Comments: Developments in West Yorkshire and The Dales

Congratulations to the Transformation Programme for the website. Very helpful and instructive. Prayers for them all as they head into 2014! I think it looks exciting.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Friday, 8 November 2013 at 12:20pm GMT

Packer to retire, Platten fixed up with a job in London, Tom Butler for the regency ... Nick Baines it is then as the new super bishop ... that's it all done and dusted.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Friday, 8 November 2013 at 3:36pm GMT

Wake me up when he can be a she.

Posted by Tim at Friday, 8 November 2013 at 5:47pm GMT

Interesting. Looks (from a skim-read of the Statement of Needs) like they want someone who's BOTH already been a diocesan bishop (for a little while) AND who won't be in the Lords before, say, August 2017. Only one bishop currently in a diocesan see won't be in the Lords by August 2017: Julian Henderson, the newest bishop.

Then there's Nick Baines, who – IIRC – slips to the back of the 'queue' (for the Lords) iff he doesn't translate directly to another diocesan see from Bradford...

There's one man in the CofE who'd fit what they seem to want.

Posted by Dan BD at Friday, 8 November 2013 at 7:57pm GMT

(My above calculations assume all bishops whose retirements haven't been announced serving until their 70th birthdays; it's therefore quite probable Henderson would get to the Lords before August 2017.)

Posted by Dan BD at Friday, 8 November 2013 at 10:24pm GMT

We all hope that the new structures will be a success, but let us not mince words: this change represents a significant tactical retreat by the Church in Yorkshire. Whilst it cannot be denied that the Bradford and Wakefield dioceses were unduly small, and their demographics have changed quite radically in the last few decades, the suppression of three dioceses has something of the appearance of a rout about it. If memory serves, Wakefield was unwilling to commit hari-kari - but their objections were to no avail.

Moreover, many of the pre-existing structures immediately below the level of diocesans will be retained, so what substantive savings will be made?

Although we have seen dioceses being suppressed on exceptional occasions since the Norman Conquest (absent the general abolition of episcopacy in 1646) - for example, the suppression of Westminster in 1550 - the simultaneous reduction of three established dioceses is quite unprecedented.

Where Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield have gone other sees might follow (Bristol? Portsmouth?).

This development might prove to be an ominous portent.

Posted by J Drever at Saturday, 9 November 2013 at 12:39am GMT

The map shows a ridiculous geographical area. It only makes sense from the south of Skipton. What do the others going further north have to do with Leeds?

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 9 November 2013 at 6:26am GMT

My diocese of Edmonton in western Canada has 55 parishes, spread out over a geographical area much larger than that of the new diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. And it is financially viable.

I find it hard to discover how many parishes the new diocese will have, but the website of the current diocese of Wakefield shows 79 parishes with websites; I suspect there are many more that do not have websites. So I can't see that Wakefield is 'unduly small'.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 9 November 2013 at 9:07am GMT

Tim. Last page of Statement of Needs sets out the data you want.

Posted by Malcolm at Saturday, 9 November 2013 at 10:19am GMT

Tom Butler, of course, promoted Nick Baines from their previous diocese of Leicester to become an archdeacon and then area bishop in Southwark. If it is 'Baines for Leeds' then the handover from the last remaining bishop of the three dioceses to Butler and then back to Baines should at least be between guys who know each other!

Posted by peter kettle at Saturday, 9 November 2013 at 6:16pm GMT

Thanks Malcolm. So the smallest of the current dioceses is three times the size of my diocese (in terms of number of parishes), spread over a much smaller geographical area. If finance is what's driving all this, I can't see why the current dioceses can't be made viable.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 9 November 2013 at 6:49pm GMT

Stephen Platten is the first Bishop of Wakefield in ages not to progress to a more significant diocese. Colin James to Winchester, David Hope to London then York and Nigel McCulloch to Manchester. Let it not be forgotten that the first Bishop of Wakefield William Walsham How turned down the offer of Durham.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 9 November 2013 at 10:44pm GMT

I don't think financial viability should be the primary consideration or driving force for diocesan reorganizations. In Canada, we have the current example of the dissolution of Keewatin and creation of a new diocese, not determined by finance but by mission priorities -- the old boundaries just did not make sense any longer. Similarly, in the Province of Canada, the Provincial Council has sidestepped any move toward a consolidation of dioceses for financial reasons, while continuing to look at how cooperation (which may or may not lead to eventual mergers or changes of boundaries) can enhance mission.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Sunday, 10 November 2013 at 1:00am GMT

And your point is, Father David? Please expand for I can't see (yet) that it has any relevance.

Posted by RPNewark at Sunday, 10 November 2013 at 10:22am GMT

A mere observation RPNewark, a mere observation. Although in former times there were what were known as Bishoprics of Work and Bishoprics of Ease. For example, after wearing himself out as Bishop of Southwark, Cyril Garbett became Bishop of Winchester where he was able to sufficiently recover his strength in order to take on the onerous task of being Archbishop of York. Whoever become the first Bishop of the Anglican mega-diocese of Leeds will indeed have to be a "resilient leader" to cope with the heavy demands of the most populous diocese in the Church of England.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 10 November 2013 at 4:26pm GMT

Father David, where do you get this figure? The Diocese of London will still have a population about one million more than the new mega diocese of Leeds.

Posted by Christopher Hobbs at Sunday, 10 November 2013 at 9:49pm GMT

Tim Chesterton asks why the current dioceses cannot be made viable. That is a very interesting question.

My theory (which might deserve to be shot down) is that many dioceses are operating on a financial knife edge. They have significant overheads - not just in terms of management, buildings and stipends - but, more specifically pensions.

It is worth remembering that the Church Commissioners (with the sanction of Synod) passed the liability for almost all pensions to the dioceses with effect from January 1998. The Commissioners retain the liability prior to that date.

Now that decision was made at a time of seemingly endless and increasing returns on investments. Of course, the stock market bubble had burst by 2000 or so, and real returns have been either mediocre, uneven or worse since that time. We are in an extended era of negative real interest rates and diocesan fund managers cannot take advantage of compounding. Deficits on pension funds are therefore a fact of life. However, with ageing and shrinking congregations, it is not as though such fund managers can tap rising profits to make up shortfalls in funds, in the way many private companies can as the profit share in the UK economy continues to increase.

Moreover, the Church is top-heavy with retirees (and their spouses) who are becoming increasingly long-lived - even though clergy pensions are niggardly.

The dioceses assumed this liability when many already lacked sufficient reserves. They have since been forced to engage in various exigencies in order to keep the show on the road. This is - just - possible in some parts of the country. But elsewhere, in a place like Bradford, which is less well off, and where the Christian share of the population has declined steadily, the Church might have run out of road.

Personally, I would far rather dioceses are wound up than parishes (especially historic parishes), if that is what is necessary in order to maintain the witness of the Church in local communities. It is otherwise a perverse paradox for parishes to be killed off so that the clergy who have served them might live. So, whilst the liquidation of some older dioceses is a painful option, it is, arguably, the least worst one.

Posted by J Drever at Sunday, 10 November 2013 at 11:41pm GMT

Dear Christopher Hobbs, with regards to the new mega-diocese of Leeds being the "most populous" see the introductory paragraph above where it is thus described. Thinking Anglicans get this information from a report in the Church Times.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 10 November 2013 at 11:54pm GMT

"even though clergy pensions are niggardly." J Drever

The Church of England Defined Benefits Scheme is an excellent 'final salary' scheme providing non-contributory pensions of up to two-thirds of final salary, index-linked to RPI. Schemes this generous are becoming increasingly rare and are the sort usually referred to in the press as 'gold-plated' rather than 'niggardly'! Two-thirds of not a lot may not be a lot but the scheme itself is first class.

That aside, I agree with the rest of your analysis.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 8:28am GMT

From the information in Church Statistics published by the Church of England the new diocese will be a lot smaller than London, somewhat smaller than Chelmsford and similar to Southwark in population.

Posted by Christopher Hobbs at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 3:16pm GMT

Dear Christopher Hobbs thank you for that correction. The new mega diocese of Leeds may not be the most populous but is it the largest in area? If so, does it cover more of England that the diocese of Lincoln which, I understand to be the largest in area prior to the creation of the diocese of Leeds? In his recent Presidential address to the Lincoln Diocesan Synod the current bishop told a story of when his predecessor was appointed as the new diocesan. Bishop Hardy was attending a meeting of newly appointed diocesans and they were all waxing lyrical in overblown glowing terms about their dioceses. When it came to Bishop Bob's turn he said " The diocese of Lincoln is two and a half thousand miles of bugger all!". Bishop Christopher Lowson then added the caveat that his diocese is actually " two thousand six hundred and seventy three miles of bugger all

Posted by Father David at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 4:17pm GMT

I agree with Concerned Anglican that the departure of two of the existing bishops, with the perfectly timed sabbatical of the third, exactly between the announcement of the new appointment and the inauguration of the new diocese, and the involvement of +Tom Butler, who has favoured him before, does make it look very much like a shoo-in for +Nick Baines.
I have nothing against him, but I thought the CoE's appointment process was supposed to be more open and inclusive than this would imply. Also, it might be less provocative to hurt feelings in the former dioceses if the new bishop was not one of the existing three.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 5:08pm GMT

No CNC related appointment is a shoo-in, simply because they always see more than one candidate, and the 6 Diocesan members are different in each appointment. The voting can't therefore be controlled by the central members. Nick would in my view be an excellent candidate for what will be an extremely difficult task. It's not an open process, though it probably ought to move in that direction. But there are no guarantees that anyone, however obvious they might be as the person most suitable for the office, will be a "shoo-in".

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 6:16pm GMT

The CNC process will be no different for the new diocese of Leeds. Its six diocesan members have been elected (strangely predominantly from the diocese of Bradford) and the whole commission will consider a wide range of candidates, of whom the current Bishop of Bradford will be one. The candidate specification is clear, but exacting. It is most unlikely that the successful candidate is not already a bishop. He needs to have experience of an area scheme, quite apart from other skills, experience and qualities. That presupposes an existing diocesan or a high flying suffragan on the verge of preferment. There are not many candidates. I am not sure of the wisdom of listing names on TA, tempted though I am, but I have inputted some ideas. The Commission meets for the first time tomorrow and needs our prayers.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 7:05pm GMT

Why all this fuss and anxiety about someone being a shoo in? It would seem to me that the present Bishop of Bradford would fit the new mega diocese of Leeds like a glove. So, if the cap (or mitre) fits, then let Bishop Nick wear it.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 7:09pm GMT

Anthony - how do you know that "the current Bishop of Bradford will be one" ? Leaking already!!

Posted by Malcolm at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 8:39pm GMT

I really cannot think that Mr. Archer can be accused of "leaking" seeing as anyone is free to submit names as possible candidates to be the first bishop of the new mega diocese of Leeds. I think we can be sure that many people will be suggesting Nick Baines as the "resilient" one to become + Nicholas Leeds

Posted by Father David at Monday, 11 November 2013 at 10:46pm GMT

Thank you +Pete and Anthony Archer for reassuring us that due process will be followed regarding this appointment. (I never really doubted it, although the unfortunate conjunction of announcements referred to earlier in this thread could easily be taken to suggest otherwise.) I add my prayers for the Commission meeting today.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 12 November 2013 at 10:54am GMT

The thing about +Nick is that, before he is shunted out of office at Easter, the CNC will also have met to discuss the diocesan bishopric of his hometown, where he would also be excellent...

Posted by tommiaquinas at Tuesday, 12 November 2013 at 4:16pm GMT

Having just seen the first BBC4 programme on Wakefield cathedral whoever is appointed the first Bishop of Leeds is going to have his work cut out in creating a sense of unity when the three former dioceses merge. Having created a beautiful and flexible nave to the glory of God it was so sad to see the Dean contemplating the future of a dissolved diocese.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 12 November 2013 at 10:19pm GMT

Senior suffragans with Area Scheme experience, eh? A few of them: Dorchester, Willesden, Kingston, Buckingham, Wolverhampton...

Posted by Dan BD at Wednesday, 13 November 2013 at 9:48am GMT

I see from the Clerical Whispers website that the new mega diocese of Leeds is just a mere 2425 square miles as opposed to the diocese of Lincoln's 2673 square miles - smaller by 148 square miles. I further note from the same blog that the current Bishop of Bradford is to go on sabbatical from 1st February until "the Appointed Day" (a phrase which always makes me think of the Parousia) - often a sure indication that the person who is taking the sabbatical is destined for higher things. With regard to tommiaquinas' hint that Bishop Baines might return to his home town of Liverpool - remember the Biblical injunction that "a prophet is not without honour except ....."

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 14 November 2013 at 5:38am GMT
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