THE Draft Naming of Dioceses Measure came to the Synod for
revision, and was voted down in the House of Clergy.
The Revd Paul Benfield (Blackburn) explained
that this was a permissive Measure to allow the name of a diocese
to be taken from either the see of the bishop or from a
geographical area. "Nobody will be required to make use of the
provision. An existing diocese wanting to change its name would
have to get the consent of the Synod."
The Measure came about during the establishment of the new
diocese of Leeds, which wished to be called the diocese of West
Yorkshire & the Dales. Mr Benfield said that at the take-note
debate in February 2014 the Measure had procured only a very narrow
majority; so he said that if the Synod did not want the Measure to
proceed, they should vote it down now.
Prudence Dailey (Oxford) called on the Synod to
reject the motion and think again. It "breaks the connection
between the name of the diocesan see and the name of the diocese
and the title of the bishop", and this had "ecclesiological
consequences". She pointed out that if a diocese wanted to be known
by another name, it already could be.
Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester) concurred.
The legislation had become a "recipe for confusion" and was
unnecessary, he said.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen
Cottrell, cautioned that the legislation was "putting things the
wrong way round": the Bishop was not at the top of a pyramid, but a
source. A diocese should not be defined geographically and
sociologically, but "relationally and sacramentally". He argued
that "resisting this apparently small development may not be a
ditch to die in, but might be a thread that, if tugged, unravels
quite a lot more than we realise."
Clive Scowen (London) urged the Synod to
persevere with the Measure, which was a "purely enabling provision,
which forces nothing on anyone". He would prefer the "messiness of
effective mission" over the "orderliness of the graveyard". It
could be the "first fruit of setting dioceses free from unnecessary
The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher
Cocksworth,said that passing this Measure could lead to unravelling
important threads about the character of bishops and the nature of
the Church without intending to. "The body of the Church is lived
out in the person of the bishop," he said.
"By divorcing the name of the diocese from the person of the
bishop, we run the risk of damaging the character of the bishop as
pastor and teacher."
Dr John Beal (West Yorkshire & the Dales)
reminded the Synod of the history of the idea of naming dioceses
after geographical areas rather than the see of the bishop. The new
diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales would have had to have an
unfeasibly long name if it were named after sees. In addition, it
had three cathedrals. "There is unanimous feeling that to have the
diocese named West Yorkshire & the Dales, and the Bishop to
continue to be the Bishop of Leeds, is the most sensible way
forward. I ask the Synod to allow us the opportunity of formally
changing the name."
The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick
Baines,said that he was sympathetic to the arguments from the
Bishops of Coventry and "Essex", but said it was an insiders' view
of the issues rather than what people outside the Church thought.
"It's not inside the Church we have a problem: it's outside," he
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that
he was always concerned when legislation was sent to Parliament
when it was not of great significance. He said that the flexibility
over diocesan names which the draft Measure sought had already been
granted in practice. "Look at the website [of the diocese of West
Yorkshire & the Dales]: that's what you call it already. This
has already happened. Don't waste Parliament's time."
In a division, the motion fell, because it was lost in the House
of Clergy: Bishops 10 for, 7 against, with 3 recorded abstentions;
Clergy 34 for, 66 against, with 10 recorded abstentions; and Laity
65 for, 48 against, with 5 recorded abstentions.