A decision day which could see Bradford losing its status as a Church of England diocese is getting closer as synod members get ready to take part in a key vote on Saturday.
When the Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield simultaneously vote on ‘radical’ reorganisation plans it could lead to a new single super diocese for West Yorkshire and the Dales being created.
Bradford synod members will be asked to vote on the plan in a secret ballot held in Skipton on Saturday. At the same time, 12.30pm, synod members of the other two dioceses involved will also be meeting in Harrogate and Wakefield to take part in their final debates and votes, which will then be counted and revealed.
If all three dioceses vote yes, then the scheme is expected to be placed before the General Synod for ultimate approval at its July meeting.
If the General Synod gives the go-ahead, the shake-up could take place as soon as Easter, 2014.
Even if one or more of the three dioceses vote against the scheme it could still happen because the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has the power to decide whether to put the issue before the General Synod anyway.
The Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, is adamant the formation of a single diocese would be “good news”, despite the district losing its standalone status and his existing position as a fully-fledged Bishop of Bradford being made redundant.
He said: “A Bradford episcopal area with a local area bishop within a larger Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales will bring the benefits of scale and earthed local focus. Area bishops are closer to the ground, offer better pastoral care and more local strategic leadership, and the area itself would be able to draw on a larger pool of expertise and experience.
“Change always brings challenges, but we need to change and these proposals offer a way forward from which all can benefit.” He said effectively Bradford would get two bishops, one to hold the diocese together and another working in the Bradford and Keighley area covering 50 churches.
He said: “When I was Bishop of Croydon, the area identity was strong for some purposes and the Diocesan (Southwark) identity strong for others. There will be a Bishop of Bradford, who will be the Bishop for Bradford; identity is not tied up purely in a church organisational structure.”
The Bishop also said there were no plans for compulsory redundancies if the change goes ahead.
A diocesan spokesman said the Bishop “potentially but not inevitably” will be asked to take on a new role in the new West Yorkshire and the Dales diocese if the changes go ahead.