*** DEBUG END ***

Alternative to sees rejected

Naming dioceses

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 central regulation".

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 said.

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.

Forthcoming Events

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

4-8 July 2022
HeartEdge Mission Summer School
From HeartEdge and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

More events

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.