BY JOE JENKINS
WHILE PLANS FOR a new Thames Valley Diocese were dropped this week, further talks between the Portsmouth and Birmingham Dioceses to decide on the future of pastoral care in the region have not been ruled out.
Drawing to a close the five month consultation period in the Portsmouth Diocese, the Rt Rev Crispian Hollis, Bishop of Portsmouth, declared a "hung parliament" of opinion.
"I have to say that the consultation has not produced a conclusive result," he said. "Even within the Thames Valley there is little evidence of an overwhelming desire for change. In coming to my decision, I have had to face the pastoral needs of the whole diocese."
Plans originally hatched in the 1970s were being considered because it was felt that the northern tip of the Portsmouth Diocese and the southern tip of the Birmingham Diocese were too far from the immediate pastoral attention of their respective bishop and Archbishop.
Bishop Hollis said that he had not found "an irresistable desire" for diocesan boundary reform and conceded that his decision "could be seen as a lost opportunity and a source of disappointment to some and anger to others."
Bishop Hollis announced a compromise measure which involves greater dialogue and his decision to spend one week in six in the north of the Diocese at St John's Convent in Reading. "We need to find ways of growing closer together as a collaborative community, inspired by a common sense of mission," he said.
A northern Diocesan priest told the Herald: "My heart said yes, my head said no. It was not viable."
However, Mgr Raymond Lawrence, who headed Bishop Hollis's consultation, suggested that this was not the end of the affair. "I would imagine, as this is the third time we looked at it, I don't see why there couldn't be a fourth," he said.