Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Dioceses Commission Draft Scheme

For Yorkshire readers, the Dioceses Commission published their second report at the start of last week. It accompanies a Draft Scheme for the reorganisation of the three dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield into one large diocese with 5 episcopal areas. There are no great shocks in the report. The main new recommendations are that the Diocesan Bishop will be in Leeds (not Wakefield), the diocese will be called 'Leeds to be known informally as the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.' The three cathedrals (Bradford, Ripon and Wakefield) will be retained with equal status, three Chapters and one College of Canons.

If you look on my Dioceses Commission Page, you can read about it in more detail, including the recommendations made about individual parishes. 

The report says this about the Archdeaconry of Richmond,
4.8 We propose that the Archdeadonry of Richmond should be renamed the Archdeaconry of Richmond and Craven and expanded to include those parishes in the Archdeaconry of Craven which are not transferred to another diocese and also four parishes in the Bradford Archdeaconry that are in the Harrogate District. Some of the responses we have received have questioned whether, given the distances involved and the nature of the roads this area is capable of being looked after by a single archdeacon - even if, as we propose, that archdeacon had no other duties. We recognise that such considerations might make it necessary for the archdeacon to live at a location which would offer easier access to the whole archdeaconry. Whether the distances would be manageable and the workload tolerable - or, alternatively, whether the two archdeaconries into which the rural episcopal area might be split would include sufficient numbers of parishes and clergy to justify having an archdeacon for each - cannot finally be determined until the precise boundaries of the diocese are definitively established. At this point, we are not convinced that retaining two archdeacons would be justified. We have therefore included in the draft reorganisation scheme the proposal to extend the Archdeaconry of Richmond to include all those parishes in the Archdeaconry of Craven not transferred elsewhere.

Such an archdeaconry would have a population of 270,000, an area of 1,569 sq. miles, 139 parishes distributed across 72 benefices, and 94 licensed clergy of whom 67 are stipendiary. (To give a comparison, Leeds would have a population of 767,000, an area of 184sq. miles, 77 parishes in 71 benefices and 105 clergy of whom 84 are stipendiary.)

The proposed Archdeaconry of Richmond and Craven will be in the Ripon Episcopal Area, one of the five Episcopal Areas in the new diocese (Ripon, Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Huddersfield) each with their own bishop and archdeacon under the overall authority of the diocesan bishop and supported by a joint diocesan team. 

Do I see any advantages in the Scheme as a whole?

Well, it will certainly enable the Church of England to be more effective in Leeds by getting the whole of the city into one diocese and one area of that diocese. This will improve relationships with civic authorities and also between the parishes of Leeds who will be able to work together, for the first time, for effective mission their city. It will also enable Richmond and Craven (everywhere north of Skipton and Ripon) to pull together and focus on rural affairs without being dominated by the large urban conurbations but, also, without losing contact with them altogther. It may be possible to have a full time rural officer. In such a huge archdeaconry a lot will depend on really good access for the parishes to the central departments - DAC, finance, mission resourcing, training - and on excellent communications. A larger diocese is likely to attract more interest from clergy applying for posts; clergy often move within a limited geaographical area once they have settled in a diocese and the new arrangement will give greater scope for moving within the diocese. (60% of clergy spend all their ministry in one diocese - attracting them here in the first place is important!) The cathedrals will be able to develop focused, distinctive ministries - Ripon would clearly be well advised to develop a ministry that supports rural life and the life of the Dales; Bradford might concentrate on interfaith and business issues; Wakefield might be the civic focus for West Yorkshire. The three dioceses have very different strengths, interests and ways of working but we will be able to learn from one another's expertise and we do already have some experience of joint working in areas such as education and training, ministry with the deaf, evangelism and the MSM course, and through sharing ecological knowhow. The most important aspects of the Scheme seem to me to be twofold. Firstly, the tidying up of boundaries so that we can work better with civic partners. We cannot underestimate the difficulty of trying to work across different districts and authorities and replicating effort over and over again in order to do so. Secondly, the episcopal areas will allow area bishops to lead mission in a way that is closer to the interests and needs of their particular area while retaining relationships with the wider diocese especially where sharing vision and resources makes that sensible. So yes, I do see advantages. The financial report that accompanies the Scheme seems to suggest that one diocese will cost around £0.8 million per anum less to run after the initial set up costs. I guess it will be like installing solar panels - over 10 years you reap the benefits though there is an initial outlay. Our finance teams are looking at this and also talking to the Commission about the spread of costs to include a proportion borne by the national church. No doubt there will be much more to say about this in due course. You can read the detail of the estimated financial effects of the proposals in document YDCR4 on the Dioceses Commission website (see Dioceses Commission page for the link to the site.)

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