As part of the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform agenda, an independent panel of experts has praised the Diocese of Leeds for its ‘strength of purpose’ and for the huge demands of time and energy that have been used in the reorganisation of the new diocese.
A national team of peer reviewers recently visited the senior leadership team as part of a series of visits to dioceses across the country to ensure accountability in the use of central resources and grants.
The reviewers say that the Diocese of Leeds has been on a ‘challenging journey’ but that there is “a degree of hope that strong building blocks are now in place, that the hard work is beginning to bear fruit, and that the diocese is well‐placed to focus on the implementation of its emerging strategy.”
The Church of England’s Renewal and Reform process is aimed at reversing the decline of the church so that it becomes a growing church open to and for everyone in England. The Renewal and Reform programme covers issues of mission, strategy, finance, management, and training.
Every diocese has now taken part – we were the last, barring Sodor and Man - and the objective is ultimately to help each diocese’s mission and finance to be strengthened. Peer review isn’t an inspection, nor an audit, and the specific conclusions will not be published by the National Church.
The review took place on 13th December . The Review Group of three people who are all involved in their own dioceses, but also have expertise in various areas of church life, such as finance, leadership and church growth, spent the day with a group of senior leaders and also spoke to individuals (clergy and lay) from both urban and rural areas. The Reviewers were to be seen as critical friends and were both challenging and supportive. Their questions were based around a pre-assessment document, which we prepared for them in advance; this looked at what we considered to be our strengths and weaknesses in a range of areas. The Reviewers came well prepared and had a good understanding of our Diocese. They questions were relevant and their feedback will also help other dioceses.
As readers of the review will see (which includes the self-assessment), they left us with some points to consider – exploring our partnership with the Board of Education, developing our communications around our vision and strategy; some tough questions around strengthening the finances and how we might collect a greater percentage of Share and how we ensure the development and training of both clergy and laity.
Overall the Reviewers gave us very positive feedback and will not return before the next required session in two years.
Commenting on the review, Bishop Nick said, "The Bishop's Strategy Group, now pulling together our preliminary work from 2017, will be working at ensuring that the Board and officers will be able to make clear and prioritised decisions about resources and direction of travel in the next few years.
"It is vital that all the work of the diocese and its support/administration functions are coordinated, prioritised and disciplined as we build on the foundation set since the creation of the diocese at Easter 2014."