My reflection on the ousting of the Dean of Llandaff Cathedral


_66124450_janethendersonIt becomes quite something when the news reports of a Dean resigning because of attacks on her gender. I’m genuinely concerned for the Church in Wales if the rumours are true:

The first woman Dean of Llandaff Cathedral has resigned just two months after she was installed in the post.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said he had accepted Janet Henderson’s resignation “with enormous sadness”.

Church in Wales sources have told WalesOnline that Dean Henderson had had “a “difficult time” since her appointment, with some clergy resenting the appointment of a woman.

And last month we revealed how some members of the Cathedral choir had been angered by what they saw as low fees being offered to perform on BBC One’s Songs of Praise programme.

On Sunday Dean Henderson, who was also the Llandaff parish vicar, was not at the Cathedral for any of the seven services.

A source told us: “The Dean has been affected by the opposition she has had from some clergy who object to the fact that a woman was appointed.

“The fees row relating to Songs of Praise may have been the last straw.”

Dr Morgan has championed the role of women clergy in the Church, and it is a personal setback for him that Dean Henderson has gone so quickly after arriving at Llandaff.

But sources have told us he remains passionate about securing the rights of women to become Bishops in the Church in Wales, and a further attempt will be made to persuade all sections of its Governing Council to approve such a proposal in September.

All three sections of the body – bishops, clergy and laity – must back such a move. A previous attempt failed when despite gaining the support of the bishops and laity, clergy narrowly rejected it.

We have seen a blog posting by a clergyman in Wales taking issue with Dean Henderson’s appointment at the time it was announced.

Two weeks ago we reported how two members of Llandaff Cathedral Choir thought a fee of £110 was too small to appear on Songs of Praise, the BBC’s long-running hymn show.

Altogether around 10 “lay clerks” – professional adult choristers – could appear on three forthcoming editions of Songs of Praise to be recorded in the Cathedral next week.

The programme is screened on BBC One, but the Llandaff Cathedral shows are being produced by Cardiff-based independent TV production company Avanti.

Responding to the allegation that the lay clerks were being underpaid, Dean Henderson said the Cathedral was not interested in making money out of appearing on Songs of Praise, which she described as a “low budget” programme.

But Adam Poole, who has been a lay clerk at the Cathedral for more than 10 years, said: “We have now found out from the BBC’s commissioning website that Avanti is being paid £60,000 to make each of the three programmes – a total of £180,000.

“In these circumstances, a fee of just £110 to each lay clerk is even more unacceptable.”

A spokeswoman for the BBC said:  “The independent production company which is producing this recording for Songs of Praise are still in discussion with the Cathedral about the choir’s involvement and the fees involved that will be in line with agreed industry rates.”

Originally from Neath, Dean Henderson is a former nurse who was ordained more than 20 years ago.

Immediately before taking up her appointment she was Archdeacon of Richmond in North Yorkshire.

Dean Henderson, 55, grew up in Llandrindod Wells and Aberystwyth and is a former pupil of Howell’s School, Llandaff. She learned Welsh at secondary school and is a keen amateur musician.

With a first class degree in Theology from Durham University, she was ordained in 1988.

When he announced the Dean’s appointment, the Archbishop of Wales said: “She has a wide experience of city and Cathedral ministry and I am sure she will make a huge contribution to the life and society of  Llandaff – a place with which she is already very familiar.”

Dean Henderson said at the time of her appointment: “I am thrilled and humbled to have been appointed as the next Dean of Llandaff Cathedral and Vicar of the parish. This is a very interesting time to be moving back to Wales. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and working with the Cathedral to continue to develop worship and address the pressing fabric and financial challenges that face every cathedral community today.”

A statement issued by the Church in Wales on Thursday night said: “The Archbishop of Wales has, with enormous sadness, accepted the resignation with immediate effect of the Very Rev’d Janet Henderson as Dean of Llandaff.

“He has, in the meantime, asked the Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Venerable Peggy Jackson, as the senior member of the Chapter, to have necessary oversight of the Cathedral on his behalf, until a new Dean is appointed.”

The Dean herself was not available for comment.

Source: WalesOnline – Read the article at its original location here.

Women in leadership is a particular hot topic in the Church at the moment, and it seems that there is constant friction between those who want to see women in leadership roles within the church and those who do not. Of course, there is time and place to have those debates, and there are particular churches or denominations which will give a clear opinion on what it/they thinks of the whole issue. The Anglican church, however, is quite clear on where it sees women in ministry as far as deacons and priests, but not bishops… yet.

Whether one agrees with women being allowed to be in church leadership or not, it seems logical that other doctrines would come before this particular issue. I would hope that the example of Jesus and the teachings in Scripture would come as a benchmark for conduct within the Church, followed by a particular church system of dealing with dispute, grievances etc. Of course, this system would have to be in line with Biblical principles in my opinion. And the Anglican church has such a system. It is called “respecting Godly leadership”. You won’t find it as a canon, but you will find it in ordination vows where an ordinand vows to obey the Bishop of his/her diocese.

But even getting away at that, we find the guidelines for respect and support in the Church quite starkly in the Bible. I understand that people don’t and won’t agree on the issue of women in leadership… but there are ways and means to disagree, and there is enough room in God’s kingdom for those of either conviction. This may be hard to appreciate, and some people may think that the women in leadership issue is so important that it becomes a cause for orthodoxy or heresy within the Church, but I think that is the beauty of denominations. One can be in a place where either views are held. But seemingly not in the Church in Wales. In my view, as far as the Anglican Church sees it, women have been authorised to be ordained within the church in the capacity of a priest. And if you don’t like that, and if you see it as too big an obstacle for you, then leave. It’s as simple as that.

Alternatively, you can stay, but it does mean loving your neighbour as yourself, submitting to one another out of love and obeying and submitting to Godly leadership. It’s your choice.

I honestly thought that we had matured from bullying and ostracising. But if these rumours are true and the sources quoted in the article are correct, then I’m sadly mistaken.

As for the choir complaining about how much they’re being paid… I’m not going to bother wasting my words.


Dean Roberts

Dean is an Ordinand training for ordination in the Anglican Church. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has a dog called Taliesin and a Cat named Eira. He graduated from Cardiff University with a B.A Hons. in Theology and Religious Studies. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading and blogging as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @