Comments: Towards a new diocese for West Yorkshire and the Dales

Peter, did you mean to write "dream scheme"? Brilliant!

Posted by Dan Barnes-Davies at Monday, 29 October 2012 at 5:19pm GMT

A scheme like this is rather like the setting up of a Team Ministry on the grand scale. Most Team Ministries are pretty dysfunctional with a few glowing exceptions. The recipe here, if you look closely enough, is to end up with what are effectively five dioceses instead of three not to mention competing cathedrals ... so far so bad.

Onwards ... what of the bishops' responses. The most enthusiastic John Packer of Ripon and Leeds will have retired by the time this scheme is set up. The next most enthusiastic Nick Baines of Bradford may be playing to the gallery, after all he was somewhere on the shortlist for Canterbury and he is most likely to be the first super bishop. The least enthusiastic Stephen Platten could also retire soon or he could have a dread prescience in predicting a 'lively and informed debate'.

In short this scheme reminds me of the ill-fated Covenant which had lots of support as a kind of 'knee-jerk' reaction to a problem before the realism of a vote (at least in the C of E) materialised.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Monday, 29 October 2012 at 9:30pm GMT

"Creating one new diocese of Leeds, also to be known as the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales"

ALSO to be known as? Confusion and fudgery from the get-go.

These people couldn't decide their way out of a burning building.

Posted by Laurence C. at Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at 10:50am GMT

I don't understand the comments here.
This seems like a sound proposal to me. You have one diocesan bishop with several suffragans. And I doubt people are so dim that they will find the name "West Yorkshire and Dales" terribly confusing.

That 2 of the current bishops are nearing retirement age is neither here nor there, nor that the other one might end up as Diocesan. Or are we saying that those facts disqualify them from having opinions about an issue they've spent a long time working on?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 9:49am GMT

I do wonder whether the Dioceses Commission is putting the cart before the horse. There is a theological discussion to be had here -- or at least, an ecclesiological discussion.

What is the purpose of a diocese and what is the purpose of the diocesan bishop?

The ecclesiological principle has been 'one bishop, one church' (where a 'church' is a diocese). The waters have been muddied with suffragan and assistant bishops (and the Roman communion similarly has auxiliary bishops) -- but the principle has been reasonably clear, I think.

This proposal from the Diocese Commission starts from an entirely different place though. Bishops are just senior clergy or team leads in this scheme, and they are not given authority or jurisdiction and are not the pastors of their flocks. Instead we seem to have some sort of 'team bishops' scheme.

Now, maybe that's a good idea, maybe it isn't. Maybe it's only a development of what we see working or not working in, say, London and Chichester.

But I do wonder whether it would be better to settle the principle first, rather than let the Dioceses Commission come up with an ad hoc scheme. 'Settling the principle' might mean discussion at General Synod and reference to the dioceses on the future shape of governance of the CofE, all without discussing a particular concrete example.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 10:20am GMT

"And I doubt people are so dim that they will find the name "West Yorkshire and Dales" terribly confusing." Erika Baker

Perhaps I misread the statement but it appeared to me to say that the new Diocese would have two names at the same time - 'Diocese of Leeds' AND 'Diocese of West Yorkshire and Dales'.

Posted by Laurence C. at Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 1:57pm GMT

There are legal and theological reasons why an English bishopric must be named after the see of a bishop which must be a city or town of significance (whether size, historic importance, or importance to a civic community). So it would be the Bishop of Leeds and the Diocese of Leeds. It might then informally - almost as a strapline - be known as "The Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales." I don't know why this needs to be put into legislation, but the principle is clear - a formal, legal name and an informal strapline. Some diocese do something similar - for instance, the Diocese of Chelmsford has as part of its logo "The Church of England in Essex and East London", to indicate its geographical scope.

Posted by Philip Hobday at Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 4:14pm GMT

I think in general the proposal is sensible. There is a peculiarity in the case of West Yorkshire - the dioceses are of relatively recent creation; their see cities are geographically very close; there are three dioceses covering a single local authority area (so for instance more than one board of education dealing with one local education authority); and the current arrangements leave a single and signficant city - Leeds - without a clear and single episcopal figure to speak to and for it.

What does seem odd to me (and I'm not in the area so I may well be wrong) is basing the diocesan in Leeds. This means three cathedrals plus a pro-Cathedral (so quite a bit of duplication there), and that as well as diocesan and national responsibilities plus setting up the new diocese the bishop will be plunged into the complex business of relating to a large and growing urban area. I think it made more sense to have the diocesan in Wakefield and a new area bishop focussing just on Leeds.

I think there does not need to be a single model but a range of models - such as formal division into areas (e.g. London, Oxford); suffragans with specific geographical areas and a 'roving' diocesan (e.g. Norwich, Salisbury); a diocesan and suffragan(s) covering the whole geographical area (e.g Ely, Coventry). The point is that there are different models to suit different needs, and I don't think we need a "one-size-fits-all" approach but something which respects the organic and varied growth, terrain, and character of the different dioceses.

Posted by Philip Hobday at Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 4:22pm GMT

Philip Hobday suggests that there can be a variety of models of episcopal government. I don't necessarily disagree. However, in all the cases enumerated the particular local form has been determined locally. The diocesan bishop, presumably with the advice and consent of his council and his synod have determined a form they believe to be locally appropriate. And they have generally been about increasing the closeness of diocesan bishops to their people, or making good use of suffragan bishops to cover a moderately large area.

In this case we see an external commission coming in and deciding what suits the local situation, and without any real ground rules about how we think episcopal government ought to work (e.g. the ideal of mon-episcopacy, and whether we think this is good or not).

Are we in practice setting a precedent for further wholesale but piecemeal reorganization of the diocesan structure of the CofE? As I said before, maybe that's a good thing and maybe not. But I do think it healthy to discuss the principle first. Which I don't think we have done so far.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 5:03pm GMT

This seems a fairly pointless plan, smacking a little of rearranging the deckchairs... There will be very nearly the same number of dignitaries as before, so why bother? Would it not have been better to have suppressed two or three of the Yorkshire dioceses? Ripon, the oldest of the three (1836) could have been retained in preference to the others (it is already Ripon and Leeds). And if Bradford and Wakefield are to go, then why not Sheffield? Or any other diocese (Portsmouth, Bristol, Blackburn, Guildford, etc.)? It would have been far better to have left all alone or else to have effected a more radical reform.

Posted by Froghole at Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 1:10am GMT

Gosh. That wouldn't be the sound of change hitting the CoE would it? I grew up around Leeds, occasionally visiting LPC; to think of it as `Leeds Minster' is quite a mental leap.

Still. Home rule for Yorkshire! ;)

Posted by Tim at Thursday, 1 November 2012 at 4:37pm GMT
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