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Wakefield raises doubts about super-diocese

14 March 2012

by Ed Thornton



THE Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten has set out alternatives to a plan to merge his diocese with two others in Yorkshire. The super-diocese scheme was “disruptive”, he said.

The Dioceses Commission pro­posed in 2010 (News, 10 December 2010) that Wakefield, Bradford, and Ripon & Leeds, should be abolished and replaced with a single diocese, after a review concluded “that the existing con­figura­tion of the dioceses in West Yorkshire is no longer appropriate for the Church’s mission, and not sustainable into the future”.

The Commission has produced a draft scheme for the reorganisation of the dioceses, which is the subject of a consultation until 30 April.

A paper by Bishop Platten, con­sidered by Wakefield diocesan synod when it met last weekend, ack­nowledges that the Commission’s report contains “many helpful ideas”, but expresses concern about “how disruptive its implementation will be to the life of the Church”.

The paper sets out two “alternative proposals”, suggesting “how positive change might be made without incurring the planning blight, expense, risk, and emotional/prac­tical disruption involved in dis­solving the existing three dioceses and creating a larger new diocese”.

The first Wakefield proposal is that the three dioceses remain indepen­dent. The paper says that dissolving the three dioceses would present “significant problems”, including “administrative matters”; the loss of “loyalties developed over many years”; and “great insecurities” about the future.

The second alternative is for Bradford and Ripon & Leeds to merge, but for Wakefield to remain separate. Both “have large conurba­tions in the south of their dioceses which almost flow into each other”, the paper says, but Wakefield is “very different demographically”.

During the synod meeting, Bishop Platten said that he did not think that the Church Commissioners would pay for three cathedrals in a single diocese, as the Dioceses Commission had proposed. He also expressed concerns that the proposals did not take into proper consideration the unique character of the north.

The synod “gave overwhelming agree­ment” to sending Bishop Plat­ten’s paper to the Dioceses Com­mis­sion, as part of Wakefield’s res­ponse to the proposals, a statement said.

The Ripon & Leeds diocesan synod, when it met last Saturday, passed a motion to “broadly welcome the Dioceses Commission proposals”. But it also carried a series of amend­ments that requested as­surances that there would be no compulsory redundancies within two years of the formation a new diocese, and that a new diocese should con­tinue to include five episcopal areas.

The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, said: “I continue to believe that this is going to be an encouragement to our mission in West and North Yorkshire.”

Skeleton find (below): human remains were discovered last week,
during York Minster’s first archaeological excavation in
40 years, writes Nigel Burnham. The remains — unearthed
during preparatory work for a new lift-shaft into the
min ster’s undercroft — are thought to date from before
the 12th-century, when York Minster was built.
The Dean of York, the Very Revd Keith Jones, said that
he hoped that the dig, which visitors can observe over
the next fortnight, would provide new insights into the
earliest years of the Minster’s history.“The walls here
have been witness to centuries of human life, and I feel
sure that archaeo logists are likely to encounter even
more human burials during their three-week tenure
here,” he said.
“We’re expecting to find more evidence of previous
life all around the place. The remains we’ve found to date
will be reverently cared for, until such time as they can
be reinterred within the walls of the minster.”
The undercroft lift is being installed as part of York
Minster Revealed, a five-year project supported by a
£10.5-million Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
Ian Milsted, of York Archaeological Trust, described the
dig as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Excavations here
can only take place in exceptional circumstances.”
Restoration work at the Minster will continue over
the summer. The first part of York Minster Revealed will
be launched in October. Highlights will include the
unveiling of a stained-glass orb, interactive galleries, and
some of the restored panels of the great east window.
The project is scheduled for completion in May 2015.
The archdeacons of the Northern Province visited
York Minster stoneyard, and inspected the east-front
restoration works when they met last week in York for
their biennial conference.

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