Cathedral that is 'place of ridicule'

ANDREW BROWN

Staff at Lincoln Cathedral, which has been riven by a struggle between its dean and its chapter, are due to meet to discuss their difficulties today.

Officials who say Lincoln has become a "place of ridicule" issued a statement yesterday saying that their bishop, the Rt Rev Robert Hardy should not "feel he needs to resign" - a comment which some observers take to mean that staff believe the dean, the Very Rev Brandon Jackson, should do so.

The long-running drama at Lincoln began when the dean came into conflict with senior members of the cathedral chapter over his leadership style. Then the cathedral's priceless copy of the Magna Carta was exhibited in Australia to raise funds in 1988, but the operation ended with a loss of over pounds 50,000.

A formal inquiry, a "visitation", set up by the bishop, criticised the conduct of the dean and particularly Canon Rex Davis, who took the manuscript to Australia, with three other canons. Dr Jackson attacked the bishop for not demanding their resignations and there has been little conciliation since.

In another controversy, he was cleared of an adulterous affair with a cathedral verger at a church court. The dean accused senior members of the chapter, the senior priests in the diocese, of conspiring to remove him.

The verger concerned, Verity Freestone, is now taking the dean and the cathedral's chapter to a tribunal alleging sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and unfair dismissal.

Yesterday, the Church of England's General Synod was told that the trial cost the church more than pounds 100,000.

In the statement released yesterday, staff rallied in support of the Bishop of Lincoln who has said he will report the staff's problems with the dean to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The statement said: "We have always considered it a privilege to work for and in Lincoln Cathedral but unfortunately we all know that over the last six years it has become a place of ridicule. We are beginning to lose our sense of pride in our association with this beautiful place ...

"We have not, as yet, had any answers to questions tabled by the staff but it is our hope they will be answered at our next meeting. The Bishop of Lincoln has our full support and we certainly do not feel he needs to resign. Many of us are unhappy, frustrated and actually sickened by the whole situation and we feel something must be done urgently to remedy it."

Since his arrival at the cathedral in 1989, the dean has been locked in a struggle with the four canons who constitute the governing chapter of the cathedral and have enough power under the medieval constitution to thwart any of his initiatives.

Staff met the dean two weeks ago and asked him a number of questions, particularly about the relationship between the dean and the rest of the chapter and what he thought of concerns about staff morale raised by senior members of the greater chapter, which includes senior churchmen in the county outside the cathedral. Dr Jackson has promised to give his replies at today's meeting.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, said he was in close touch with the bishop and others. He was "deeply concerned that the wounds of the cathedral be healed as soon as possible".

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