The debate before lunch was a fascinating one about what we call dioceses. The reason why we were talking about this was to do with the creation of the new ‘super-diocese’ of …. well is it West Yorkshire and the Dales or is it Leeds? Legally, of course, it is called the Diocese of Leeds but the Diocese of Bradford is asking the church to reconsider the naming of Sees so that they can be named after a region instead of only after cities.
On one level of course, this seems exactly the sort of thing that the church would enjoy spending a great deal of time talking about. But there are some important principles involved. One is historic. When dioceses were first being established the convention was that cathedrals and therefore bishoprics were founded in cities. In contrast, monasteries were founded in the desert and so these two models of the church, episcopal and monastic had these distinct loci.
Another principle is that of particularity. As the Bishop of Chelmsford said, ‘Jesus was known as Jesus of Nazareth not Jesus of the Palestinian area.’ The incarnation is totally framed in the particular – an entry of the divine into a particular moment in history, in a particular place, with a particular identity. This principle finds its expression in parish as well as diocese, the church ministering in the particular locality, named. Cathedrals as well are part of this, founded and established in an urban environment, even if that urban environment is small.
But is this all important? I was thinking about this as we were filming the documentary on the cathedral which will be broadcast a week today in the Cathedrals series on BBC4. ‘Living God’, our cathedral programme for our life at Southwark for this year, is about how we live well, with God, in the city, in the particular place where we are and where we are called to be the church. And I firmly believe that the city is a place of salvation, after all it is the ultimate destination of the people of God, the city of God, the new Jerusalem.
The Diocesan Motion passed and so it will return to us for further debate. It will be good though to talk through these issues together for what we call things is important, it defines us.
Lord, we are called by your name;
leave us not, O Lord our God.