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Cathedrals Measure

8.33 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, my predecessor Bishop Bloomfield once stood on Ludgate Hill in the first half of the 19th century staring up at St. Paul's Cathedral and remarked to a friend, "I look at that great cathedral and think of its large revenues and great responsibilities and ask myself: what good is it doing to this great city?--and I feel compelled to answer, not any to a single soul in it".

That story reveals that I have an interest to declare in my own contemporary involvement in the affairs of St. Paul's, but all the evidence would be against echoing Bishop Bloomfield's judgment now. Since its reconstruction at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries,

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St. Paul's has probably never been so densely thronged by visitors or its services so well attended and appreciated as is the case today.

There are similar stories from elsewhere. In an age of great mobility cathedrals are high places of Christian worship and teaching which attract the seeker who is not ready for the commitments inescapable in more intimate settings. As we all know, cathedrals also contribute greatly to the general artistic and cultural heritage of our country. I very much welcome this scrutiny of the Cathedrals Measure as an aspect of Parliament's concern that the Church of England should remain free from any merely sectarian mentality and that it should continue to strive to be serviceable for the people of this country as a whole.

Your Lordships will be aware of one or two cases which in recent years have raised concern about the adequacy of the arrangements for the governance of our cathedrals. The commission, established at the request of the Association of English Cathedrals under the chairmanship of Lady Howe of Aberavon, certainly had these unsatisfactory cases in mind; but the context for the broad terms of reference which guided that commission's work was set by the great increase in the activity and the salience of cathedrals in Church and community life over the past decades. The report of the commission published in 1994 was entitled Heritage and Renewal and covered many aspects of cathedral life. The recommendations have been broadly welcomed and there has been great appreciation for the constructive acuity displayed by Lady Howe and her team. Many of the suggestions in the report have already been implemented and the Measure before your Lordships' House today stems from the recommendations on governance which can be implemented only by legislation.

Briefly, the Measure seeks to extend proven good practice in some cathedrals to them all, while preserving the capacity in the framing of statutes for particular cathedrals to take account of diverse traditions and needs. Legislation cannot of course by itself compel people to work together harmoniously but it can create a framework which will help them to do so. This is obvious from the history of St. Paul's. The frustration arising from the statutes of a cathedral which did not begin life as a monastery and did not therefore inherit any abbatial command structure from pre-Reformation times can be plainly seen in Dean Inge's diary where we read of the impotence of the dean who at St. Paul's--said Dean Inge--was a solitary mouse closely observed by four predatory cats, the residentiary Canons. That old constitution was a recipe for divided leadership and inertia and also for waspish observations such as Inge's entry in his diary, "Canon Newbold died this morning and I have been trying to feign regret".

The Measure provides that the governing body of a cathedral will be a Chapter larger than that which operates in many cathedrals at present. It will include both the senior clergy of the cathedral, with a clear leadership role assigned to the Dean together with other colleagues, including a proportion of lay people.

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A number of cathedral Chapters already profit from lay participation and the advantages of this arrangement are now to be available to all.

All modern cathedrals have huge financial obligations and challenges and the Measure provides for an extension of the good practice in some cathedrals of having a dedicated finance committee composed of people with appropriate expertise. There will also be an administrator who may be a voting member of the executive Chapter.

One new feature introduced by the Measure is the creation of a cathedral council to which the Chapter will be accountable and which can be available for advice. Its membership will reflect wider diocesan and community interest in the cathedral. The council chairman will be chosen by the Bishop in consultation with the Chapter. The council will consider the annual budget and decide on future changes in the constitution of the cathedral in the light of this Measure.

There is also a continuing place for the honorary canons of each cathedral and for the "cathedral community", those who regularly worship in or work for the cathedral. In cathedrals where there has not previously been an electoral roll, there will now have to be a roll kept of the cathedral community, especially since it will have the right to representation on the council.

This common structure of organisation and accountability still permits cathedrals to retain their own distinctive local traditions. I am so far from being a member of the Proudie tendency to be glad that it is so. For example, at St. Paul's we decided that if your Lordships approve this Measure we intend to retain the pre-Reformation designation of minor canons of the cathedral as "cardinals", as well as other distinctive usages. There is no desire to make a fetish of bureaucratic tidiness. The overriding intention of the Measure is to ensure that the cathedral fulfils its historic task as the seat, the kathedra of the bishop and a centre of worship and mission.

The Measure received overwhelming support from the Synod--only three members voted against it--and it has been found expedient by the Ecclesiastical Committee. Many cathedrals are actively preparing to implement the Measure should it be your Lordships' pleasure to approve it. I therefore invite the House to consider this Measure. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.--(The Lord Bishop of London.)

8.41 p.m.

Viscount Brentford: My Lords, I warmly welcome the Measure; I think it is a very good one. I am a bit ambivalent about cathedrals because I live a long way away from my own. I believe that three or four cathedrals are nearer to me than the one in my diocese, including one or two in France.

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As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London so accurately said, the Measure modernises the governance of cathedrals, spreads best practice and ensures accountability. I warmly welcome the fact that it has laity on the new Chapter. I believe that, as a result of this, cathedrals are beginning to bring in job descriptions for canons in the cathedral and providing them with accountability and a regular system of appraisal. This will all be conducive to efficiency as well as to spirituality in cathedral teams.

I am also encouraged that the community of the cathedral is being enhanced under this Measure. Cathedrals are centres for worship and mission, which need to be encouraged at every step. I believe that this Measure gives effective links for the cathedral with both the bishop and the diocese. Whether the Measure will iron out conflicts that have historically occurred between bishops and deans I do not know. I very much hope that with the help of this Measure the Church of England will be able to bury the problems that Trollope used to enjoy writing about. I warmly support the Measure.

8.43 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I, too, should declare an interest as a diocesan bishop whose ministry and diocese is closely bound up with a particular cathedral, in this case Winchester. I wish to make only two points--both in support of my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London--from the particular experience of that one cathedral, Winchester.

Both in Ecclesiastical Committee and in the other place questions were raised about whether the whole enterprise of the Howe Commission and of the Cathedrals Measure was undertaken simply because of particular difficulties in particular places. Our experience is much more broadly based than that. Winchester, like every other cathedral, has been steadily developing over recent decades its extraordinary rich ministry and opportunities. It has been doing so--like almost every one of its opposite numbers--without scandal; it has been doing so with a constantly developing range of fruitful relationships and growing collaboration with the very wide range of people, employed and volunteers, many hundreds in most cathedrals, who together make up its ministry.

Winchester was, under the leadership of the previous dean, alongside the rest of the Association of English Cathedrals, among the most eager to call for the kind of report that Lady Howe and her colleagues eventually produced--not for dealing with particular difficulties but in the general sense that the legal and other structures of cathedrals needed fresh assistance and a fresh look. It has gladly contributed to the process and it is finding beneficial the work that it has embarked upon in waiting for your Lordships' agreement to this Measure.

Secondly, the right reverend Prelate spoke of no wish for a fetish of tidiness. Perhaps I may give an example of that. We find in Winchester--as is found in London--that there is every opportunity both to

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consider seriously and freshly the whole range of the cathedral's statutory basis and to make proper provision for the various and particular things arising out of long history, particular situation and detailed opportunities which mark Winchester out from others. We have recently had confirmation that that is how both we and one of our neighbours are doing this work. We agreed with one of our neighbours that we would exchange our working procedures. We have been very interested to discover the significant difference within the legislation between the way in which we and our immediate, ancient neighbour are setting about this work. I, too, hope that your Lordships will give this Measure the appropriate green light.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I have seen something of different cathedrals over the years although my main involvement--both as a boy and now as an occasional singer--has been with Westminster Abbey. I am conscious of the immense transformation of the role of cathedrals--even more of the Abbey--over the past 50 years. When I was a boy we had the occasional trickle of tourists into the Abbey. Last year, when it was discovered that 20 minutes after each Eurostar arrival at Waterloo there was a noticeable rise in the number of visitors, it was recognised that there had to be a limitation along with consideration of charges, the long-term implications of the income that was raised, and the subsequent financial obligations and so on.

The multiple roles of cathedrals as public buildings which are also church buildings, as buildings which serve the entire community, as centres of music, both concert halls and places where music is used for worship, both contemporary and traditional, as ancient monuments, and, increasingly, as focuses for tourism, raise very large issues. I hesitate to welcome the idea that best practice and modern management techniques should be involved in these roles, but I also recognise that they have to be part of the response to the intense pressures.

Perhaps I may say a little about the role of the Royal Peculiars because it was one of the questions very much raised in the Ecclesiastical Committee's discussions. The Royal Peculiars serve the Crown. If one is going to change the function of the Royal Peculiars, one is beginning to get at the Crown. There have been many somewhat intemperate discussions of current events. I would remark merely that when Henry Purcell was organist of the Abbey he had to be sharply reprimanded by the dean for charging visitors to the organ loft. There have been many old scandals, some minor, as there are today.

What we need from the Measure is the widest possible involvement of the lay community and stricter financial controls for centres that will become among the more income-generating of the Church of England. The question of where the money goes will be

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increasingly important. Multiple functions will continue to be carried out under increasing pressures. I welcome the Measure.

8.50 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London My Lords, I am very grateful for the tone of the contributions. I am very grateful for the emphasis put by the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, on the centrality of worship and mission to the cathedral and for the emphasis put by my friend, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, on the freedom for manoeuvre that the Measure gives.

I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for his sensitive and sympathetic appraisal of the current position of cathedrals. I have to declare another interest in that I am Dean of the Chapels Royal and am therefore responsible for another range of Royal Peculiars. The noble Lord will know that there is a separate inquiry, inspired by the results of Lady Howe's commission, which will meet at the request of the Deans of the Royal Peculiars. It will bring together Professor Averil Cameron from Keble, the Dean of York and Sir Brian Jenkins to examine the problems to which the noble Lord referred.

Every cathedral has had difficulties with the organ loft. When Mendelssohn came to play in St. Paul's he went on so long that the vergers finally cut off the bellows. Before that happens to me, I crave your Lordships' support in approving the Motion.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


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