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Six parishes join Blackburn

19 April 2013

CHURCH leaders in Blackburn have voted to accept six parishes from the Bradford diocese as part of plans to establish a "super-diocese" based on Leeds ( News, 8 March).

The transfer is part of the proposals to create a new see of West Yorkshire and the Dales from the three existing dioceses of Wakefield, Bradford, and Ripon & Leeds.

A Blackburn synod meeting last Saturday voted by 104 to one - with one abstention - in favour of incorporating the Ribble Valley parishes of Hurst Green, Mitton, Waddington, Grindleton, Bolton by Bowland, and Gisburn.

Both Bradford and Ripon & Leeds have already voted in favour of the super-diocese plan, but the likely outcome was clouded when Wakefield rejected the idea by a majority of two to one.

Now the Blackburn vote has increased pressure on the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, who has to decide whether to ignore the Wakefield vote and press ahead with the proposal, or to look for an alternative solution.

This week, his spokesman said that Dr Sentamu had not yet come to a decision, but had "at least a week or two" before he needed to list any motion on the merger, which is due for debate at General Synod in July.

The Blackburn vote had been expected, after research by the Diocesan Commission, which drew up merger proposals, had shown that the majority of the Ribble Valley churches tended to look more towards Clitheroe and Blackburn for local services.

A Blackburn diocesan spokesman said: "The report stated the parishes were a 'coherent pastoral and geographical grouping', and moving them, and other parishes around the edges of the proposed West Yorkshire and the Dales diocese, would help to bring all diocesan boundaries more in line with county boundaries and bring the Church's structures closer to those of civic society."

But the Priest-in-Charge of St Helen's, Waddington, the Revd John Brocklehurst, told his local paper, The Citizen, that his parish had "mixed feelings" about the move. "It's painful, really, as we voted against it," he said. "I can see it is a good idea for the three dioceses to merge, but, as a rural parish, there may be more possibilities for us if we were not to move into the diocese of Blackburn."

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