Saturday, 26 May 2018

Bishop of Norwich to retire

The Bishop on Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, has announced that he will be retiring early next year.

Bishop of Norwich announces retirement

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 26 May 2018 at 10:15am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Is he "retiring early" or retiring "early next year" or both?

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Monday, 28 May 2018 at 11:00am BST

The Bishop of Norwich was born on 19th January 1951, so he will be 68 when he retires. The Bishop of Huntingdon whose retirement is also announced on the T A Blog was born 2nd February 1952, so he will be 66 when he retires. Both could go on until they are 70 or even, so I believe, until the eve of their 71st birthday. I wish them both a long, healthy and happy retirement.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 28 May 2018 at 6:59pm BST

Sorry, Father David, but your belief in the ability to hold office until the eve of 71st birthday is not correct. The legislation is quite clear that no-one may continue to be an office-holder in the CofE beyond her/his 70th birthday (with the exception of the two archbishops who may be granted an extension of not more than one year but only by the written permission of the Supreme Governor).

We have had this discussion on TA before but at present I am unable to find it in the archives.

Posted by: RPNewark on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 8:29am BST

Diocesan bishops can also be given an extension of up to one year beyond the age of seventy. In this case the extension is given by the archbishop of the province. See here

Posted by: Peter Owen on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 9:22am BST

The Government and Sainsburys are both very much against any form of age discrimination - so who will be the first member of the clergy to challenge this "Ageist" edict?
Further, how does this ruling apply to a priest who retires from full-time stipendiary ministry at the age of 70 and then goes on to take up a House for Duty posting? When is the cutoff point then?
This is, of course, yet another "ecumenical matter" as Roman Catholic clergy can go on until they are 75 and Cardinals cease to be able to vote in papal conclaves when they reach the grand old age of 80. It would seem to me that there is one rule for the Romans and another for the Anglicans!

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 10:34am BST

With respect to the considerable experience of the last three commentators, you are all wrong. Since we amended the Terms of Service regs in Synod in Feb 2017 (with effect from July 2017) it has been possible for all dignitaries, including diocesan bishops (but not archbishops) to be extended for a specific term up to 75, and for parish clergy to be extended indefinitely on the same basis. See

Posted by: Neil Patterson on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 11:44am BST

I stand corrected; I had not realised that these new regulations applied to bishops.

However I note that they only apply to clergy holding office under common tenure. So any bishop appointed with freehold (eg the Bishop of Norwich) would have to voluntarily convert to common tenure before being able to take advantage of the regs. Also if I understand correctly, nobody has the right to an extension. In the case of a diocesan bishop it is at the discretion of the archbishop, subject to any guidance given by the Archbishops' Council. Has any such guidance been issued?

Posted by: Peter Owen on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 12:29pm BST

I believe that when Common Tenure came in, all the diocesan bishops signed up, to set a good example, or at least were supposed to. The Bishop of Hereford has stated that he has sought permission to stay beyond his 70th birthday next year (though not how long he has been granted, since that would make his retirement date public, and trigger the CNC mechanism).

The devil-in-the-detail of the new Regulations is the requirement for PCC consent for incumbent extensions, which may lead to some very awkward parish departures if it is refused.

Posted by: Neil Patterson on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 12:49pm BST

Rather than discuss the arcane arrangements for episcopal tenure beyond 70, perhaps we could focus on the exceptional public ministry of the Bishop of Norwich. The diocese will clearly miss him, as will the House of Bishops. He is by far the most experienced bishop on the bench. A wise, humble and willing servant, even when handed a poisoned chalice, such as when leading on GS2055. His fellow brother and sister diocesans could do well to learn from his episcopate. I for one will miss him on the General Synod.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 12:51pm BST

If bishops were appointed on non-renewable fixed terms of, say, 7 or 10 years, then it would make it easy to appoint both younger and older people, and indeed to ignore the number on a candidate's birth certificate.
There are very few jobs nowadays that have fixed retirement ages. Apart from clergy, I can only think of judges and of Oxford and Cambridge professors.

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 1:55pm BST

"If bishops were appointed on non-renewable fixed terms of, say, 7 or 10 years, then it would make it easy to appoint both younger and older people, and indeed to ignore the number on a candidate's birth certificate. "

I am very much in favour of fixed terms. It's not just the ageism, I wonder whether someone can really deliver the energy ideally needed for a protracted period without a sabbatical or enforced break?

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 6:19pm BST

As someone who lives in the diocese of Norwich, I echo Anthony Archer's words. +Graham is held in almost universal respect and affection here, both within the church and in wider society. He is widely viewed as the finest Bishop of Norwich in living memory and will be sorely missed.

Posted by: Marc S on Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 10:30am BST

Well said, Anthony Archer. +Graham has indeed been an excellent bishop. Back in 2012, I was hoping that he might be called to be ABC. Any such tenure would necessarily have been limited because of his age, but it would at least have given time for other candidates to gain experience as bishops, and demonstrate their abilities (or otherwise). That would have been a better solution in my view than the brave 'stab in the dark' of choosing someone with virtually zero experience, which has not worked out well.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 2:54pm BST

So, from the last two comments it would seem that the present Bishop of Norwich may well be regarded as the second-best Archbishop of Canterbury that we never had (after Richard Chartres in first place!). Perhaps had Graham James gone to Canterbury (although I seem to remember him wisely saying that he didn't want the job last time we had The Canterbury Stakes) we may well today have less managers on the bench and Angela Tilby would not have had to write an article about an Evangelical take-over of the Church of England?
The only time I ever heard him preach was when Bishop Lindsay Urwin was admitted as Administrator of the Shrine of OLW and I recall a first rate address. Bishop James also does a good Thought for the Day on the Home Service.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 31 May 2018 at 3:26pm BST

Judging bishops by the quality of their contributions to Thought for the Day is to apply a test which is severe by reference to the competition. Bishop James is indeed good, but so is Bishop Lord Harries and Bishop James Jones, and of course the competition is not confined to the CofE or indeed even Christian denominations. Rabbi Lord Sacks would probably get my vote. But I was touched to read Father David’s reference to the Home Service. I was in my shorts when the BBC introduced Radio 1-4 in 1967. Does he have a FM radio yet?

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Thursday, 7 June 2018 at 8:41pm BST
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