New diocese sets out job spec. for Bishop of Leeds

08 November 2013

Sam Atkins

On the road: clerics joined a motorbike ride around the all three cathedrals in the new diocese of West York­s­hire & the Dales last month:above: the Revd Vic Iwanuschak, Priest-in-Charge of All Saints', Pontefract

On the road: clerics joined a motorbike ride around the all three cathedrals in the new diocese of West York­s­hire & the Dales last month:above...

HE WILL be a "resilient leader" with "enough confidence and inner strength to use conflict creatively". He will tackle "dented morale" among lay people, and chair a diocesan synod of more than 300 members. He will relish the possibility of a "huge change programme" in the most populous diocese in the Church of England.

The statement of need for the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, published last Friday, makes clear the extent of the challenge facing its first Bishop.

"This post is different from that of most diocesan bishops, who inherit a diocese with pastoral, educational, missional, and administrative functions fully operation," it reads. "In this diocese, these all need to be conceived and created."

It envisages that the new Bishop will be "animated" by these "exceptional new opportunities".

The creation of the diocese was approved by the General Synod in July, after recommendations had been made by the Dioceses Commission (News, 12 July). It will bring together the dioceses of Bradford, Wakefield, and Ripon & Leeds. The new diocese will come into being on the Appointed Day: Easter Day, 20 April 2014.

The Crown Nominations Commission will meet on Tuesday and interview candidates in January, before nominating the new bishop in February. He will be elected during Easter week, immediately after the Appointed Day and enthroned in the summer. The Bishop of Leeds will have oversight of an area of 2425 square miles, with a population of 2.5 million people. The statement notes the "growing polarisation" of wealth in the area, and "areas of pocket deprivation". There is also "significant cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity". Bradford is expected to be a Muslim-majority city within ten years.

The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, announced his retirement in September (News, 13 September). The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, will be taking sabbatical leave from 1 February until the Appointed Day.

On Sunday, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, announced that the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, had been appointed Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill, in the City of London, and to serve as an honorary Assistant Bishop in the diocese of London.

Bishop Platten, who was born in London and attended the University of London, will take up the position in July. On Wednesday, he said that he was "excited" about coming back to the city.

"I have been extremely fortunate in serving in a great variety of places, including Oxford, Lincoln, Portsmouth, Norwich, and then Wakefield. But London is the capital: it's a world city, and so in every aspect of life, including the Church, it's a really interesting and stimulating place."

In his new position as a parish priest, he looked forward to "having a community and being concerned for individuals" - something that he had enjoyed as Dean of Norwich - and also the links to the wider community in the City of London.

He was "hoping that the church, which has a great musical tradition, will become something of a liturgical centre, linking with places elsewhere in Britain, where liturgy is taught and reflected upon such as Mirfield, Sarum, and Westcott House, Cambridge".

The Wakefield diocesan synod voted by almost two to one against the proposals of the Dioceses Commission (News, 8 March). On Wednesday, Bishop Platten said: "There is a lot of sadness; there are concerns; but people in general are concerned to make the best of what comes out of it. I don't think there is a feeling of negativity, but rather a feeling of how 'Do we make sure that those things we are worried about, are acknowledged, and responded to positively in the new world which will come out of it?' . . . I am looking forward, and I hope that they are too.

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