THE Wakefield diocesan synod has called for a "theologically
informed debate" about the "organisational structures of the Church
of England", amid concern at the processes being followed by the
Dioceses Commission (News,
Opening a debate at last week's meeting of the synod in Halifax,
the Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, emphasised
that the motion was not intended to "try to scupper what is
happening in the Dioceses Commission proposal". He said that the C
of E needed to "rethink its purpose and structure".
Since its original creation in 1983, he said, the Dioceses
Commission had "had no teeth", and its most significant achievement
had been to add Leeds to the name of Ripon diocese, and Nottingham
to the name of Southwell diocese. The new post-2008 Commission had
a "duty to keep under review" the provincial and diocesan structure
of the Church of England, the Bishop said, but very little thought
had gone into how this should be done.
He said that the Bishop of Wakefield's senior staff team "felt
there hadn't been a proper debate in the Church of England about
what sort of structure we wanted in the C of E in the 21st
Bishop Robinson said that, as they talked to other bishops and
deans in other dioceses, they had detected a "fear going around the
Church of England: who was going to be next?" If there was a proper
debate, "people wouldn't be fearful of what was coming their way
The Dean of Wakefield, the Very Revd Jonathan Greener, said that
the Dioceses Commission's report had "thrown into absolute
confusion" the theology of cathedrals: "The English understanding
of cathedrals dates back to the Venerable Bede, who wrote in 734 to
Egbert that 'a cathedral provides a seat for the bishop, and is a
centre for ministry and worship throughout his diocese.' What does
it mean, then, to recommend three cathedrals in one diocese?
"I know I'm on dodgy ground because we don't want to lose any of
our cathedrals, because they are a focus for mission. But it
certainly confuses. And it further confuses by proposing that we
have a pro-cathedral. What on earth is a pro-cathedral? It doesn't
tell us. It just tells us that we should have one.
A dissenting voice came from Tim Slater (Huddersfield), who
said: "If we pass this motion today, we are in danger of ignoring a
substantial body of work that has already been done on this
"I believe that behind the motion is a plea for smaller,
"We may ask for another look at episcopal ministry, but I feel
there would be little change following the debate and discussion
that this motion requests."
The Synod voted overwhelmingly to endorse the motion, with one
vote against, and four abstentions.
Correction. Our story last
week did not make it sufficiently clear that the Dioceses
Commission will not publish its final scheme until the autumn, and
that it is still working through submissions to it.