Nick Baines: ‘You cannot make women bishops just to have women bishops’

Nick Baines, head of a super-diocese, is optimistic about reconciling voices in the Church, but warns against complacency

It may be more than a decade since the Church of England agreed to the idea, but Nick Baines is wary of raising expectations over the imminent arrival in the pulpit of a female bishop. “It’s a work in progress. It’s not a foregone conclusion,” he warns.

In recent days the soon-to-be-inaugurated head of the first super-diocese in Yorkshire has been huddled  with his fellow episcopal power brokers, combing  over the fine detail of what is hoped to be the long-awaited deal to pave the way for female equality in the highest ranks of the clergy.

After the heartbreak of 2012, when a motion breaking the deadlock was so narrowly and bitterly defeated by the votes of laity, there has been much work going on behind the scenes to ensure there  will be no repeat of the tears and recriminations.

If – and Bishop Baines stresses “if” – the Synod finally finds an accommodation that will provide enough reassurances to swing enough naysayers in support, the sky could be the limit for the right female candidate.

“Once women can be  bishops and a diocese is  saying we ought to be open to women bishops then, by definition, those women could become Archbishop  of Canterbury, York, Durham or anywhere else,” he said.

Nick Baines says the rapid elevation of Justin Welby has blown ideas of time-serving ‘out of the water’ Nick Baines says the rapid elevation of Justin Welby has blown ideas of time-serving ‘out of the water’

Whereas once the primus inter pares would have been expected to serve a few decades in the Synod or the House of Bishops, the rapid elevation of Justin Welby has blown notions of time-serving “out of the water”, he adds.

It is a beguiling vision from the popular blogger and tweeter – a regular speaker on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2 – who has himself been tipped one day to occupy the highest post in the Church.

But at present, he must contend with the challenges posed by being the Bishop of West Yorkshire and the Dales – the head of the Church’s first new diocese since 1927, created by amalgamating the old diocese of Bradford (his former post), Wakefield, Leeds and Ripon. He is now responsible for 2.3 million souls.

The crucial Synod vote in York in July will consider the Plan B put together by Justin Welby based on classic principles of mediation and reconciliation used in resolving intractable conflicts.

There have been plenty of confidence-building meetings around the fringes of the Synod which, he says, have helped to “take the heat out… take away the totemic stuff to which people react”.

Now, he says: “No one should be fearful but everyone should be realistic. If the Church can’t do reconciliation we have real problems. That is at the core of what we are supposed to be about.”

But he is in little doubt that those first female church leaders will face potent challenges – not least from the media. And as a result the idea of positive discrimination or all-female shortlists is anathema.

“It’s a hard enough job for anyone – you cannot make a woman bishop simply to have a woman bishop. That way lies a real problem. But we have some superb women who to my mind ought to be in the episcopal pool, and will be, in due course,” he says.

A linguist who studied  Russian before joining GCHQ after university, Bishop Baines understands that differences in language and culture can  be both an obstacle and a key to understanding ourselves and others.

It was a lesson that was well learnt in his former diocese of Bradford, where he was also once a student and where earlier this month members of the far right group Britain First went into mosques brandishing Bibles.

It was a potentially dangerous flashpoint situation in a city which still bears  the scars of two waves of  serious rioting. Bishop Baines is full  of praise for the “maturity”  of the community response. He is proud of the Church’s work promoting integration there, where people are increasingly fed up with “being kicked”.

“In places like Bradford, we have church schools that are 95 per cent Muslim. Part of the reason we stick with that is because you are giving children the experience of wider culture they otherwise wouldn’t have,” he adds.

However, he concedes that the national debate on immigration is far from grown-up. “We should be proud that people want to come to Europe because they think there is security and safety. But to get a proper debate about immigration and who we need or who we allow to migrate, it has to be more intelligent and realistic about the history we have had and the global context in which we live,” he said.

“It is all very well we in Britain, Germany or France saying we’ll have the really classy immigrants. We’ll have the doctors and the nurses and people like that and  then we pump aid into countries where we have just nicked their intelligentsia. What sort of unholistic madness is that?”

Meanwhile, Bishop Baines says there is little chance of the Church’s recent work on food banks and welfare security ending any time soon.

“If you look at both political parties that are likely to be in power after the next election, both are still talking about  cutting further. That means that if the state rolls back any further it is going to leave huge gaps.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition