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Towards a new diocese for West Yorkshire and the Dales

Dioceses Commission announces details of draft scheme
The Dioceses Commission has today released details of its draft scheme to reorganise Church of England structures in West Yorkshire and the Dales. The overall proposal, approved last month, is to replace the existing three dioceses and create a new single one. Today's report explains in more detail how, if approved, that would work.

The draft scheme was drawn up after consultation across the three dioceses; Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield. The Commission concluded from this that a new single diocese would be the best way to meet the challenges and opportunities of the region.

The scheme, to be voted on by each diocesan synod in March, provides a legal framework which would enable the following to happen:

  • Creating one new diocese of Leeds, also to be known as the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.
  • Appointing the Bishop of Leeds in overall charge of the new diocese (the bishop will also be area bishop for Leeds)
  • Having bishops in each of the five areas (Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ripon and Wakefield), dedicated to the parishes in their area and therefore more closely in touch.
  • Retaining the cathedrals on a co-equal basis. Any possible future changes in staffing at the discretion of the diocesan bishop.
  • Ensuring that the new Bishop of Leeds has permission if needed, to designate Leeds Parish Church (now known as Leeds Minster) as a pro-cathedral
  • Providing a framework for the new diocese to decide its own organisational structure and ways of working. The  Commission anticipates that this will allow the new diocese to make savings that it can reinvest in mission

If approved the Commission recognises the importance of having a Bishop of Leeds in place as soon as possible (which is a matter for the Crown Nominations Commission chaired by the Archbishop of York), to provide the necessary leadership for the new diocese. Once overall timings are approved by Archbishop of York, detailed matters will be for the new diocese itself to resolve

A few parishes will come under neighbouring dioceses and therefore be outside the new diocese: but the day to day life and worship of those churches will not be affected (see Annex C of report).

Professor Michael Clarke chair of the Commission, said "The main concern of the Commission has always been about how to best resource mission in the area and our consultation has shown that a single scheme is the best way forward. We hope that the Diocesan Synods will approve the scheme and take up the challenge of developing their vision for the new diocese. This is a once in a generation opportunity which we believe must not be lost."
Read the pastoral letter for parishes

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said: "I welcome this scheme for a new diocese for West Yorkshire and the Dales. A single, larger diocese would help the Church of England thrive and meet the challenges of the 21st century in this part of Yorkshire. The smaller episcopal areas would bring a greater sense of belonging and local identity, and the day-to-day life of the parishes would be strengthened by increased strategic resourcing; for example, we'd all have access to a greater range of expertise and experience. I am convinced we would be more than the sum of our parts.
"This is an unprecedented and imaginative move on the part of the Church of England and we have the opportunity locally to create and shape the detail in order that the church can serve the region in the best way possible."

The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, said: ""I very much welcome the way the Commission has emphasised the mission opportunities which the new diocese will present. I am particularly pleased that the parishes of the city of Leeds will come together in a single episcopal area as this will enhance our ministry to the whole city. I also believe that the new northern archdeaconry will have a great opportunity to concentrate on the opportunities and challenges with which the rural church now engages. I look forward to the discussions leading up to the Synod vote in March and to a wide debate on the mission opportunities with which we are presented."

The Bishop of Wakefield the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, said: "The publication of this report ends the uncertainty about the precise recommendations of the Commission and we are very grateful for that. We now look forward to a lively and informed debate within all three dioceses as we prepare for the final vote on these proposals."

Notes
1. Read all the documents

2. The Dioceses Commission published a draft scheme to dissolve the West Yorkshire dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield on 1 November 2010. This followed extensive consultation within the dioceses involved prior to that stage. The statutory six month consultation period on the draft scheme ended on 30 April 2012. Full details of the proposals can be found at http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/dioceses-commission/yorkshire.aspx

3.  In June 2012 the Commission decided to proceed with a scheme on the basis that the details would be worked out over the summer. Having decided that there would be a scheme, the Commission formally decided at the end of September 2012 that it would embrace all three dioceses. The documentation now issued fleshes out that decision.

4.  The Commission's scheme and its report on it will be submitted to members of the Diocesan Synods of the dioceses affected, so that the Synods can then decide whether or not to support the Commission's proposals. That decision needs to be made by the end of March next year, with the intention that the General Synod would be invited to debate the scheme in July. The earliest any of the proposals could be implemented would be in the autumn of 2013.