Clerics call for national debate on shake-up

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Church leaders at the centre of controversial plans to create a new “superdiocese” in West Yorkshire are calling for a national debate on the future shape and mission of the Church of England.

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten, and his senior staff say that by focusing only on the three dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield, the Dioceses Commission is missing the opportunity to look at ways to rethink how the Church of England nationally could best serve the needs of the parishes and people in today’s society.

Members of Wakefield Diocesan Synod have voted to ask General Synod and the House of Bishops to hold a debate about the organisational shape of the Church and its mission in the 21st century.

The Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Rev Tony Robinson, who introduced the motion, said: “This is not a motion intended to scupper the Dioceses Commission’s plan but has been inspired by their work and is a result of our reflections on this process over the last two years. There is a much wider debate to be had.”

The Dioceses Commission published a draft scheme to reorganise the three West Yorkshire dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield last year.

It proposed to dissolve the three existing dioceses to create one new diocese which would have three equal cathedrals and five Episcopal areas under one Diocesan Bishop who would be based in Leeds.

Last week the commission announced it planned to go ahead with a scheme for the West Yorkshire Dioceses but has yet to announce the shape and detail of that scheme. This is expected in the autumn.