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Diocesan names

THE Synod has requested legislation to enable a diocese to be named after a "geographical area" as well as a city or town.

Ian Fletcher, introducing the motion from Bradford diocesan synod, argued: "The naming of any entity is important to its success and local relevance." It would address the fact that many areas, such as the diocese of Ripon & Leeds, contained more than one city. The motion was "permissive".

The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, spoke "very strongly" in support of the motion. His diocesan synod had carried an identical motion. There was a need to find a name that "accurately describes the diocese we are in the process of creating", and West Yorkshire & the Dales "describes it well".

The Revd Paul Cartwright (Wakefield) questioned whether this was really needed. Throughout the Synod, the new diocese had been spoken about and referred to as the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. He cautioned: "I do see a problem with taking a regional name." There was "more chance to change administrative titles compared to areas". He resisted the motion.

Canon Simon Butler (Southwark) spoke in support of the motion. The diocese of London was named after a city, but "represents only part of that city".

Chris Pye (Liverpool) supported the motion "wholeheartedly. . . Leeds is a small part of Yorkshire, and this title of the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales describes the area covered very well. It gives a different picture, a different identity, and that is important to people if they lose their identity."

The Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Ven. Peter Hill (Southwell & Nottingham), vice-chairman of the Dioceses Commission, reported that members of the Commission had been "surprised and disappointed by the legal restriction" requiring dioceses to be named after a city, and said that they were "entirely sympathetic to the title West Yorkshire & the Dales. Having that title as the headline rather than the subhead would be more helpful to mission and context," he said.

While supporting the motion, he expressed concern that there might be "a queue of diocesan bishops and others wanting to change the name of their diocese". He was grateful that the motion referred to "geographical areas", as this would stop the next Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham seeking to change the name to the "Diocese of Robin Hood" or "Maid Marion".

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, gave a cautious welcome to the motion, but explained that he was still not sure how he would vote. "We need to be aware of the . . . serious ecclesiological and theological reasons about the nature of church and the way that we organise ourselves," he said. "He wasn't Jesus of the Palestinian Area: he was Jesus of Nazareth. There is a pattern in the Christian faith about the particularity of people and place which I am slightly anxious about losing."

"The Barking episcopal area, were it to be a diocese in its own right, would be the 11th largest in the Church of England. We serve a vast area, and yet we are the diocese of Chelmsford, with a particularity and a place."

He concluded: "Whatever we do, just as we call it East London and Essex, you're going to call it West Yorkshire and the Dales. Is this really something that we need to vote on?"

The Revd Celia Thomson (Gloucester) remarked that the rural communities in the Dales were "a very large distance from Leeds". The motion would give "some identity back" to the northern part of the diocese.

The Synod carried the motion:


That this Synod call on the Archbishops' Council to introduce legislation to enable dioceses of the Church of England to be named by reference either to a city or substantial town or to a geographical area.

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