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Anglican dean asked to leave

By PHILIP ENGLISH

The dean of Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral, who bought a fight with parishioners when he targeted the choirmaster for redundancy in 1998, has himself been asked to leave.

The Very Rev Michael O'Connor, dean of the Anglican cathedral for three years, confirmed in a letter to his congregation that the Bishop of Auckland, the Rt Rev John Paterson, had asked him to consider his future.

"We have now reached agreement. I shall therefore be tendering my resignation to the bishop which will take effect at the end of July," wrote Cambridge-educated Dean O'Connor, who has a background in law.

On sick leave since the appointment of cathedral music director Peter de Blois earlier this year, Dean O'Connor refused to say whether he was getting a payout for resigning. Bishop Paterson, who appointed him personally, also declined to comment.

In September 1998, amid cathedral financial woes and a round of resignations from the cathedral hierarchy, Dean O'Connor created uproar when popular choirmaster Indra Hughes was sacked in a cost-cutting drive.

The dean asked Mr Hughes to leave early. Mr Hughes claimed he was "frog-marched" from his desk.

Choristers loyal to Mr Hughes suggested that conflict over the use of a photocopier and Mr Hughes' playing at a secondary schools' choral festival were behind his sudden departure.

Parishioners called an emergency meeting to put their grievances to the dean, who later asked choristers who had suspended their duties in protest not to sing at all.

In May last year Mr Hughes - credited with putting the Parnell cathedral on the international map of church music - won a confidential settlement payout from the cathedral in a personal grievance case.

Bishop Paterson, asked yesterday why he had asked Dean O'Connor to consider his future, said he wished he could help and did not want to hide anything, but he would not comment.

"I just might complicate the situation."

Dean O'Connor, when asked if he could expand on the letter, said: "No, I think not because all I have got to say is there in the letter."

Mr Hughes said he was glad the dean was going. Now the St Kentigern College choir director and the musical director of former cathedral choristers in an independent choir, Musica Sacra, he accepted that he would not be back at the cathedral at least in the foreseeable future.

He said it would take years for relationships at the cathedral to heal.

In his letter to the cathedral community, Dean O'Connor said lack of resources made the cathedral ministry "very stressful and demanding for all involved."

The dean, who will be made honorary canon at the cathedral but will lose the title Very Rev, said he would return to England.

"May we make our own the cry of a former Bishop of Rochester," he wrote. "Alleluia! On we go."

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