Dioceses are made up of a collection of parishes looked after by a diocesan bishop, normally assisted by one or more suffragan bishop(s). So a diocese marks out the geographical extent of the bishop’s role.
There are 42 dioceses in the Church of England, many roughly equivalent in size to a county. 30 dioceses are in the Province of Canterbury; 12 in the Province of York
The Commission's Role
Diocesan boundaries sometimes need to be reviewed if they no longer serve the mission of the Church, and/or if they become out of sync with civic life. Bishops’ roles and/or workload may also change over time. The Commission exists to help resolve such issues in partnership with others, and to encourage shared working across boundaries. It can initiate proposals for change.
The 10 member Commission is made up of a representative cross-section of bishops, clergy and laity. Its role is set out in Part II of the Dioceses, Pastoral & Mission Measure 2007. In summary, it considers proposals to:
- Change existing provincial or diocesan boundaries;
- Change the number of bishops within a diocese;
- Continue with a suffragan bishop’s post after he/she moves on, or retires - its current advice on the filling of such posts can be found here.
The Commission’s largest recent project involved the creation of the Diocese of Leeds in 2014 by the joining together of the former dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield. Further information about this can be found below:
Diocesan boundaries can sometimes become so out of sync with society that the Church serves that they may need to be reviewed. Small changes involving just a few parishes can be resolved locally and dealt with under a Pastoral Scheme; the Commission helps facilitate more wide-ranging reviews, and propose ways in which the boundaries can be re-drawn. Such proposals involve local consultation and require consideration by diocesan synods and the consent of the General Synod.
In 2009-2014 the Commission was involved with the joining together of the former dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield to create the new diocese of Leeds. This was the first time since the 16th Century that any existing diocese had been dissolved, as opposed to the creation of new ones. Documents relating to this scheme can be found above.
The Commission retains a watching brief for boundary reviews and is engaged from time to time with local discussions, but currently has no proposals for a major boundary exercise.
Bishops have a dual role as leaders in mission
- Within their dioceses and
- Collectively in the wider Church.
The Commission considers the number of suffragan bishops and how they function within the diocese.
In the event of a suffragan retiring or moving on diocesan bishops need to
- Obtain the consent of their diocesan synod or bishop’s council to fill the post; and
- Make a submission to the Commission.
Diocesan Administration – sharing across boundaries
The Commission helps dioceses to share resources across boundaries, and can formally promote joint diocesan bodies (as in the case of the Joint Portsmouth and Winchester Diocesan Board of Education in 2009).
Many examples exist of shared administrative functions. Read the Commission's 2018 survey.
If you’d like further information about the Commission, please look at the latest Annual Report to Synod found below, or fill in the contact form below.