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CATHEDRALS WORKING GROUP Draft Report for Consultation 18 January 2018

September 1, 2018

 “SERIOUS governance mistakes” have been made at cathedrals, and legislative change is needed to correct “inadequacies” in their regulation, are the conclusions of a review commissioned in the wake of a cash-flow crisis at Peterborough. It also says that many cathedrals are struggling financially.

It agrees with the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald Allister, that the 1999 Cathedrals Measure is no longer adequate. Chapters are operating without enough scrutiny, and have embarked on building and development schemes despite lacking project management capacity, it says.

Concluding that “there is something remarkable to celebrate in the life of cathedrals, and something serious to be addressed,” the report acknowledges that cathedrals have become “an attractive brand, often understood better by the wider community than by the Church”. It seeks to improve governance “without undermining the missional and entrepreneurial context within which cathedrals seem to flourish”.

The working group was set up last year by the Archbishops’ Council after the episcopal visitation of Peterborough Cathedral, where a cash-flow crisis led to the involvement of the Church Commissioners, forcing out the Dean and making several staff redundant.

Bishop Allister argued that the safeguards in the Cathedrals Measure were “clearly insufficient”, and could cause “serious risks to the reputation” of the Church of England. His comments prompted deans to defend cathedrals’ independence.

The working group agreed that “the inadequacies of the Measure have been exposed, and there is a need for legislative change to correct them.We do not believe that it is sufficient simply to try and improve current practice — a more radical change is required.”

At the heart of their proposals is the retention of the Chapter as a governing body; but non-executive members (of whom two-thirds should be laity), would outnumber the dean and residentiary canons. There is also a call for cathedrals to be regulated by the Charity Commission.

WHILE acknowledging that, in many places, there were positive relationships between dioceses and deans, the report highlighted tensions. In his valedictory sermon at Peterborough, the Dean, the Very Revd Charles Taylor, spoke of “those who would like to see power concentrated at the centre, in order to impose a bland, uniform theology”.

In his foreword to the report, the chairman of the working group, the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, calls for “penitence for those occasions when relationships between cathedral and diocese, bishop and dean have broken down. …..Cathedrals can easily turn inwards and be organised for the best interest of Chapter, or staff, or volunteers, and not for the needs and hopes of those outside their doors. Chapters can be too protective of the spiritual capital of the cathedral, resisting opening their hearts and the cathedral’s giftedness to bishop and diocese.

“Bishops, sometimes lacking experience or understanding of cathedrals, can fail to understand the riches the cathedral can offer, fail to receive the gift of the cathedral with grace, or fail to find in the cathedral a fount for mission. These failings are to the detriment of the whole Church….Many Chapters manage cathedrals with ambition and creativity but often with too little resource or training. . . Some serious governance mistakes have been made. Chapters have much to learn.”

THE report recommends that the dean continue to chair the Chapter. The diocesan bishop would appoint a senior independent lay member as vice-chair. The Chapter would be required to appoint a finance, audit, and risk committee (ideally, two separate committees: one for finance, and one for audit and risk), chaired by a non-executive Chapter member.

It warns of a “self-review threat” arising from the involvement of a significant proportion of Chapter members in the operation of the cathedral, and identifies a lack of “effective independent scrutiny”. It goes on to recommend that day-to-day cathedral operations be managed by a senior executive team, including the dean, chief operating officer, and chief financial officer. The Cathedral Council would be focused on “stakeholder engagement”, and would not have any legislative function.

Cathedrals would be registered with the Charity Commission, bringing them under the Charities Act. Every five years, a quinquennial assurance review, commissioned by the Bishop, would take place.

Before drafting the report, the working group held a wide consultation, which included 35 one-to-one conversations with deans, some of whom felt “systemically disempowered to review the clergy in their teams or to manage them”. The report expresses concern that residentiary canons can function “with a degree of unhelpful independence from either the collegial vision of the Chapter or the line management of the dean”.

Deans must be “empowered to lead”, it says, recommending that they conduct yearly reviews of canons, and that all cathedral clergy and staff come under their authority. One of the findings at the Visitation at Exeter Cathedral was “poor communication and divisions among and between the Dean and Residentiary Canons”.

The report praises the “mini MBA” for deans and says that they should be given “specialist support” in finance, asset management, project management, and marketing. It recommends that bishops work with deans to “utilise the significance of the cathedral in the liturgical, teaching and missional life of the diocese”. They are not leaders of “competing fiefdoms”, it emphasises.

THE report warns that a “large number” of cathedrals are under “significant financial pressure”, and highlights a “reputational risk for the entire Church, especially where a cathedral is unable to pay its creditors in full”.

It diagnoses “a level of systematic under-funding that needs addressing by Church and State”, and recommends that the Government be approached about a state contribution to a “national cathedral fabric fund”.

It also recommends the establishment of “some kind of central support services function”, enabling cathedrals to access financial advice, and says that no large building projects should start until all funding is committed.

There is also a recommendation that the rules governing the spending of the contribution by the Church Commissioners to cathedral finance be relaxed, enabling deans and Chapters to deploy them in different ways.

On the subject of safeguarding, the report says that cathedrals are “lagging behind the rest of the Church”.

The group urges that its recommendations be “adopted as a whole rather than being cherry-picked”.

The Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, welcomed the report as “a very good summary of the issues, with interesting and positive ideas on how to respond to them”. The recommendations, including registration with the Charity Commission, would “go a very long way to addressing some of the structural weaknesses in governance”.

Good-practice recommendations had been in place for “quite some time”, he said, but they had “not always been put into effect”. A key challenge, he said, was the recruitment of people to serve in governance positions, given the salaries commanded in the secular sphere.

Independence was a two-edged sword that had “allowed cathedrals, in the best case, to flourish, and enabled their diocese to do well; in the worst case, it has allowed people who want to go their own way, and are not willing to co-operate with others, to do so”.

He agreed with the working-group’s decision to reject a purely secular model of governance — “We are not here to make as much money as possible” — and said that healing had taken place since the episcopal visitations. “We are interdependent, and our future lies together.”

The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, who chairs the Association of English Cathedrals, described the change to governance as “evolutionary”, and “a fairly minor development”. He warned that a “much more dirigist regime”, under which cathedrals became “just a sub-department of [the] General Synod”, risked losing “the sense of place and identity that they transmit to cities and regions, and the buy-in that local communities bring”.

Being registered with the Charity Commission would make fund-raising “much more straightforward”, but he expected “misgivings about additional bureaucracy”.

The relationship between bishops and deans relied on mutual understanding, he said. “The complexity of cathedrals, and what they are trying to do, can seem quite exotic when compared with the parochial system. There can be misunderstandings about who is doing what.” But, when a good understanding was in place, “you can fly.”

He was glad that the report had isolated underfunding as “one of the key problems. That kind of living hand-to-mouth has sometimes prevented cathedrals’ being able to bring in the skilled services and staff they need.” Visitor and worshipper numbers were rising; so there was an urge to “catch up all that potential and interest, which can lead to making mistakes: sometimes ambition outstrips capacity”.

He concluded: “There is no divide between being an oasis of spiritual delight and a well-run and accountable charity.”

Cathedrals‘do God’ in ways that resonate uniquely with aspects of contemporary culture. A cathedral is the focus of a bishop’s ‘gathering’ role and this gives meaning and content to the definition of a cathedral as the seat of the bishop and a centre of worship and mission. Diocese and cathedral are part of one body, working together to proclaim the Kingdom of God. There are many ways to improve relationships and joint-working between cathedrals, bishops, dioceses and National Church Institutions.

Cathedrals do not just belong to the Church, although it is the Church which runs them, bears most of the financial burden for them, staffs them and ensures their ministry of prayer, worship and mission. They do this for the wider public benefit.

Cathedrals do not just pray for and support the spiritual life of their communities. They are often also venues for public occasions, mark the various stages in the life of the community throughout the year and have an iconic local status, attracting tourism and businesses to the area. A generation before Heritage and Renewal, the Dutch Reformed theologian Albert Van Den Heuvel gave an address at Coventry Cathedral in 1966 in which he expressed the complexity of expectations of a cathedral’s roles somewhat poetically. He talked of a cathedral as a sign of pro-existence, a symbol of diversity in unity, a Pentecostal laboratory, a theatre of basic drama, a temple of dialogue, a centre of creativity, an academy of committed information, a clinic for public exorcism, an international exchange, a broadcasting station for the voice of the poor, a tower of reconciliation, a motel for pilgrims, a house of vicarious feasts, and the hut of the shepherd.

As one regular Hindu visitor to Leicester Cathedral put it, this city is my city because this cathedral is my cathedral

The Archbishop of Canterbury when he was Dean of Liverpool (and adopted as a mantra by many cathedrals subsequently), if a cathedral is a safe place to do risky things in Christ’s service

Durham Miners’ Gala and a service for the Courts of Justice take place in Durham Cathedral on consecutive days. Both are attended by more than a thousand people. Both are politically potent symbols of, respectively, trade unionism and industry, and the Queen’s peace preserved by the rule of law. The Bishop presides at both and a sermon is preached. The gathering and unifying ministry of the cathedral is part of the Bishop’s oversight of all people and the furtherance of unity and peace. As such,

the cathedral realizes the catholic nature of the Church because it reaches out and gathers all people across civic society, convinced that there is no place in which the Church does not belong.The gathering and unifying ministry of cathedrals is not grounded in a political, cultural, or economic consensus, but in the prayer of Christ that God’s people be one as he and the Father are one. In the Church of England, it serves ecclesial and civic unity.

If independence becomes a means of protecting a cathedral against unwelcome external intervention, it suggests that something has already fundamentally broken down in the vital network of relationships that a cathedral inhabits. But a degree of structural independence or ambiguity might also contain something important that may be too easily lost.

We have heard from many bishops a discomfort with the role of Visitor as it currently operates, casting them rather distantly and unhelpfully as ‘judge’ in their relationship with the cathedral.

a number of parish church cathedrals had wrongly assumed that the Churchwardens Measure 2001 and the Church Representation Rules did not to apply to them, with the result that they had not been operating the legislation relating to parishes. While this is understandable, it is undesirable that legislative requirements should be imposed if they are not being met.

The view of the Working Group is that these complications for parish church cathedrals should be removed so far as possible. We consider that parish church cathedrals should not be subject to the provisions of the Church Representation Rules or other legislation relating to parish governance

We would like to see residentiary canon roles being given as a developmental opportunity at an early or mid-point in a clergyperson’s ministry, enabling them to learn new skills and move on after an appropriate period to their next role.

A friend of mine observed, in The Church Times: The draft report had nothing to say about the formal representation of the congregation and community in the cathedral governance or advisory structures, apart from a reference to elected representatives on the cathedral council. It had nothing to say about cathedral community committees or similar, where the views of the community can be heard and consultation with it may take place. Nothing is said about the part that it plays in welcome and hospitality, assisting in and beautifying worship, care and upkeep of the building, education and prayer, music and financial support and fund-raising, not to mention pastoral care and support. The proposal in the draft report for the part played by the Council to be changed and expanded and its composition to include “stakeholders” did nothing to recognise these concerns.

Now the final report is published, we can see that still none of these concerns has been addressed. In particular, it is proposed that cathedral councils should be abolished altogether, thus eliminating any place where the congregation might be heard.

It is online here.

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