Bishop of Norwich announces his retirement
The Bishop of Norwich, the longest-serving current Bishop in the Church of England, has announced he is to retire, with his final public service in November. Keith Morris reports.
In February the Rt Rev Graham James celebrated the 25th anniversary of his episcopal consecration, having already celebrated 40 years of priesthood in September 2016.
In his announcement, Bishop Graham (aged 67), said: “I intend to retire as Bishop of Norwich early next year, and will conclude my public ministry at a service in Norwich Cathedral on Sunday November 25, the final Sunday of the Christian year. I will use the following weeks to draw my involvement with many local organisations and charities to a close, and also to disengage from a number of national responsibilities.
“It's been a privilege and honour to serve as Bishop of Norwich for almost 19 years, and Julie and I will find it hard to leave. We are returning to Cornwall (to Truro) but the Diocese of Norwich and her people will always have a big place in our hearts. Thank you for all your support. Please pray for us as we prepare for this new chapter in our lives, as well as for those who will be responsible for the appointment of my successor.”
Bishop Graham is patron or president of over 30 organisations. He has been an active member of the House of Lords since 2004, and was invited to join the Lords Select Committee on Communications in 2011.
He is also the Church of England’s lead spokesman on media issues and a regular guest on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day. In 2017 he was appointed chair of the independent Paterson Inquiry by the Government.
Paying tribute, the Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Revd Alan Winton said: “Bishop Graham’s ministry and presence in the diocese will be hugely missed by so many people. We are fortunate to have been served by a man of such immense gifts and such a tremendous capacity for work and friendship. There are few corners of the life of the diocese where he has not made an impact over almost two decades, and so many people whose lives he has touched and influenced for the better.
“Bishop Graham has been widely known and appreciated as an excellent preacher and communicator and as someone to whom many turned for advice and wise counsel. The generous hospitality offered at Bishop’s House by Bishop Graham and Julie has helped foster extensive friendships within and beyond the church. The Diocese of Norwich is rightly proud of a bishop who has made such a significant contribution to the wider church and country, not least as a Member of the House of Lords for these last 14 years, and currently in his chairing of the Paterson Inquiry.
“For over 40 years, Bishop Graham has served God faithfully, first as priest, and then as bishop, and he has been tireless in commending his faith to others. We hold him and Julie in our prayers for these final months with us as they prepare for what we hope and pray will be the happiest of retirements.”
The Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick, said: “Over the last seven years I have found Bishop Graham to be the most wonderful senior colleague. His combination of down-to-earth wisdom, clear-sighted theological thinking, humour, wit, empathetic kindness and generous hospitality became evident very quickly.
“It is most evident too how deeply embedded he is across the whole fabric of the county of Norfolk’s life, and in the Waveney Valley. It is hard to imagine how a Diocesan Bishop in a diocese like this could have done a more complete job. He and Julie, who has been an indispensable part of his ministry, are very dearly loved. We – I – will miss them enormously, and I will always be grateful for the privilege of sharing his episcopal ministry.”
The Dean of Norwich, the Very Revd Jane Hedges, said: “Bishop Graham’s departure from this diocese is going to leave an enormous gap in all of our lives. It has been a tremendous privilege as Dean to work alongside him for these past four years and to witness his ministry amongst such a wide range of people. All who have experienced his preaching and teaching will know that he is an outstandingly gifted speaker, his words always striking just the right note in both a profound and often amusing way.
“We must be one of the happiest staff teams in the Church of England in a diocese in which clergy and laity alike feel cherished and cared for, and this is all down to his strong and supportive leadership. “We feel particularly blessed at the Cathedral to have had a Bishop who joins us for Morning Prayer each day as well as for many major services throughout the year, who meets with us regularly, and who supports our work in many practical ways.”
The Chief Executive (Diocesan Secretary), Richard Butler, said: “I’ve had the immense pleasure to work closely with Bishop Graham for the past nine years and have known him for many more. One of his many gifts is making each person he meets feel valued and included. His and Julie’s generous and kind hospitality has been greatly appreciated by all who have experienced it and they will be sorely missed.”
Mo Peddle, from Soul Church, said: "Bishop Graham’s deep understanding of theology, along with his compassionate and empathetic acceptance of people across all spectrums of life, commands our respect. He is humble in his greatness and honoured by all who have ever had the benefit of hearing him preach, or who have witnessed his involvement in causes close to his heart, or who have watched him encourage younger people along their own path. He will be greatly missed."
Bishop Graham’s final Sunday in the diocese will be on Sunday 25 November 25. He will be presiding and preaching at Norwich Cathedral at the 10.30am service and there will be a farewell service for him and Julie at 4pm.
The appointment of a new Bishop of Norwich will be through the Crown Nominations Commission. The Sovereign (advised by the Prime Minister) makes the final appointment.
Read more and see more pictures at Diocese of Norwich
Pictured above is Bishop Graham James.
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