Dean of Wakefield’s response to Independent Reviewer

Following publication in February of the 18-page report by the Independent Reviewer, William Fittall, concerning a recent change of practice concerning the publication of the names of those due to preside at celebrations of Holy Communion in Wakefield Cathedral, the Dean has now issued the following Statement.

Statement from the Dean

12 June 2019

Sir William Fittall, the Independent Reviewer in relation to the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, published his Report on Wakefield Cathedral on 28 February 2019. The Report was occasioned by my decision, in consultation with the Cathedral Chapter, to remove from the published worship list the names of those presiding at celebrations of the Eucharist in the cathedral. As I said at the time of the Report’s publication, I am grateful to Sir William for the care and thoroughness with which he approached his task and for his measured conclusions. I am also grateful for his forbearance with the length of time it has taken me to issue my response. Before making any substantive public statement, I wanted to discuss the matter further with my Chapter colleagues and to consult both the Bishop of Leeds and my colleagues in the College of Deans. This process has taken some time.

I have now notified Sir William that I intend to keep the existing policy in place, but with a significant adjustment which I believe to be in line with the spirit of his conclusions. I will be offering a pastoral, face to face, meeting with anyone who is a regular member of the worshipping community at Wakefield Cathedral who is unable for reasons of conscience to accept the priestly ministry of women. This will afford the space for a shared conversation and the opportunity for me to offer to send a paper copy of the quarterly rota when it is published. This will be on the understanding that it is for their personal use and that it may change at short notice. I am pleased to say that I have already had such a conversation with the individual whose letter of concern prompted the Review and the person concerned is reflecting on this offer.

In his Report Sir William wrote of the need ‘to seek to maintain the highest possible degree of communion’ between those who differ on the matter of the ordination of women to the priesthood. As Dean of Wakefield, I take my responsibility for playing my part in that search very seriously and it is my sincere hope that the way forward I have outlined will be received in the same spirit with which it is offered.

Out of respect for Sir William and the process entrusted to him, as well as for the person who raised the original concern, I shall not be offering any further public comment or engaging on social media about this matter, and I would urge others to show the same restraint.

The Very Revd Simon Cowling
Dean of Wakefield
12 June 2019


Were it not for the involvement of the Independent Reviewer, these events would not have been reported in L&RUK. Consequently, we find no difficulty in respecting the Dean’s plea for refraining from public comment, other than to note the following response from Forward in Faith, whose chairperson is the Bishop of Wakefield:

Forward in Faith notes the Dean of Wakefield’s decision to comply with the ruling of the Independent Reviewer, Sir William Fittall, in his report on Wakefield Cathedral by making available to the complainant a service rota with information about the identity of those who will be celebrating the Eucharist in the Cathedral.

This is a welcome first step towards making Wakefield Cathedral once again a truly inclusive church in which traditional catholics are made welcome and encouraged to flourish. We hope for even greater generosity in future.

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson

Dr Lindsay Newcombe
Lay Vice-Chairman

The Revd Ian McCormack
Clerical Vice-Chairman”

David Pocklington

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Dean of Wakefield’s response to Independent Reviewer" in Law & Religion UK, 14 June 2019,

2 thoughts on “Dean of Wakefield’s response to Independent Reviewer

  1. While I hear the plea for restraint, the problem comes – as the Dean recognises – when the rota is changed, perhaps at short notice. Would it be reasonable to expect them to to inform the ‘registered objectors’ of an unexpected woman? (This would, of course, also arise even if they published the list of presiders, and I don’t think that any cathedral that does so would give such an undertaking.)

    • Indeed, Michael, I had the same thought, but in view of the minimal law content, did not wish to set any hares running.

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