General Synod approves ideas to support and streamline England’s cathedrals

11th July 2018

Church of England General Synod approves ideas to support and streamline England’s cathedrals – but asks for more time.

Proposals designed to tighten the governance and management frameworks, minimise risk, and sustain the vital role cathedrals play in our cities and our communities have been approved by the Church of England’s General Synod.

Synod broadly approved the 150 recommendations made in a report by the Cathedrals Working Group but agreed to delay the first draft reading of legislation until next July.

Most speeches welcomed the report, while urging those charged with implementation to recognise that one size does not fit all and each cathedral has to be seen in its own context; to understand the importance of cathedrals as a “safe place in which to do risky things in Christ’s service”, to pursue a dialogue with the Government to establish a national cathedral fabric fund; and, to recognise the centrality of prayer to the life of the Cathedral.

A cathedral is a praying church community led by a Dean: nothing else looks or feels right” the Archdeacon of Halifax, the Ven. Dr Anne Dawtry (Leeds) said.

The report came in response to recent failures of governance and management within a small number of cathedrals, which, though by no means widespread, highlighted vulnerabilities across the sector.

It recommends retaining the chapter as the governing body of a cathedral, but with changes to its composition to achieve a majority of non-executive members. Cathedrals will also establish separate senior executive teams to oversee day-to-day operations. It also calls for a dialogue with Government towards the establishment of a significant cathedral fabric fund for the UK and recommends that Cathedrals come under Charity Commission regulation, ensuring they are in line with best practice elsewhere in the third sector. Cathedral Councils would also be abolished.

A Cathedrals Support Group to support the implementation of the recommendations is being set up, chaired by the Third Church Estates Commissioner, Eve Poole with a series of work streams overseen by a Dean or an appropriate member of a cathedral community.

The motion was passed in the following terms:

That this Synod:

a) welcome the recommendations in the Report of the Cathedrals Working Group (GS 2101A);

b) request the Archbishops’ Council to bring forward a draft measure for First Consideration at the July 2019 group of sessions to give effect to the recommendations that involve legislative change; and

c) call on all concerned, including bishops, cathedrals and the National Church Institutions, to give effect to the recommendations that do not involve legislative change as soon as practically possible.

The reports can be downloaded here.

You can read an article on this in full: Cite – David Pocklington, “Streamlining cathedral governance” in Law & Religion UK, 10 July 2018.