Reorganising Yorkshire

July 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

After a quick break we are back for the debate on reshaping the Dioceses of Ripon and Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford. This is controversial in that Wakefield voted against the scheme, R+L and Bradford said yes.

The Archbishop of York decided that we should have this debate despite Wakefield’s opposition. The diocese will be centred on Leeds, with a further phrase ‘West Yorkshire and the Dales’. The process was not finance driven, was not following a blue print, but was about ‘bottom up’ engagement with mission.

Bishop of Wakefield speaks first. The diocese engaged with the process, but in the end opposed it. The Diocesan Bishop will be remote, as the diocese will have tripled in size. The distances are great, and the Diocese of Wakefield is different demographically. He’s worried about the cathedrals too, and doesn’t feel that this will help grow the church. General Synod should not override the wishes of a diocese.

He also doesn’t like the process – the mechanics are difficult to change. He asks for a full debate on a theologically robust strategy for diocesan change in the future.

Bishop of Bradford takes the opposite view. Support the scheme. Actually he’s voting to lose his job, as all the Bishoprics are dissolved. But this uncertainty is right. The scheme allows for Area Bishops to be the local bishops on the ground. It helps the diocese address the needs of the region better. So, two Bishops, exactly opposed. I’m not sure how this will go.

Archbishop of York, who has 10 minutes to speak. General Synod gave the Dioceses Commission the remit to think new thoughts about dioceses. That’s what they have done. The Commission is also having an effect on York as well, with suffragan sees suspended there too. The proposals for West Yorkshire and the Dales remove some boundaries for mission. Collaboration can give economies of scale, as well.

He invites Synod to put emotion aside, and look at the facts. A church responding to the needs of the world needs flexibility, mobility and agility. The ways which served us well in the past may not serve us well now. It is good for us all to learn from a new way of reshaping our structures  for mission.

On cathedrals he says the Diocesan has his cathedra, his seat, in every church in the diocese. Cathedrals are instruments of mission, not the kingdom of God. Having three cathedrals will be different, but will provide new patterns of mission too. It is not without precedent – see Ireland.

He pleads for reconciliation and harmony, whichever way the vote goes.

Ruth Hind: where is Pete Broadbent’s cunning plan? Actually, she now agrees with the scheme, though not at first. She felt that the rural area was tagged on. But this can be resolved. It’s not insurmountable. Vote yes to give greater mission in Leeds. She is also now more convinced about a rural Archdeaconry with a rural Area Bishop – recruiting, nurturing and training rural specialists.

Mary Judkins (Wakefield) speaks. This is about the central priority of the Gospel message. The vision of the Wakefield Diocese has recently said ‘and beyond’ – this is an opportunity not to keep mission to Wakefield itself, but to share it with the wider diocese. She quotes David Hope on reshaping structures to be light on our feet. Strongly for the new diocese.

Ian Fletcher (Bradford). We need the certainty of a new diocese so we can get going. Bradford Diocese was strongly in favour. Overall the dioceses votes 200 for and 98 against – more than the 2/3 we need for other things. We need to go forward, but the concerns of Wakefield and of the cathedrals need to be heard too. Strong support.

Nigel Greenwood (R and L). Also supports. Good examples already of joint working between R and L and Bradford. We only do separately what we cannot do together.

Maggie McLean (Wakefield). Says that Mary J made good points, but there are still concerns. Worried that 2 episcopal voices will be lost in the national debate. Doesn’t want one area of the diocese to be a no go area for women, which could happen. I think that was measured support.

Bishop of Burnley – his diocese of Blackburn will receive some parishes from Bradford. No boundaries actually work – the whole area works well together. Develop mission for the north. He supports the scheme.

Clive Scowen likes the idea, but opposes it. It’s wrong in principle to abolish a diocese against its will. Its wrong in practice if one of the dioceses doesn’t embrace the vision. It’s wrong because we has a church have not agreed a national strategy which will guide the Dioceses Commission.

David Ison (London – formerly Dean of Bradford). Reorganisation which made the three dioceses was itself very unpopular. There needs to be more theology of cathedrals. The cathedral brand has borne fruit. Losing support for cathedrals would be destructive of mission. Suggests a period of experiment. Allow cathedrals time to work on a creative theology and practice of mission – say 20 years. Then shape a national strategy which includes greater churches too.

That’s the speech I was going to make – nearly!!

David Brindley (Portsmouth) thinks there is too much which is untested, and urges us to vote against.

Joyce Jones (Wakefield) is in favour. The scheme would serve the area well. But because the diocese has voted against she will abstain.

John Sinclair (Newcastle), is hearing people being forced into a shotgun wedding. The reorganisation could be a diversion. Doesn’t understand how the cathedrals will work.

John Beal (R and L) says this is vital for Leeds.

Jonathan Alderton Ford (Dioceses Commision) We did have a national debate about dioceses – 2005 – 7. No need to have it again. We can easily reimagine dioceses with the information we have now. We can do this. We can have fun with this.

Paul Ayers (Bradford) If we vote this down we will be wasting all sorts of work and prayer. But the C19th and 20th organisation of the church needs to be changed for the 21st century. He holds out a hand to Wakefield. Jump in!

James Allison (Wakefield). This is an emotional issue. He has a priest father and and an ordinand son, and they are in each diocese! He would love it to happen. His problem is that his Bishops have said no. He’ll abstain.

Bishop of Ripon of Leeds. These proposals offer real mission opportunities. He doesn’t like the ‘pro cathedral’ thing, but it’s a possibility. And there is no way in which this reduces the place of the C of E in Bradford or Ripon. VOte for this.

Chairman of the Dioceses Commission now summing up. Applauds Mary Judkins saying ‘and beyond’ and ‘travelling light’. Let’s get the structures right to relate properly to these communities. He thanks everyone involved. Have the courage to vote for change.

We have voted overwhelmingly in favour.

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