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Platten: Do we need super-diocese?

14 September 2012

THE Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, said this week that it would be "bizarre" to reorganise the West Yorkshire dioceses without a national debate.

The Dioceses Commission has suggested that Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield be abolished and replaced by a single, larger diocese ( News, 10 December 2010). It will produce a final scheme later this year ( News, 29 June), having undertaken an extensive consultation with the dioceses concerned. The final scheme will not be submitted to the General Synod before July 2013.

Wakefield diocesan synod passed a motion in July calling for the House of Bishops "to facilitate a theologically informed debate" about the "organisational shape" of the Church of England (News, 6 July).

Writing in The Times on Saturday, Bishop Platten said: "It is far from clear . . . that what we need is fewer, larger dioceses. The aim of creating dioceses from the very beginning was to give proper local pastoral care and identity with one bishop as the focus. . .

"Although it is important for the Dioceses Commission to be proactive, to allow it to change this local focus before there has been any debate nationally about how bishops should be placed and how they should minister seems bizarre."

Bishop Platten said that the "sort of principles [which] might emerge" from the General Synod's debating the Wakefield motion included the question why West Yorkshire should be restructured and not seen "in the wider context of the whole of Yorkshire. . . Might we not benefit from more smaller dioceses, albeit without replicating new diocesan organisation?"

Speaking on Wednesday, the chairman of the Dioceses Commission, Professor Michael Clarke ( Letters, 6 July) said that the Commission had been "charged by the Archbishops to concentrate on areas of the country where we could make a difference rather than [to conduct] a comprehensive review". The consensus among the Bishops, he said, was that "Yorkshire was the place to start. There was a view that that was where the greatest problems lay." The question of the Synod's debating the Wakefield diocesan motion was "quite separate".


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