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How many cathedrals can a diocese have?

New Plymouth cathedral
New Plymouth cathedral
I am not wanting to be churlish or dampen enthusiasm or be controversial for controversy’s sake. But: how many cathedrals can a diocese have? How many diocesan bishops can a diocese have? And even: how many primates can a province have?

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentanu, on Saturday March 6, was part of consecrating St Mary’s in New Plymouth as a cathedral. Much has been made of the fact that this is the newest cathedral in the Anglican world for about 80 years. That, read by itself, can give an impression of growth and vibrancy. But there’s a catch: the diocese in which St Mary’s is a cathedral (Waikato, also called the Anglican Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki) already has a cathedral, the Cathedral Church of St Peter in Hamilton (approximately 3 ½ hours drive away). Having two cathedrals in one diocese is unique in Anglicanism, and I would be interested: I suspect it is unique in episcopally-led Christian history? Waikato diocese is unique in having two equal diocesan bishops – not a diocesan bishop and assistant or suffragan. Again: I suspect it is unique in episcopally-led Christian history? Peter Carrell on his blog goes so far as to say, “In due course we look forward to the fulfilment of all requirements of Niceaean righteousness through Taranaki being promulgated a separate diocese.”

These are not the only structural innovations that NZ Anglicans have brought to ecclesiology. The first ever motion of the Anglican Primates’ Meeting (pro-Anglican Covenant, pro-Tikanga Kiwis take note) was their attempt to prevent NZ Anglicanism from implementing its three-tikanga structure in which three cultural streams (Maori, Pakeha, Polynesia) have oversight over the same geographic area, with each Tikanga’s episcopal units with its own bishop and governance. That led to having three primates (Maori, Pakeha, Polynesia) of what is still understood to be one province.

It is true that Selwyn’s hope had been for a cathedral in New Plymouth. It is true that atrocities centre around the New Plymouth site that are worth remembering and addressing. It is also worth wondering IMO why “upgrading” St Mary’s to the “status” of a cathedral is regarded as a contribution towards reconciliation in this story. Is that part of continuing a model in which a bishop is seen to be “above” a priest who is “above” a lay person (and a cathedral is “above” a parish church …). Personally I want to work towards a model in which a bishop is seen as equal-and-different to a priest who is equal-and-different to a lay person…

Hokitika cathedral?
Hokitika cathedral?
I serve in a diocese with large distances between places. Many of New Zealand’s cathedrals are incomplete (or certainly nothing like their original plan) but St Mary’s in Timaru would make an excellent cathedral, 2 ½ hours drive away from Christchurch’s cathedral. Hokitika (3 ½ hours drive away), on the West Coast is isolated from the Canterbury plains and All Saints’ Hokitika could make an excellent third cathedral in this diocese. Hokitika might not be able to afford a stipended bishop, but we could have a non-stipended bishop, or a “Total Ministry/Locally Shared Ministry” bishop. Why do Tikanga Maori episcopal units not have cathedrals? I am not wanting to be churlish or dampen enthusiasm or be controversial for controversy’s sake but it is discussions like this, theological, historical, practical that I hope we won’t discourage when looking at St Mary’s, New Plymouth, as the newest Anglican cathedral in 80 years and the only one I can think of that forms a second cathedral in a single diocese in Christian history.

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26 thoughts on “How many cathedrals can a diocese have?”

  1. Narelle St clair

    I live in Australia, and I always thought in the Anglican church, you could only have ONE cathedral in a diocese. Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought the cathedral was like the head office of the diocese, and other church buildings were like branches…..weird having 2 cathedrals, 2 bishops etc in a diocese…..Am I correct?

  2. Good read! Im from New Plymouth originally and family and friends tell me it was such a privilege having the Archbishop in our fantastic city!

  3. With the understanding that a Cathedral is the place where the bishop sits, and in this highly mobile society, could multiple cathedrals be understood as two places the bishop frequents? Like a summer home. (trying real hard to give benefit of the doubt)

    Two bishops for one diocese however…I believe that one is explicitly forbidden in the ecumenical councils. It is also a major stumbling block on the ecumenical path because of the issue of authority especially among other episcopal denominations (Catholic, AME, Lutheran, etc).

    Thanks for raising this question; it is important to point out apparent inconsistencies.

  4. Gee, I always thought it was one bishop, one cathedral, one diocese… although of course there can and should be bishop suffragans (or is it bishops suffragan?)to assist the bishop of a large diocese.

    I like your idea of equal-and-different. It’s part of the body of Christ thing to me. The head isn’t better than the feet, and the heart isn’t better than the colon. They’re all essential, even if one is physically “higher up”.

  5. Thanks for the positive tone to the start of this discussion. The cathedral as the building around the bishop’s chair (cathedra) also raises some points. My current bishop moves the cathedra and actually sits on it – so that, just as the church building stops the rain from getting onto the church (us), so the cathedral is there to house the cathedra on which the bishop sits. Previously, the bishop may have sat on the cathedra when installed (“enthroned”) – but never again; preferring to use other furniture in the cathedral instead. Two or more “cathedras” within one cathedral is not unique within NZ, and may be a phenomenon elsewhere as well?

  6. Canon Thom Jensen

    The Scottish diocese of Argyll and The Isles has two: Oban and The Cathedral of The Isles on Cumbrae. This is because it was a merger of two dioceses. That also explains why “the” in The Isles is capitalized. The RC diocese is also called Argylle and the Isles, except “the” isn’t capitalized. The Cumbrae cathedral is the smallest cathedral in Britain (seats 85!) it is a Victorian gem designed by Alexander Butterfield. John Henry Newman was an honorary canon of this cathedral as am I.

  7. The diocese of New Westminster (British Columbia, Canada) has 2 cathedrals, though only one is the official cathedral. One – Holy Trinity Cathedral – used to be the cathedral of the diocese. It was later moved to Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver. Holy Trinity put up a fuss so they were allowed to keep the name “Cathedral” as their title. So it isn’t really a cathedral, but it is called a cathedral.

  8. Actually I am not sure that having two cathedrals in one diocese is unique in Anglicanism: giga-catholic information (http://www.gcatholic.com/churches/cath.htm) lists the cathedrals of the Catholic Church and several dioceses (e.g. the Diocese of Assisi, Nocera Umbra and Gualdo Tadino has the Cattedrale di S. Rufino at Assisi, the Basilica Concattedrale di S. Benedetto at Gualdo Tadino and the Concattedrale di S. Maria Assunta at Nocera Umbra.

    In the (Anglican) Diocese of Sydney there are two ‘cathedrals’ that have no actual diocese attached to them: St John’s at Paramatta and St Michael’s at Woolongong. The bishops ‘of’ both places are not diocesan bishops, but regional bishops of the Diocese of Sydney.

  9. Here in the US there are several dioceses with two cathedrals. For example, Houston-Galveston. In some situations, the co-cathedrals are separated by a great distance, such as Pensacola-Tallahassee in the panhandle of Florida. Sometimes, the co-cathedrals are located in the same city, as is the case in Baltimore MD, the first diocese erected in the US where they outgrew the original cathedral which is kept because of the historic nature as the first RC cathedral in the US. Yes, this appears to be an ecclesiological anomaly but perhaps more common worldwide than realized within the RC church.

  10. I did a search on Google for “co-cathedral” and found this:

    In the United States, there are several instances in which a Roman Catholic diocese maintains two Episcopal See cities, each with their own cathedral or co-cathedral. Examples include the Cathedral of Saint Paul and the Basilica of Saint Mary in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis (Minnesota) and St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica and the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (Texas).
    Other instances include the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown (Pennsylvania), the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (Indiana), the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings (Montana), the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux (Louisiana), the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph (Missouri), the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee (Florida), the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau (Illinois), and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (West Virginia).
    There are also three instances in the United States in which a cathedral and its co-cathedral are in the same city. This usually occurs when a historically important cathedral becomes too small to serve a growing population, and a larger co-cathedral is constructed to accommodate larger services. Examples include:
    The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and the Co-Cathedral of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, both within walking distance of each other in the Diocese of Honolulu (Hawaii).
    The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in the Diocese of Burlington (Vermont).
    The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Archdiocese of Baltimore (Maryland).

    In the Episcopal Church, both the Diocese of Iowa and the Diocese of Minnesota each have two cathedrals, both located in different cities; however, they are not styled “co-cathedrals.”

    Perhaps we can say that when a diocese is spread out, or named after two cities, it becomes necessary to have two cathedrals?

  11. David Allen |dah•veed|

    I have seen a couple dioceses in TEC that have pro-cathedrals. These are dioceses where the bishop moved the diocesan headquarters from one city to another and the former cathedral is now designated as a pro-cathedral. Also, I think at least one situation was formerly two separate dioceses, each with a cathedral, that were merged and only one of the buildings is now officially the cathedral and the other has been designated a pro-cathedral.

    Then there is the unique situation in the diocese of Los Angeles which designated a pro-cathedral last year. The Diocesan Center is housed in a building with a rather small worship space. So the diocese has designated a parish’s rather large, ornate building as a pro-cathedral where the diocese’s large liturgical functions are held. “Called by Bishop J. Jon Bruno to provide “one ministry in two locations,” the ProCathedral of St. John and the Cathedral Center of St. Paul offer daily opportunities for worship, education and service.”

  12. More seriously: some rules are made to be broken, but other rules admit of exceptions without seriously impinging on the value of a rule (chocolate biscuit for morning tea just this once in Lent?).

    The presence of two cathedrals in dioceses suggests the rule of thumb on one cathedral per diocese admits of anomalies.

    The pertinent question re Waikato and Taranaki in NZ is whether it is seriously possible to maintain two egalitarian episcopacies in one diocese over the long-term. The current arrangements work well relationally because the two bishops enjoy working closely and harmoniously. Anyone care to predict how things will be in 2030?

  13. I enjoyed this article and the following discussion – I cant contribute to the flow any better than has already been done. I wanted to comment however on the question Why do Tikanga Maori episcopal units not have cathedrals? – it is my understanding that Marae are the Churches and Cathedrals of Tikanga Maori – ie the lay ministers, Priests and Bishops ‘go’ to the people – not the other way around. The protocol of the Marae and the tenets of Christianity engage – and might I add, it is a wonderful thing to behold.

  14. David Allen |dah•veed|

    Father Bosco, could you offer us a Master’s Class in the ecclesial organization of your province. I know only that it consists of three cultural/racial components with separate episcopal oversight settled on top of the same overlapping geography, and beyond that, only that many in the Anglican Communion were very unhappy with you lot when you created the new structure.

    In a way it reminds me of how the North American Dialing Plan as structured in some major US metropolitan areas. What was once one Area Code has been divided into two or three Area Codes. But more recently, as especially cellular telephones increased demand for more phone numbers, they have geographically settled addition area codes on top of the existing codes, but have often restricted them to business numbers or cell phones only. So folks in a home may have one area code for their land line, but different area codes for cell phones in the same household, depending on when they were purchased and activated. Perhaps a crude comparison?

    Occasionally, North Am orthodites have pointed to your province as a valid argument for the Anglican Communion to recognize the Anglican Church of North America as a constituent province of the AC, and an additional province to the national/regional/geographical provinces already in existence here.

    1. David, you can choose which Tikanga you participate in, and in fact move from one to another. I would use some Te Reo (Maori language) in most if not all of the liturgies I preside at. Patti has highlighted some of the cultural differences. I hope it is fair to generalise, Patti, that Pakeha gather to/when they worship and Maori worship when they gather? I have some concerns about our structures, including how we provide mission and ministry within the growing Asian community here. “Technically” they would be “Pakeha” (“Tangata Tiriti” – people of the Treaty, non-Maori who have a right to live in this land because of the Treaty). But Tikanga Pakeha is very “English”/Caucasian focused. My own approach is a desire to hold diversity together within unity – that within the liturgy we make space for all ages, stages, cultures, learning and worshipping styles. I do not pretend to be in any way an expert on the North American situation, but I personally currently can make no sense of ACNA being an alternative, equal province of the Anglican Communion alongside TEC. My understanding is that ACNA exists because it does not recognise TEC as appropriately expressing Anglican Christianity. Hence, one or the other might be a full member of the Anglican Communion, but I do not understand why ACNA would seek recognition alongside and equal to TEC which it does not accept. The strongest online advocate in our province for ACNA being a full member of the Anglican Communion is Peter Carrell who has contributed to this thread and runs Anglican Down Under. I hope in the strength of Anglicanism, the ability to hold diversity in unity, in he and I disagreeing on this and many other things so strongly and yet being totally comfortable to meet together for Eucharist, coffee, etc.

  15. I’ve just caught up with this fascinating discussion.

    In England the short lived Diocese of Bristol and Gloucester in the 19th century had two co-cathedrals and we are about to get the Diocese of Leeds in West Yorkshire through the union if three diocese. The decision is that all three existing Cathedrals ( Bradford, Ripon and Wakefield) should remain as Co Cathedrals and provision has been made that a future diocesan bishop could choose to designate a fourth cathedral. All in one Diocese.

    This takes effect next Easter.

  16. Just caught this by link from your post on the new (co-)bishop of Waikato.

    In Canada, the Diocese of Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island has 2 cathedrals: All Saints in Halifax (NS) and St. Peter’s in Charlottetown (PEI). Since the diocese encompasses 2 provinces (one of which is an island), the second cathedral serves as a focal point for that part of the diocese.

    In the RC Church, the Diocese of Longueil-St-Jean, in suburban Montreal, has cathedrals in both Longueil and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. From what someone in the diocese told me (correcting my assumption that it was a merged diocese), the co-cathedrals date from a time when travel was by water; the cathedral in Longueil served the parishes along the St. Lawrence, and the one in St-Jean the parishes along the Richelieu, and the diocese was erected with two seats.

  17. Bit late to the game, but: long before any of the Anglican examples listed, the Diocese of Bath and Wells had two cathedrals from 1245 (by papal edict) until the Reformation. A sustained and lengthy two-cathedral example from both Roman Catholicism and pre-Reformation Anglicanism 🙂

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