Bishop James announces his retirement

Bishop James announces his retirement

First published on: 13th October 2020

The Bishop of Rochester, The Rt Rev James Langstaff, has announced today, Tuesday 13 October, that he intends to retire at the end of July next year.
Bishop James has served in his role as the Diocesan Bishop of Rochester for 10 years, during which time he has taken on significant national portfolios such as Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons and as a Lords Spiritual, speaking in the House of Lords particularly on issues such as homelessness and criminal justice.
Within the Church of England, he has played a key role in some of the defining issues within the life of the Church, including chairing the committee which brought forward the legislation enabling women to be ordained as bishops, and leading an initiative working to increase Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation in senior leadership in the Church of England.

Announcing his decision to retire to clergy, lay ministers and parishioners across the Diocese - which covers the areas of Medway, north and west Kent, and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley - Bishop James said it had been a huge privilege to serve the people and parishes of the Diocese and to be part of so many journeys of faith:
“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.”
He also expressed his gratitude for the many years of fruitful partnerships, community enrichment and Christian witness he has experienced:
“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.”
Reflecting on the announcement and Bishop James’ time in post, the Rt Rev Simon Burton-Jones, the Bishop of Tonbridge said:

“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.”

He continued:

“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. “
Covid-19 restrictions permitting, plans are being formulated for a farewell event over the weekend of the 3 and 4 July, 2021, as well as other more informal occasions throughout the year at which people across the Diocese will be able to say goodbye. Further details will be made available in early 2021.

Information setting out the process and timetable for appointing Bishop James’ successor will be announced by the Diocese of Rochester in due course.


To arrange an interview with Bishop James, or for more details, please contact: Jennifer Ross, Communications Manager for the Diocese of Rochester and Bishops’ Media Adviser on or 07526 171 583

Notes to Editors

  • High resolution pictures of Bishop James can be downloaded here (Please credit: The Diocese of Rochester).
  • A Bishop in a Profile – a pre-recorded interview prepared for this occasion by the Diocese of Rochester, reflecting on Bishop James’ time in the Diocese and wider ministry, is available to view here (Please credit: The Diocese of Rochester). For a version without music, or to arrange clips, please contact:
  • The Diocese of Rochester’s Vacancy in See Committee will now work with the Crown Nominations Commission to develop a plan and process to appoint the next Bishop of Rochester.
  • A ‘vacancy in see’ is the period between the diocesan bishop moving on and another one being appointed.
  • Bishop Simon Burton-Jones, Bishop of Tonbridge, is the assistant Bishop within the Diocese of Rochester, and upon Bishop James’ retirement, will take on responsibility for the Diocese in the interim.


About Bishop James
James Langstaff was born in Germany, where his father was stationed as part of the British Army. Having spent some of his childhood in Germany, James moved back to the UK with his family, where he went on to study Philosophy Politics & Economics at the University of Oxford.

He trained for ordination at St John’s College Nottingham and was ordained a deacon in 1981 and served his curacy at St Peter’s Farnborough in the Diocese of Guildford.

Moving to the Diocese of Birmingham in 1986, he served two incumbencies, first at St Matthew & St Clement Nechells (1986-1996), and later at Holy Trinity Sutton Coldfield (2000-2004). He was also Area Dean of the Birmingham City Deanery (1995-1996), Chaplain to the Bishop of Birmingham (1996-2000) and finally Area Dean of Sutton Coldfield from 2002 to 2004.

He was consecrated the Bishop of Lynn in 2004 (Norwich Diocese) where he served for 6 years before being appointed as Bishop of Rochester in 2010, becoming also Bishop to HM Prisons in 2013.  In 2014 he entered the House of Lords as one of the 26 Lords Spiritual.

Bishop James served on the Board of FCH Housing and Care, a social housing organisation in the Midlands, from 1988-2002.  He then chaired the board of Flagship Housing Group in East Anglia from 2005-2010.  He was a Trustee and Chair of the ecumenical charity Housing Justice between 2006 and 2020.

Bishop James is married to Bridget who has recently retired from a career in healthcare working with homeless people, in prisons and as an alcohol and drugs specialist.  She currently chairs the Trustees of Kenward Trust, a rehabilitation charity based in Kent.  

They have two children, Alasdair, who works in the food industry, and Helen, who lectures in forensic anthropology at the University of Dundee.  They were delighted recently to become grandparents for the first time.