Appointing bishops is a long process. A year ago yesterday the General Synod voted to dissolve three dioceses and create a single one for West Yorkshire & the Dales, working it in five episcopal areas. Almost six months to the day later I was interviewed for the post of diocesan bishop and asked to do it. Just over three months later the new diocese came into being and I went into episcopal purdah for six weeks. Then, eleven months to the day after the vote to do all this, I legally became the Bishop of Leeds in the Confirmation of Election at York Minster (and received the 'spiritualities'). Today I have been to London to see the Queen at Buckingham Palace for a brief private ceremony at which I received the 'temporalities' of the office. This then allows me to be enthroned in the cathedral next week.
Well, if that sounds simple enough (though long…), I actually have be put in to three cathedrals: Wakefield, Bradford and Ripon. Next week will see yet another first in English history: a bishop being enthroned in three cathedrals in a single diocese. And, in-between these three services, I will also appear at Leeds Minster and Halifax Minster in order to be present in the two episcopal areas without a cathedral per se.
Now, I realise that this sounds longwinded and a little bit convoluted. That's because it is. It is a bizarre process, but one that works in and for normal bishops in normal dioceses. In the creation of a new diocese it has not been an ideal process of change, and we must learn from it for any future such radical change.
But, whatever the challenges of the process, we are now nearly there. My office has been in Leeds since before Easter, and my wife and I will now move house from Bradford to Leeds the week after the enthronements.
The use of the word 'enthronement' sounds a bit dodgy, too, doesn't it? It sounds grand and anachronistic and just a little bit pompous on the part of the person being seated. But, using it also offers an opportunity to reiterate what is actually happening: the bishop is being put into the seat of teaching, discipline and pastoral responsibility. (In the olden days teachers and preachers used to sit while the people stood.) So, what I feel when being enthroned – put into the 'cathedra' in the place where the cathedra is located, the … er … 'cathedral' – is the weight of the office, its demands and responsibilities. Nothing grand, but a certain heaviness and fear (in the proper sense of the word).
I did an interview with a journalist yesterday who asked if, when I was told I had got the Leeds post, I pulled my shirt over my face and ran round the bedroom pumping the air in celebration. (He watches too much football.) He didn't seem convinced when I replied that all I felt was a sense of challenge and responsibility, and a desire to get on with it quickly.
The point of it all is to lead the shaping of a new diocese to enable us better to live out our discipleship of Jesus, to give ourselves for the common good of our communities and region, to grow in confidence in outreach and apologetics, to re-shape the church so as to enable us to get our priorities right. We face hard decisions and there are nettles to be grasped; the challenges are huge, but the opportunities are even greater; the risks are there, but they are not to be feared. So, watch this space.
We're nearly there now. At last.
(I also managed to fit in an interview about leadership development for young people and a meeting about ecumenical developments while in London. And some suited bloke at St James's Park tube station shouted “Monster” at me as I walked past – he obviously doesn't work for the Diplomatic Corps.)