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‘Superdiocese’ debates and ecumenism

15 March 2013


From Mr Nigel Holmes

Sir, - The most telling quotation from the "superdiocese" debates ( News, 8 March) was that of the Bishop of Bradford. "Look at the numbers for the three dioceses and, whatever the rhetoric from some quarters, they are, broadly speaking, heading south." That I take to be a euphemism for decline.

There are too many dioceses in England. A wise interim strategy before merger could, however, be ecumenical. The Anglican, Methodist, and United Reformed Churches in Cumbria have this month published just such a proposal for their governing bodies to consider. They recognise publicly for the first time the severity of the decline all are facing. "Few under 50 now see the Christian faith and the Church as relevant to their day-to-day lives."

The report proposes 50-60 ecumenical "Mission Communities" to serve a population of half a million. The "leader in mission" could be drawn from any of the three denominations.

Effectively, all three Churches are saying that they can no longer afford to be cavalier in their use of available ministerial talent and experience. "We must tackle the underlying causes of overload and unrealized potential and must change our attitudes and practices in ministry." Most encouragingly, they envisage "a greater variety of roles for both lay and ordained and more scope to move between roles" - something that I have advocated for years without conspicuous success at a national level through the General Synod. So let us pray that it happens.

Woodside, Great Corby
Carlisle CA4 8LL


From Canon Robert Cooper

Sir, - I am unsure that your reporter Paul Wilkinson (News, 8 March) attended the same Wakefield diocesan synod as I did on Saturday 2 March, because, if he did, then perhaps he might well have reported the debate rather differently.

In his report, Mr Wilkinson quotes Professor Michael Clarke from the Dioceses Commission (speaking in favour) and John Bullimore (speaking against), who opened the debate.

 fter the debate was opened by these two speakers, there were 30 speakers, 11 of whom spoke in favour of the motion, one of whom spoke for an abstention, and 18 who spoke against.

In his report of the synod, Mr Wilkinson quotes four people who spoke in favour, the one who spoke for an abstention, and not one person who spoke against the motion, apart from the diocesan Bishop. The speakers who spoke against the motion included an archdeacon, the Canon Missioner, the chair of the DAC, the Dean, several rural deans, and many lay people; but he has not included one thing that any of them said.

This is not a balanced report of a synod that was characterised by engaging debate, prayerful attention, to the subject and a thirst to embrace change.

St Giles Vicarage
The Mount
Pontefract WF8 1NE

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