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Bishop reports ‘serious concerns’ at Truro Cathedral

03 February 2023

Visitation leads to revelations of ‘discordant leadership’ and ‘an unhealthy culture’

TRURO CATHEDRAL

An aerial view of Truro Cathedral

An aerial view of Truro Cathedral

A VISITATION of Truro Cathedral conducted by the diocesan Bishop, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, has found “serious concerns” about its mission and governance, including “discordant leadership”, “underperformance”, and “an unhealthy culture”.

Early last year, Bishop Mounstephen carried out an external review of the cathedral’s culture and practices. This was not made public. “In the light of its findings,” he explains in the foreword to the determinations of his visitation, published on Friday, “I decided that a Visitation was necessary as the only sure way open to me to ensure that the Review’s findings would be implemented.”

The Review, led by the Area Bishop of Stepney, Dr Joanne Grenfell, had made 15 recommendations and two “interim” recommendations. All of these have been upheld by the visitation’s findings, Bishop Mounstephen writes, with some additional improvements required. “The team’s aim was not to assess the popularity of particular clergy or staff, but to look at systems, processes, culture, and practice across the Cathedral.”

Beginning with how the leadership and management culture at the cathedral has affected its operations, including safeguarding, he says: “The Visitation team found serious concerns in regards of vision, mission, engagement, discordant leadership, conflictual working relationships, underperformance and an unhealthy culture.”

Bishop Mounstephen directs the Chapter to restore “at pace” the apparent breakdown of relationships by ensuring that the clergy are “fully present and participating together in prayer, worship, teaching, hospitality, and other activities”; by clarifying the expectations of post-holders’ skills, behaviours, and capabilities; by carrying out a “mediated conflict resolution between members of the senior leadership team”; and by auditing the “skills, capacity, and diversity of Chapter members” under the Cathedrals Measure.

Strategic and operational reviews are also called for, alongside encouraging a more diverse congregation and ensuring that HR and data privacy practices are reviewed and developed.

On the cathedral governance and structures, the Bishop identifies a “lack of clarity, most especially regarding roles, responsibilities, authority and accountability”, as well as “a lack of debate, challenge and scrutiny around decision-making”.

He directs the Chapter to invest in training for staff, clergy, trustees, and senior leadership. They must also adopt a code of conduct, and carry out a “courageous evaluation” of the Chapter itself, he writes, including “power-dynamics” and the part played by the Dean.

Further action was needed on decision-making processes — which were found to be “poor” — as well as on health and safety. The findings of the original review found the latter to be “of concern”. On this, Bishop Mounstephen dictates a series of internal and external audits and checks.

Safeguarding was found in the visitation report to be “an area of rapid, recent and significant improvements since the spring of 2022”, and this must continue, the Bishop notes — especially in the appointment of the next Director of Music.

Bishop Mounstephen concludes: “There is much work to be done. This work will require many things not least prayer, teamwork, commitment, tenacity, change of working practices, protocols and policies, far greater understanding of accountability and a renewed sense of the place of the cathedral in the Kingdom of God.”

The Interim Dean of Truro, the Very Revd Simon Robinson, who succeeded the Very Revd Roger Bush on his retirement in September, said that it had been “an immense privilege” to lead the cathedral “at this challenging time and through the upcoming season of change. Working together, I am confident that the necessary improvements clearly spelled out in Bishop Philip’s Determinations can be achieved by God’s grace, through prayer and through hard work.

“We will need to be courageous, to build on what is good and to change what must be changed.”

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