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Yorkshire dioceses divided over merger

04 March 2013


THE diocesan synods of Bradford and Ripon & Leeds voted in favour of their respective dioceses' being replaced by a single, larger "diocese of Leeds", on Saturday. The proposals were rejected by the Wakefield diocesan synod, however.

Bradford approved the scheme by 90 votes in favour to four against, with no abstentions; Ripon & Leeds approved it by 70 votes to 18, with two abstentions; and Wakefield rejected the scheme by 76 votes against to 40 in favour, with four abstentions.

It is now up to the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, to decide whether to place the scheme before the General Synod meeting in July for a final decision.

Church House said in a statement that Dr Sentamu would have to be satisfied either that "the interest of the diocese is so small that the withholding of consent should not prevent the scheme being submitted to the General Synod"; or that "there are wider considerations affecting the province or the Church of England as whole which require the scheme to be submitted to the General Synod".

Dr Sentamu will not announce his decision until Blackburn diocesan synod has voted on whether to receive six parishes from the three dioceses concerned. The vote takes place on 13 April. Sheffield diocese has already voted in favour of receiving two parishes.

The chairman of the Dioceses Commission, Professor Michael Clarke, said: "It is good to know that the dioceses of Bradford and Ripon & Leeds support the commission's proposals. Looking at the voting in Wakefield, there is also significant support there, too, even though the vote was lost. The process, however, continues. Blackburn votes next month. It will then be for the Archbishop of York to decide how to take this forward."

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said that the Bradford result was "very encouraging, and not entirely a surprise". He continued: "I hope that when the Archbishop of York makes his decision on a referrral to the General Synod in July, he will bear in mind all the factors that have led to this particular result. We look forward to how this will develop in the next few months."

The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, said: "I welcome the clear approval of the diocesan synod for the scheme. I am also grateful for the open and honest debate we have had. There is work to be done both in establishing the financial basis for the new diocese and in making sure that the northern area of the new diocese is properly resourced and structured.

"I hope that this will mean the Archbishop of York can take the scheme to General Synod in July - further delay and indecision would be damaging to the mission of the church in this region. The votes here and in Bradford send a positive message to the Dioceses Commission and to General Synod."

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, said: "These last few weeks have been quite difficult for all three dioceses, so this vote was a welcome end to that part of the process. Now let us discover with prayer and consideration where God is leading us all in this part of Yorkshire in the future."

Full coverage in this week's Church Times

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