I knew when I decided to vote againt the proposed reorganisation scheme for the Dioceses of Wakefield, Bradford and Ripon & Leeds that I would instantly be branded as backward thinking, anti-change, pro-status quo, deluded - and those are just the kinder things which have been bandied about since Saturday's vote. As I have this blog though I thought I'd take the opportunity to explain how a forward-thinking, pro-change, shaking up the status quo and clear sighted person might have found themselves voting as I did.
I did not vote 'no' as a sign of support for my Bishop. In fact the idea that people might have suspected me of toadying to the senior team could almost have been enough to make me vote 'yes'. Neither was I bullied or intimidated by anyone on the senior staff of my Diocese, depite the assertion on social media of those who should know better that this has been the case. I intend to work in this area for many years to come. I am fully invested in the mission of the church in this place in every way.
Our Diocese needs change. We need a sense of our identity, of belonging to a Diocese which is engaged in mission not in managing decline. We need structures to change, smarter working, we need the structures of our church to acknowledge and support the reality of ministry and mission for clergy in our present and future.
We need strong local leadership, archdeacons and Bishops who know the people they are dealing with, both lay and clergy, and who have the time to be both strategic and pastoral in their approach.
We need streamlined administration which is creatively and flexibly managed and outsourced when necessary. We also need administration with strong local knowledge, and a deep understanding of the true priorities of the church.
We need to show by action not just words that we are mission focused, and we need to back up our clergy when they try to do this, not simply pile on more expectation of administrative and organisational tasks.
There are those I think who would tell me I have just voted against a scheme that could deliver this. The point is none of the talking, none of the mountain of paperwork, none of the canvassing and preaching was able to convince me that the proposed scheme could deliver any of this. There wasn't even sufficient of a whiff of this for me to trust that God's will might be at work and to take a leap of faith. The only thing it could guarantee was years in which all senior and support staff were engaged in little other than re-organisation - inward looking, fretting about committee structures. It couldn't even guarantee me the local area Bishop's so much touted, let alone the central funding for them (much left to the discretion of future Diocesan Bishop and Church Commissioners kindness).
After all the time and effort the scheme simply wasn't good enough, and I was not prepared to vote for change for it's own sake.
My longing for change, and my deep desire to find God's will in all this remains. I am ready to be part of the progress and change my Diocese needs. I am looking forward. Perhaps as I look forward what I will see is the Archbishop of York telling me that this scheme is the only scheme. We will see.