ON EASTER DAY, millions of people in Yorkshire will awake to a
new reality. At 11.59 p.m. the previous day, three dioceses will
have ceased to be. In their place will be the diocese of West
Yorkshire & the Dales, a new creation born after much
On Monday, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, appointed to head the new
diocese as the first Bishop of Leeds, said that the transition had
shown that "as a Church, we have the courage to sacrifice, in order
to create something new."
The scheme to combine the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon &
Leeds, and Wakefield was first published in 2012, and approved by
the General Synod in July last year (News,
12 July). It was originally opposed by the diocese of Wakefield
News, 8 March 2013).
"We are demonstrating that we are prepared to change, however
complex and difficult it is, and that attitude needs to be taken up
elsewhere, where other dioceses may need to have similar courage to
ask: 'Are we meeting the needs of this and the next generation?'",
said Bishop Baines, who until Holy Saturday night is the Bishop of
After describing his frustration at the media's tendency to
assume that the reorganisation was driven by financial motives, he
said that having five area bishops would mean that they could "get
closer to the ground and offer better support pastorally to clergy
and people". The scale of the diocese - 2425 square miles - would
ensure that "we get to see the rural through the lens of the urban
and the varities of urban through the lens of the rural. It's a
constant check on our theology and understanding of what we are
On Saturday, he addressed a congregation in Bradford Cathedral
for a service held to celebrate the diocese's 95 years.
The farewell to the diocese of Wakefield took place on Sunday.
The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, gave every
church a handmade pottery chalice inscribed with the Wakefield
Clergy and civic leaders marched through the streets to a
service in the cathedral, where each parish brought a memento to be
buried in a time capsule.
On Easter Day, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, will read a
poem she has written for the occasion.
The reorganisation process is being led by John Tuckett, andthe
Diocesan Secretaries of Wakefield and Bradford. They had, Bishop
Baines said, the "considerable task of ensuring that on Easter Day
we will be legal, viable, and operational. . . . People are being
incredibly mature about handling the uncertainties and the
flexibility that we need at the moment."
Bishop Baines will not be enthroned as Bishop of Leeds until 8
June. In the interim, he will be an Assistant Bishop of York,
enabling him to serve as Acting Bishop of Leeds. It would be
"weird", he said, to lay down his pastoral staff on the altar on
Easter Day. "That will symbolically mark the end of my mission as
Bishop of Bradford and the end of the diocese."