Plans to replace the dioceses of Ripon and Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford with one new ‘super-diocese’ are a step closer to reality today.
The Dioceses Commission has agreed to press ahead with a draft merger scheme, which it said was a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for reinvigorating mission in the region”.
But the Dean of Wakefield has warned the move could threaten funding for two of the existing dioceses’ cathedrals, which he said would hit their services and opening hours.
Speaking before yesterday’s (Sept 28) announcement, the Very Revd Jonathan Greener said the Church Commissioners, who manage the Church of England’s assets, might decide to fund only one cathedral in a super-diocese.
“If the funding did go we would have to shut our doors some of the week,” he said.
The money funds vergers who look after health and safety and security, supported by volunteers.
“The volunteers are wonderful but they’re the icing on the cake and if there’s no cake there’s no icing,” he said.
Closures would also lead to less voluntary giving from visitors, another major funding stream, he added.
“You’ve still got the cost of running the building, insuring it, maintaining it, but you don’t have any income because it’s not open. It’s a disaster,” he said.
It would also jeopardise the cathedral’s education and community projects, he said.
The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platter, has previously urged a rethink of the plans. He said he now hoped there would be an “open and honest debate” in the parishes following the announcement.
A revised scheme will be published by the end of October. Dioceses will then vote on the plans by March before a debate by the General Synod – the Church “parliament” – in July.
If it approves, the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales could be in place by next autumn.
The Bishops of Bradford and Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines and Rt Revd John Packer, welcomed the news.