Baines named as Bishop of new diocese

07 February 2014

JOHN CARTER

THE newly created Bishop of Leeds is relishing the prospect of establishing his nascent diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales (16 August). It was announced on Tuesday that the current Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has been nominated to take charge of the see created from his diocese and those of Wakefield and Ripon & Leeds.

"It's going to be unusual," he said. "It's not like when I came to Bradford, and there was a diocese already there. It's going to be an interesting challenge, and a fantastic opportunity. I look forward to getting stuck into it."

Bishop Baines, who is 56, is a Liverpudlian who studied languages at Bradford University and, before ordination in 1987, spent four years working for GCHQ. He became Bishop of Bradford in 2011.

The diocese comes into being at Easter, and the Bishop says that his first priority is to get to know the people and the place. "I want to see what is already going on . . . and begin with my colleagues to set out what the strategy ought to be.

"My message to the new diocese is clear: we can be confident about God and the gospel; we can be confident about the vocation of the Church and the unique location of the Church of England; and we can be confident about the context in which we are working. We can shape something new, and take responsibility for that. Let's be up for it."

He is aware of the distress in some areas caused by the amalgamation. "However, the reality is that, once the decision is made, people will go with the reality. They have made their point, we've had the vote, the decision is there, and then they have said: 'Now how do we make this work?' It's been very encouraging to watch."

The new diocese will be divided into five areas. He will lead one, based on Leeds, where he will live and establish his HQ; and Bradford, Huddersfield, Ripon and Wakefield will each have an area bishop.

Bishop Baines welcomed "the benefits of scale, and a cohesive region". "Yet the area system gives coherence at a local level; so you get coherent local engagement with area bishops, and a better support of parishes."

There are no plans to upgrade the Leeds Minster to a cathedral. "I will have my seat in three cathedrals. They are a rich resource. We have got to be creative with all this, because it's not been done before."

He is not daunted by the task of covering the 2425 square miles. "If you have got to travel round a diocese, this is a pretty cool one to do it in," he said.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu (left, with Bishop Baines), welcomed the announcement: "He brings a well-grounded understanding of the area he will serve, together with the vision, energy, and experience in strategic change."

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