Church leaders will vote on Saturday (March 2) whether to support controversial plans to replace three existing Yorkshire dioceses with one “super-diocese”.
The future of the Church of England dioceses of Ripon and Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield could be decided on March 2 as voting takes place on proposals to create a single structure for West Yorkshire and the Dales.
Critics have previously complained that the proposed new set-up will be dominated by Leeds and others believe the changes are financially driven.
Once fully established the net savings in revenue costs will be around £800,000 a year.
On Saturday members of each synod will be presented with a simple yes or no vote on the plans to dissolve the three dioceses and create a larger Diocese of Leeds. A simple majority is all that is required for approval.
Under the recommendations, the three existing dioceses would be dissolved and a new, de-centralised diocese would be created, led by a diocesan bishop based in Leeds and divided into five areas – Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Ripon and Wakefield.
If all three dioceses vote in favour, the scheme is expected to be placed before General Synod for final approval at its July meeting.
If General Synod gives the go-ahead, the new diocese could be launched as soon as Easter next year.
However, if one or more dioceses votes against the scheme, then the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, could still decide to place the plan before General Synod for a final decision.
The Bishops of Bradford and Ripon and Leeds have expressed support for the plans but the Bishop of Wakefield, Stephen Platten, has expressed reservations, arguing that bigger is not always better. The debate among parishes has at times been bitter and divisive.
Last night Bishop Platten said: “These last few weeks have been quite difficult for all three dioceses so I welcome Saturday and the opportunity to vote on this issue after much prayer and consideration and discover where God is leading us all in this part of Yorkshire in the future.”
In October a report by the Dioceses Commission, which is overseeing the plans, outlined details of the scheme and concluded that significant cash savings and job cuts would be made within five years.
The report said money would have to be spent providing housing for two area bishops but up to £1.5m could be raised by selling two diocesan bishops’ residences.
Saturday’s meetings are at St Aidan’s High School, Harrogate (Ripon and Leeds), the HQ of Skipton Building Society in Skipton (Bradford) and St Catherine Church, Wakefield.