NZ: Christchurch Cathedral dean quits post for city council seat

By David Crampton
Posted Dec 12, 2011

[Ecumenical News International, Wellington, New Zealand] After nine years, the Rev. Peter Beck, dean of the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral, is quitting “the best job the church” to run for a seat on the Christchurch City Council.

He wants to play a greater role in rebuilding New Zealand’s second biggest city following the devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake on Feb. 22.

“The best way I can represent many communities, including the church, is to campaign for a seat around the council table,” Beck said. “A new dean will lead the next phase in the project to build a new and wonderful cathedral, which must honor our heritage and build for the future.”

Beck reportedly clashed with Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews over fundraising tactics to rebuild the deconsecrated Cathedral. He had hoped the cathedral would be rebuilt by the first anniversary of the earthquake, while Matthews believed money should be raised for all Anglican churches damaged in the quake, rather than just the cathedral.

Haydn Rawstron of the cathedral’s Canons Almoner group says the Bishop is flying in the face of public opinion on the question of Christchurch Cathedral’s future and “seems now to have made untenable the position of the brilliantly competent cathedral dean, Peter Beck,” he wrote in a letter to The Press newspaper.

Matthews, who is in South Korea on church-related business, did not respond to the criticism, but in a letter to her diocese she thanked Beck for his “outstanding ministry at the cathedral and in the wider community.”

The Christchurch City Council will decide Dec. 16 whether to give money or public land to a proposal to build a temporary, cardboard cathedral.