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Dioceses Commission should tackle London and Southwark next

16 November 2012


From the Revd Tim Evans

Sir, - I have followed with interest the progress of the Dioceses Commission's work as it has sought to produce a viable and coherent proposal for the future of the Church of England in West Yorkshire. Although the situation in West Yorkshire does need to be faced, especially that between the dioceses of Ripon & Leeds and of Bradford, this is far from being the most serious issue that the Commission needs to address.

I refer, of course, to that of London, where currently four dioceses are needed to cover one city. I wish to make a modest proposal in order to create one diocese for London.

First, the diocese of Southwark should be abolished, and most of it should become part of the diocese of London. (The remainder could be split among adjacent dioceses.) Then the western parts of Chelmsford and Rochester should also be added to the new, enlarged diocese to create a single, unitary Church of England structure for London.

The practical benefits are even more obvious than in Yorkshire: at present, the diocesan offices for London and Southwark are within a short walk of each other, and employ duplicate staffs, leading to massive unnecessary expenditure. One office would suffice. Church boundaries would approximate to civil ones far more closely, providing one diocese with one bishop and one voice for one city. Clearly, this will enhance the mission of the church in the greatest city in Europe.

In addition, three of the existing four dioceses would be retained with their cathedrals, and their character would be clearer, as they would no longer need to work with the tension of being in and out of London simultaneously.

A number of objections may be anticipated: ancient identities will be destroyed; parts of London have different priorities, theological approaches, and churchmanship; the link between the bishop and the clergy and people would become more distant in a huge diocese; the new diocese would be too large geographically; south London would lose its cathedral. And there may well be others. The Commission has demonstrated, however, that none of these is significant in the case of West Yorkshire; so there is no need to fear that they would be in London.

For example, from Barnsley to Hawes is more than 70 miles, much of it along slow, rural roads, which is about the same distance as from London to either Portsmouth, Ipswich, or Bury St Edmunds.

In short, the glaring and inefficient problem of London needs to be addressed. The Dioceses Commission should now be given the task of producing a comprehensive plan for our capital.

A modest proposal, you will agree, but one whose time may have come.

27 Regent Street, Lancaster LA1 1SQ

From Mr J. P. Hudson

Sir, - The organisation of the diocese of Oxford would seem to be similar to that proposed for a new diocese of Leeds. The Bishop of Oxford is directly responsible for the City of Oxford and two adjacent parishes, but delegates almost everything outside Oxford, apart from ordinations and the appointment of area deans, to his three area bishops.

We know and like our area bishop, and the system works very well. Most bishops in the Church of Ireland have two cathedrals, and one even has five; so this would not seem to be a problem for a future diocese in Yorkshire.

Foot Lodge, School Lane, Middleton Stoney, Oxfordshire OX25 4AW


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