It was announced at 10am this morning by 10 Downing Street that I have been nominated to become the first (Anglican) Bishop of Leeds for the new diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. The Archbishop of York is to present me in Leeds before we then go on a tour of the cathedrals in Wakefield, Bradford and Ripon. Tomorrow I will visit the three diocesan offices before then, finally, starting my sabbatical proper by going away for a few days.
I have not taken this appointment lightly. The last three years – the announcement of my appointment to Bradford came one week after publication of the Dioceses Commission proposals to dissolve three dioceses and create a single new one for the region – have been enjoyable, but demanding. I have agreed to this new appointment with hope, vision and realism. I am looking forward with confidence and curiosity to working with colleagues across the new dioceses as we do something unique for the Church of England: to create a new diocese that can compel us to focus on our basic mission: the worship of God, living out our vocation in and for the sake of the world, offering pastoral community, and seeing the church grow in number, depth and discipleship.
That last statement begs a lot of questions. In the new diocese we will have to face some hard questions as we re-shape how we do what we do for the sake of the Kingdom of God. We already bring enormous strengths, and we can look to the challenges and opportunities of the future with both enthusiasm and confidence. Soaked in prayer and drawn by hope, we have a unique invitation to create a diocese that chooses to renew its vision and strategic direction (how to make the vision real) – a matter of will and discipline as well as inclination.
I look forward to this new ministry and to getting to know people and places over the years ahead of us. Despite the inevitable million distractions, my prayer is simple: that the God who calls and equips us will, by his Spirit, fire our imagination, strengthen our resolve and keep our eyes focused on the Jesus we love and serve.
(I also now have to add Leeds United, Huddersfield Town, Barnsley and Halifax Town to Bradford City to my list of football affections…)