Church leaders in Wakefield offer alternative vision to remain a single diocese

Church leaders in Wakefield are urging the Diocese Commission to consider alternative proposals that would allow them to remain a single diocese.

Clergy and lay delegates on Wakefield Diocesan Synod are divided over plans to dissolve the three dioceses of Bradford, Wakefield and Ripon and Leeds to create one superdiocese.

And Synod gave overwhelming support to present the Diocese Commission with the Bishop of Wakefield’s alternative vision for the three dioceses for consideration before a final draft scheme is drawn up later this year.

The Rt Rev Stephen Platten argued that there was much merit in Leeds and Ripon and Bradford merging, but said Wakefield had an entirely different demographic and while he supported the working together of some key departments, he believed the people in the parishes in the Diocese of Wakefield would be much better served by it  remaining a single diocese.

Clergy and lay delegates on the Diocesan Synod (the 'parliament' of the diocese), met at St Peter’s Church Hall, Gildersome to debate the second draft scheme by the Diocese Commission which proposes to merge the three dioceses of Wakefield, Bradford, Ripon and Leeds into one new diocese, the Diocese of Leeds informally called the Diocese of West Yorkshire and The Dales.

It will have four area bishops of Bradford, Huddersfield, Ripon and Wakefield and the three cathedrals of Ripon, Wakefield and Bradford would remain centres of mission with equal status. There is now an option for the Parish Church of Leeds to have pro-cathedral status and the clusters of parishes in Penistone, Hoylandswaine and Silkstone are being consulted as to whether they wished to go into the Diocese of Sheffield.

Bishop Platten warned that he could not see the Church Commissioners paying for three cathedrals and believed that if this draft scheme was accepted unamended  here, it would go through other dioceses like fire through brushwood. He also expressed concerns that the proposals did not take into proper consideration the unique character of the north.

Bishop Platten asked Synod to consider two alternative proposals. The first was to keep the three dioceses independent and the second was to keep Wakefield independent and allow Bradford and Ripon and Leeds to create a new single diocese.  Both proposals make way for sharing key diocesan resources and departments.

During the debate others raised concerns over the advantages of joining such a scheme, the loss of a northern voice nationally by reducing the number of northern dioceses, the loss of loyalties built up over years.

Others questioned the financial viability of the scheme and most people agreed that mission worked best on a small local scale and wanted a clearer understanding and spelling out of the missional benefits of this draft scheme. 

The Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Rev Tony Robinson explained that these issues were already being looked at by the Preparation Groups who were  working on the financial detail of the whole process and drawing up a mission statement for the new single diocese. He advised that Synod should engage with the process and wait for the results of this work so they could make a better informed decision on how to vote when a final scheme is drawn up by the Diocese Commission next year.

The draft Scheme is currently in its formal consultation phase which closes on April 30th. Anyone, individual or group, can submit their views. After that date - depending on the responses from dioceses, churches and individuals, a final scheme will be produced by the Dioceses Commission for consideration next March.

If you want to submit your views send it to Mrs Joanne Winn Smith, Central Secretariat, Church House, Great Smith St, London  SW1P 3AZ.

Synod gave overwhelming agreement to send Bishop Platten’s paper on alternative proposals for the three dioceses to the Diocese Commission as part of Wakefield’s response.  Read his paper on our website at: www.wakefield.anglican.org/news.

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