A NEW diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales was approved by
the General Synod on Monday afternoon, despite opposition from
Wakefield diocese, one of three that will be replaced.
The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, said
that it was "a great day for the mission of the Church of England
in West Yorkshire and the Dales".
The Draft Diocese of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield
Reorganisation Scheme was brought to Synod for approval after it
was rejected by the Wakefield diocesan synod by 76 votes to 40 (
News, 8 March).
The scheme, published last October (
News, 2 November), proposes that the dioceses of Bradford,
Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield be abolished and replaced by a new
diocese of Leeds, to be presided over by a diocesan Bishop of
Leeds. It predicts that "significant financial savings" could be
made, and re-invested in mission. It is proposed that the three
existing cathedrals would retain their status, and that each of the
five archdeaconries would have their own area bishop.
On Monday, Professor Michael Clarke, who chairs the Dioceses
Commission, said that the scheme would give the new diocese
"tremendous opportunity", leading to "the re-imagining of the
Church and its ministry and mission". The existing dioceses faced
the "major challenges" of declining congregations, reduced numbers
of clergy, weakened finances, and pension costs that could best be
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, warned the Synod: "We cannot
and must not assume that the ways which served us well in the past
are automatically appropriate now."
The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said that the
scheme required a definite decision to "bring an end to more than
three years of uncertainty". If the scheme was approved, he and the
other diocesan bishops would lose their jobs: "This is not a
comfortable place to be, but it is the right place to be." The
scheme offered "the freedom to do something new, risky and
visionary", and would lead to a "bright and engaging future for
both the Church and our communities".
The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, said that
the diocese was committed to growth, but was "clear that this is
not the way forward for Wakefield". He warned that the scheme would
reduce the representation of the Northern Province in the national
Church and potentially in the House of Lords. It meant that a
diocese "can find itself being closed down over its own head. . .
This sort of process will not stop here. We are making this
decision without having had a debate across the Church on what sort
of diocese and bishops we want."
After the vote, Bishop Platten said: "I am grateful for the
generous and understanding debate today in General Synod, and thank
all those who spoke. Wakefield diocese will work together with
Ripon & Leeds and Bradford to make sure of a good outcome,
despite our reservations before the vote."
The new diocese will come into existence on a day to be set by
the Archbishop of York after the scheme has been confirmed by the
Queen through an Order in Council. The Synod also approved a
resolution establishing a vacancy-in-see committee for the new
diocese, so that the process for appointing the first Bishop of
Leeds could begin.