02 February 2000
New structures for running Church of England cathedrals, under the Cathedrals Measure 1999, start to come into effect this week. The first cathedrals involved are those of Blackburn, in the Province of York, on February 2, and Chelmsford, in the Province of Canterbury, on February 6. On those dates, the Provosts of Blackburn and Chelmsford will become Deans and the new system will start to operate.
The Cathedrals Measure 1999 received the Royal Assent last June. Its main provisions create new legal arrangements for the governance of all the cathedrals in the Church of England except Christ Church, Oxford (which is part of an Oxford College as well as being the cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford) and the cathedrals of the Diocese of Sodor and Man and the Diocese in Europe.
The new system was developed from the recommendations of the Archbishops' Commission on Cathedrals (the Howe Commission), set up in 1992 at the request of the cathedrals themselves, and published in "Heritage and Renewal" in 1994. It allows scope for individual cathedrals to retain much of their unique character developed over the centuries but also contains important features to help cathedrals continue and develop their role as the seat of the bishop and a centre of worship and mission in the Church in the 21st Century.
The main features of the new organisation are:-
(a) The Chapter, which directs and oversees the administration of the cathedral, consisting of the Dean and the residentiary canons is strenghtened by the inclusion of additional members two-thirds of whom must be lay people. The Dean is the Chairman of the Chapter and it is the Dean's duty to govern and direct the life and work of the cathedral on the Chapter's behalf. In the case of those cathedrals which at present have a Provost, that title will be changed to Dean. Each cathedral is now required to have an Administrator, who may be a member of the Chapter. The Chapter will receive advice on financial and investment management from a finance committee including members with expertise in that field. The Chapter may also have other committees.
(b) A Council to support the work of the cathedral and review and advise on the work of the Chapter. It will have a lay person appointed by the bishop as chairman and, as well as the Dean and representatives of the cathedral clergy, its members will include representatives of those who worship or work in the cathedral and others who have experience of the cathedral's work or can reflect local, diocesan, ecumenical or national interests in relation to the cathedral. In that sense, it is a body through which the Chapter must give an account of its stewardship to the wider community.
(c) A College of Canons to include the Dean, the residentiary and non-residentiary canons, and the archdeacons and suffragan bishops in the diocese. Non-residentiary canons are often clergy working in the diocese, for example in parochial appointments, but the office is not confined to them, and each cathedral must have provision for the possible appointment of lay canons. The College will perform the centuries-old function of electing the person chosen by the Crown as a new diocesan bishop and it will also be able to discuss matters concerning the cathedral.
(d) The diocesan bishop will retain his historic role as the "Visitor" to the cathedral, whose functions include seeing that the cathedral's governing instruments are complied with and deciding on questions on the interpretation of those instruments. The Measure expressly recognises that the cathedral is his official "seat" and it requires the Chapter to consult the bishop from time to time in respect of the general direction and mission of the cathedral. He may also attend and speak at meetings of the Council, although (because of his judicial function as Visitor) he will not be a voting member.
Each cathedral must draw up a new constitution and statutes - ie, new governing instruments - to give effect to this new model. They are drawn up by a Transitional Council chaired by the Dean or Provost and with the bishop (who must consent to the new instruments) as a member. The process involves public consultation and is completed when the two Archbishops confirm that the new instruments for a particular cathedral comply with the Measure and fix a date for them and for the relevant provisions of the Measure to come into force for the cathedral concerned.