer
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
11 months ago

The annual accounts of Christ Church, Oxford for the year ending 31 July 2022 have now been filed. Noteworthy that on page 7, under the subheading of ‘Official Warning’, it is stated “… the Governing Body has ensured that the accounts for the year ending 31 July 2022 and this Annual Report comply with the legal requirements that the charity is accountable. Christ Church will remain in close dialogue with the Charity Commission to ensure it continues to comply with the requirements of the regulator.” I’m afraid that linking the document has defeated me, but it will be readily located on the… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
11 months ago

It’s interesting that the Annual Report (signed on behalf of the Governing Body, be it noted, by Sarah Foot, the new Dean designate: see page 14) has this note about the settlement with Martyn Percy on page 11: “Christ Church was in dispute with Dr Percy, the Former Dean, from the Autumn of 2018 until February 2022. The initial dispute related to Dr Percy’s request for an increase in his remuneration. Subsequently Dr Percy took Christ Church to the Employment Tribunal and an allegation of sexual harassment was made against Dr Percy. In responding to this complex series of disputes… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Lamming
11 months ago

It’s breathtaking to read the way Martyn Percy is blamed for the high costs incurred in successive attempts to oust him. The way he ‘conducted’ himself in defence of legal attacks on himself is portrayed as somehow meaning that the high expenditure on these campaigns was his fault, not theirs.

Having already been called out by the Charity Commission, you would hope that Sarah Foot would want to sign off a document that in some way expressed contrition, and willingness to ‘own’ their own actions and take responsibility for them. That does not seem to me to be the case.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Susannah Clark
11 months ago

For those of us who have followed this saga in detail from day one (and hoping to have been as impartial as possible as outsiders), one is left with the strongest feeling that justice has not been done. Will that wrong, actually a serial of wrongs, ever be righted?

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
11 months ago

Or this shortened indirection will also get you there https://tinyurl.com/cco-accounts-2022

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