Published: 09:54, 13 October 2020
| Updated: 09:59, 13 October 2020
A long serving bishop has announced his retirement.
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, the Bishop of Rochester, revealed his decision in a message to parishioners, clergy and lay ministers this morning.
He will step down from the role at the end of next July and retire to Birmingham with his wife Bridget.
Bishop James has been in position as the head of the Diocese of Rochester – which covers Medway, north and west Kent, Bromley and Bexley – for 10 years and has been a vocal campaigner on issues of homelessness and criminal justice.
His role as a Lords Spiritual saw him speak in the House of Lords on the issues.
Another national role saw Bishop James become the Bishop to Her Majesty's Prisons.
He said his time leading the diocese had been a privilege he was very thankful for.
The Rt Rev James Langstaff announces his retirement and reflects on his times as Bishop of Rochester
Bishop James said: “I have been so pleased to be here and to have been part of the life and story of the Church within this Diocese, its mission and its Christian presence.
"I’ve hugely valued being able to be on the ground in our parishes, with our chaplains, in our mission initiatives, and not least with some of our community engagement.
“One of the highlights for me has been to see all those individuals who have responded to God’s calling, whether through confirmation, or conversion, or in ordination or lay ministry in its many forms.
"To see people on a journey of discipleship is the most important thing of all and I’ve been really grateful to be part of that."
Bishop James has also been involved in several key issues within the Church of England itself, including chairing the committee which brought forward the legislation enabling women to be ordained as bishops.
He has also played a major role leading an initiative to increase black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in the senior leadership of the church.
Bishop James added: “While there have been immense challenges and continue to be so, in so many ways I have discerned God to be at work here as churches, through their energy, commitment and partnerships with others, have made a difference to their communities.
"If I have been able to play a small part in enabling that to happen, I am grateful."
When he retires, he will be succeeded by the Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Rev Simon Burton-Jones, until a permanent bishop is selected.
Bishop Simon added: "It’s hard to imagine the weight of responsibility in being a diocesan Bishop.
"Bishop James has shown great grace and dignity in the decade leading Rochester, held a clear sense of the Gospel in front of him and used an excellent strategic brain to plot courses, being open to ideas and suggestions from lots of sources.
"I have been so pleased to be here and to have been part of the life and story of the Church within this Diocese, its mission and its Christian presence"
“Having worked closely with Bishop James throughout his tenure, I have found him to be unfailingly kind, even-tempered, able to see the funny side and, with Bridget, greatly hospitable to the many users of Bishopscourt.
“We wish them a very happy retirement together when it comes, within walking distance of Edgbaston cricket ground (by chance, of course) and despite the strange times we live in, hope the final months of his tenure give him a measure of what he has accomplished in Christ."
A farewell event is being planned for July 3 and 4, 2021, the diocese says according to Covid-19 restrictions. Informal events will also take place throughout the year.