County Dioceses project

A model for county dioceses in the Church of England.

(created c. 2011–2012; rev. 2015)

This is an exercise in visualising what the provinces and dioceses of England might look like if:

  • the Leeds model of several episcopal areas one of which overseen by the diocesan were “rolled out” across England
  • more, much smaller provinces were created and some of ABC’s workload (long acknowledged to be too great by far) were redistributed
  • dioceses and episcopal areas are usually named for current centres of population rather than nostalgia (ecclesiastical or otherwise)
    • 2015: having written which, I realise that adherence to population-centredness was less that complete in the original model.* So there are now a number of ‘or’s inserted as population-centric alternative suggestions.
      • *I suppose that would be because there are pragmatic issues in designating cathedral churches, exemplified in this report on St Eds Cathedral.

These are, of course, all mere musings in a thought experiment by an amateur whose knowledge of local situations, sentiments and identities is imperfect; in reality such initial suggestions are rightly subjected to rigorous consultation and revision.

Two dioceses are dissolved/merged: the present Bristol (f. 1542 & 1897) merges into Bath & Wells; and Portsmouth (f. 1927) returns to Winchester. However, Bath & Wells diocese is renamed Bristol and Bristol and Portsmouth cathedrals retain their status. Sees are consistently named for one significant settlement each (usually the largest city/town in the area; except Europe and Man) and each diocese is named after the diocesan see. Eight dioceses are erected/split:

  • the Diocese of Shrewsbury, for Shropshire; created from Lichfield (f. 665) and Hereford (f. 676)
  • the Diocese of Grantham, for southern Lincolnshire and County Rutland; split from Lincoln (f. 681)
  • the Diocese of Hastings, for East Sussex; split from Chichester (f. 681)
  • the Diocese of Sherborne, for Dorset; split from Salisbury (f. 705)
  • the Diocese of Reading, for Berkshire; split from Oxford (f. 1542)
  • the Diocese of Buckingham, for Buckinghamshire; split from Oxford (f. 1542)
  • the Diocese of Bedford, for Bedfordshire; split from St Albans (f. 1877)
  • the Diocese of Morpeth, for Northumberland; split from Newcastle (f. 1882)

Lapsed suffragan sees are listed for information – they remain (or would remain) in existence and may be filled for a provincial suffragan role, or for some other nefarious purpose such as enabling continued sexism.

Of Lords Spiritual: when I started this project, Lords reform (2011) proposed a reduction to twelve seats for bishops (five ex-officio plus seven more.) There are therefore two suggested models: for 26 and twelve Lords Spiritual. In the former, each of the nine ecclesiastical province sends three bishops (except for Greater London which has only two dioceses); in the latter, each province sends one bishop, plus one from Greater London (which would mean both London and Southwark send a Lord Spiritual), plus one each from the Northern four provinces and the Southern four. Since Lords reforms were abandoned, the central church bodies have started to consider reforming how Lords Spiritual are provided – probably by appointing particular bishops to the Upper House. However, given the workloads of bishops (and particularly of metropolitans), it might be prudent to consider sending lay persons, presbyters or deacons.

Notable churches listed are (pro-)cathedrals, former (pro-)cathedrals, † members of the Greater Churches group and certain minsters, abbeys and priories. This is not to imply that no other churches are notable, but that this was written by someone who doesn’t know every area of the country in great detail.

2015: “Metropolitans” have been redesignated as “Provincial Convenors” (i.e. the ex-officio Convenor of the Provincial College/House of Bishops, but who need not [or perhaps should not] chair either [perhaps the chair should be elected for a term]), to reflect a possible replacement of the metropolitan-diocesan suffragan relationship with a less authoritarian model of provincial bishops mutually accountable to one-another in their Provincial College and/or House. Either one or both of College (all bishops, diocesan and suffragan) or House (diocesans plus Dover/Westminster) could exist. The Convenor may or may not have substantial ‘duties’ in that role (primarily the Convenor, like a Metropolitan, might be seen as a leading spokesbishop in the region); if she didn’t, then there need be no delegation from Canterbury/London to Rochester/Westminster.

2016: Added (in dark red with prefix RS) ‘deputy area bishops’ for diocesan bishops, per the Bishop suffragan of Richmond in Leeds diocese. The bishop diocesan was apparently so overworked, he now has a deputy area bishop for his episcopal area. The diocesans’ episcopal areas in this project are much smaller, but nonetheless I have decided to suggest possible provision for this — although this adds around 40 more bishops: G*d save us! Also, I have amended the whole project to include the fourteen ‘forgotten’ lapsed suffragan sees apparently rediscovered by Church House last year.

Index to sections

First page | Next page: Province list & map

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