Review of Welsh cathedrals criticised

by
28 April 2017

Gavin Drake reports from the Church in Wales Governing Body in Cardiff

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Under scrutiny: St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, one of six cathedrals in the Church in Wales

Under scrutiny: St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, one of six cathedrals in the Church in Wales

A REVIEW of the future of the six cathedrals in the Church in Wales has been criticised for “treating them as if they are all the same”. But despite several critical speeches when the Governing Body debated the report on Sunday, members of the Standing Committee were asked to “co-ordinate consideration and ac­­­­­tion” on the report’s recom­menda­­­tions without any votes against.

The report contains 17 recom­mendations. The most contentious are the replacement of the Dean and Chapter as the gov­erning body with legal responsibility for each cath­ed­­ral with a new Chapter struc­ture that would in­­clude the Dean, and other senior clergy with cathedral duties, along­side elected members of cathedral congrega­tions, and people chosen by the Bishop and Chapter for their skills in finance, educa­tion, law, property, and art.

It also calls for a review of each cathedral’s Friends organisation. The report says that “Constitutions are often outdated, and do not reflect what a good Friends organisa­tion can be.”

Moving the motion, the Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andrew John, said that there would be “no wholesale change overnight”.

The Dean of Monmouth, the Very Revd Lister Tonge (Monmouth), seconding the motion, said that the six separate cathedral schemes in the Constitution were “already 50 years out of date” when they were last revised in 1974. He said that, through the review, the Deans were asking the Church in Wales a number of questions: “What do you want your cathedrals for? How do we deliver what you want? Where are the resources to deliver that desired outcome to come from?”

The Revd Harri Williams (St Davids) was one of a series of speakers to criticise the report. He said that, as chairman of the Friends of St Davids Cathedral for the past ten years, he was “both disappointed and hurt” by the comments about the Friends organisations.

Its constitution had been updated eight years ago, in light of Charity Commission advice, and, in the past ten years, had given grants of more than £900,000 to the Dean and Chapter. It had also provided other assets, including support for wages, the choir, vestments, and property, in excess of £2 million. “In light of this, I would ask whether GB feels that work is badly needed?”

He called for the “inaccurate comments to be corrected in a public and printed form”, and for an “appropriate apology.”

Canon Steven Kirk (Llandaff) resisted calls for a new governance structure. “Why create a new body and call it the Chapter? The clergy are the Chapter, and this particular turkey is not going to vote for Christmas.”

The motion was passed with three abstentions and no votes against.

That the Governing Body do note the Report and request the Standing Committee to co-ordinate considera­tion of the Report and action on its recommendations.

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