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SYNOD: Diocesan names

21 February 2014

THE Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Ven. Peter Hill (Southwark & Nottingham), introduced the Draft Church of England (Naming of Dioceses) Measure, by explaining that the Measure had come about as a result of the process leading to the creation of the new diocese of Leeds.

The Archdeacon, a member of the Dioceses Commission, explained that "extensive local consultation" had concluded that Leeds was the natural focus of the diocese, and should be the see; but local opinion also felt that the name should reflect the full area: West Yorkshire & the Dales. The Commission were advised, however, that naming a diocese after a city "represented the legal position as well as long-standing practice".

"Given the strength of local opinion and the Commission's own clear view, we asked the deputy legal advisor what could be done. This led to the suggestion that, while the new diocese was strictly the diocese of Leeds, the scheme could say 'it may be known as the diocese of West Yorkshire & The Dales'".

This was "not a perfect solution", he said, because "it leaves the diocese with two names, and the official name of the Bishop is the Bishop of Leeds." He had "no doubt" that, if the new Measure had been in force, the Commission would have chosen to name the diocese West Yorkshire & the Dales.

The short Measure would enable dioceses to be named after the see of the bishop - or from the geographic area within which the see of the bishop was taken. In order for this to take effect, the Measure effectively amended the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533.

Any change to the naming of dioceses would have to come about through a review by the Dioceses Commission or an Order by the Queen in Council.

Archdeacon Hill urged the Synod to give first consideration to what he described as a "missional, sensible, and non-radical change".

Tim Allen (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) welcomed the draft Measure, which he said was "urgent, in light of a diocese up t'north".

He gave a brief history of the formation of his diocese just over 100 years ago, and said the name came about as a result of church law dating from AD 343, which prevented the diocese's being known as the diocese of Suffolk. Rural people did not identify with urban towns, let alone two urban towns.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent (Southern Suffragans), chairing the debate, joked that he thought "the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich" was "a test of sobriety".

The Revd Jonathan Frais (Chichester) welcomed the draft Measure, but disagreed with the requirement that the bishop and diocese have the same name. "In Chichester, we have the Bishop of Horsham. People don't stumble and ask 'Where are you from?' They know that's part of Chichester."

He would prefer the diocese to be known as the diocese of Sussex, and the bishop to continue to be known as the Bishop of Chichester. The restriction was "just silly", he said. "We have stumbled across a wonderful compromise. Please let's run with it."

Dr Elaine Storkey (Ely) told the story of a group of law students who invited their tutor to a town and then quoted an unrepealed law requiring him to buy them a drink. He did so, but then quoted another ancient statute and fined them all for not wearing a sword. "Tradition is wonderful", she said, particularly regarding old laws, but "it's time for a change."

The Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, said that his colleague, the Archdeacon of Man, had the best job title in the Church of England. The diocese had originally been part of the Province of Canterbury, joining the Province of York in 1533. The name Sodor came from the island in the Hebrides which had not been connected to the Isle of Man for 700 years. "It's taken the Church of England a while to catch on. Why are you rushing over the diocese of Leeds?"

Dr John Beal (Ripon & Leeds) was unhappy with the requirement that the Bishop and the diocese should have the same name: it could leave Leeds, the third largest city in England, without a named bishop. The draft Measure was remitted to revision committee.

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