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Diocesan reorganisation scheme for West Yorkshire: pre-Synod thoughts

28 June 2013


From Kate Taylor

Sir, - The recommendation of the Dioceses Commission that the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield should be brought together will come before the General Synod on 8 July.

Since, after a very full consideration, Wakefield diocesan synod is opposed to the scheme, it is to be hoped that the General Synod will reject it. It would certainly be premature to accept it before the implications of some of the more radical proposals are fully explored at a national level.

Recognising the immense importance of episcopal care, the scheme provides for a diocesan and four further area bishops. It is, however, difficult to see how - more compellingly after the consecration of women as bishops - the differences in churchmanship which exist between the parishes in any one area can be happily accommodated by this model. The present arrangement of a bishop and a suffragan, complementing each other and serving together across a (smaller) diocese, could continue to work well.

Then there is arguably the perversion of the very nature of a cathedral, and the anomalous position in which the three present cathedrals would be left. They would lie in three of the new episcopal areas. The diocesan, serving also as the fifth area bishop, may choose to have Leeds Parish Church elevated to a pro-cathedral. The fifth area would have no cathedral at all within its bounds.

Moreover, the focus, love and loyalties built up over at least a century of mission by each of the existing cathedrals will be broken. Regrets about this are not to be dismissed as mere nostalgia. Relationships matter to the people in the pews.

I question whether the scheme is the right way forward for the Church, or a rather messy pragmatic and uncertain answer to financial constraints.

(Hon. Lay Canon of Wakefield Cathedral)
19 Pinder's Grove
Wakefield WF1 4AH


From Mr Timothy Slater

Sir, - A full-page advertisement in the Church Times (21 June, page 27) draws attention to a leaflet published on the website of the diocese of Wakefield.

The leaflet seeks to influence members of the General Synod as they consider the proposals of the Dioceses Commission for the creation of a new diocese to serve the communities of West Yorkshire and the Dales, as laid before the Synod by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, in regard to his responsibilities under the Dioceses Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007.

Dr Sentamu, in giving his reasons for this, recognises the concerns of some in the diocese of Wakefield, but goes on to explain that, under the Measure, he has to have regard to wider concerns affecting the mission and ministry of the Church. Members of the Synod should read his explanations carefully, along with the report of the Dioceses Commission.

Both documents seek to focus on the needs of the wider Church rather than on the interests of any single diocese. The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, in an article in the most recent diocesan paper, about his ten years as Bishop, states: "We have to keep looking outwards."

In stark contrast, the leaflet on the Wakefield website ignores the bigger picture and looks only inwards.

Bishop Platten is also on record as saying that he looked forward to an honest and open debate on the proposals of the Dioceses Commission. There are some of us in the Wakefield diocese who find it difficult to reconcile those admirable concepts in terms of an anonymous leaflet and a large advertisement paid for by an anonymous donor.

17 Wentworth Street
Huddersfield HD1 5PX

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