A new era of Cathedral governance - a Dean's perspective

Added about 3 months ago by Nicholas Henshall

GUEST BLOG: Nicholas Henshall, Dean of Chelmsford, gives his insights on the new Cathedrals Working Group report. The report cites his chapter from Holy Ground.

The final version of the Cathedral Working Group (CWG) report is out today, properly timetabled in order to be ready for the synodical (and indeed parliamentary) processes that follow. So what of the outcomes, especially from the perspective of the essays in Holy Ground?

The book turned out to be timely, and several chapters are quoted directly in the report (including my own, and it's from the perspective of that chapter that I'm most likely to comment).

My overall response to the CWG is hugely positive. When I sat on Adrian Newman’s sofa early on in the consultation process, I laid out my own views (informed by those of the Chelmsford Cathedral Chapter). I recognised that these were likely to be at a particular end of the spectrum, particularly in terms of governance.

That CWG report does establish Chapter as the sole governing body of the cathedral is an excellent step in the right direction. However, I have always held the view that cathedrals – and indeed the church as a whole – should conform to best practice in governance. For me that means a unitary board of trustees with an independent chair. CWG stopped short of that but did go far further than many of us expected. It is clear that there is a range of views about who should chair Chapter.

But in terms of good governance, it is clearly inappropriate that the Chief Exec. (i.e. the Dean) should chair their own board. This would be entirely unacceptable in the private, public and voluntary sector. But that is a battle lost, I recognise.

Holy Ground was published in December and is the most-cited source in the Cathedrals Working Group’s groundbreaking report into Cathedral Governance. Copies of Holy Ground are available from Sacristy Press and in all good theological bookshops.

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