Diocese of Carlisle

    The Bishop of Carlisle announces plans to retire

    Latest News
    1 March 2023

    The Bishop of Carlisle has announced he is set to retire after more than 20 years’ senior leadership ministry in Cumbria.

    The Rt Rev James Newcome and his wife Alison first came to the county in 2002, following his appointment as the Suffragan Bishop of Penrith. Seven years later he was appointed the Diocesan bishop.

    This morning Bishop James has sent a letter to all clergy and Church of England schools in the Diocese, signalling his plans to retire at the end of August. A special service of thanksgiving for his ministry is planned for Sunday 16 July at Carlisle Cathedral.

    In his letter he writes: “Having served here as Bishop for the last 21 years I need hardly say how much I have come to love this beautiful county and its wonderful people. It has been an immense privilege to live and work in Cumbria, and while it would be a slight exaggeration to say that I have enjoyed every single minute of my ministry here (!) I can honestly report that these have been among the happiest and most fulfilling years of my life, for which I am profoundly grateful. I was astonished when God first called us to this Diocese: but am now so very glad that he did, and I have particularly valued his gracious provision of outstanding colleagues and so many kind and loyal friends.”

    During his time in the Diocese, Bishop James has worked tirelessly to build strong cross-denominational relations, resulting in Cumbria becoming England’s first ecumenical county in November 2011. He has also been at the forefront of the creation of the county’s ecumenical God for All vision and strategy, with close ties forged between four partner denominations as well as companion denominations. He reached out to offer support and encouragement to those badly affected by devastating floods in 2005, 2009 and 2015 and led prayers for the west Cumbrian community following the shootings in 2010. Over recent years he has spearheaded the Diocesan response to the Covid pandemic.

    Bishop James has also held a number of national roles for the Church. For 10 years he has been the Church of England’s ‘lead bishop’ on health and social care in the House of Lords and co-chaired the Archbishops’ Commission on the reimagining of social care which recently published a landmark report.

    In 2014 he was appointed Clerk of the Closet to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, a role which has seen him head up the Ecclesiastical Household, with oversight of the College of Chaplains and with responsibility to introduce new diocesan bishops to the Sovereign. He has chaired the Church of England’s National Stewardship Committee and was President of St John’s College, Durham for six years as well as having co-chaired the faith and order talks between the Church of England and both the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland. In 2013 he was also appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Cumbria and until 2021 was national chaplain to the Royal British Legion.

    The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev and Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to have served alongside Bishop James. His love for Jesus Christ shines through in all he does.

    “As the lead Bishop on Health and Social Care and medical ethics, he has been a voice for the most vulnerable in our society for many years, serving the communities across Cumbria and beyond. As a co-chair of the Reimagining Care Commission, Bishop James has helped set out a vision for social care in which everyone, regardless of age or ability, can live a flourishing life. I have hugely enjoyed my visits to the diocese of Carlisle and also want to thank Bishop James for his personal support for me as Archbishop. I offer my heartfelt thanks and prayers for his faithful service over many years and wish him a blessed and fruitful retirement when it comes.”

    In the letter circulated today, Bishop James adds: “Thank you more warmly than I can say for your friendship, encouragement, and partnership in the Gospel during the time we have been able to share here in Carlisle Diocese.

    “Leaving Cumbria will be a huge wrench for Alison as well as for me.We would both love to stay here – but convention does not permit, and anyway we need to be rather closer (geographically) to our growing tribe of grand-children.”

    Bishop James will maintain ties with the county through his role as Co-chair of the Rose Castle Foundation, a peace building organisation which is based at Rose Castle, the former historic home of the Bishops of Carlisle.

    The Bishop of Penrith, the Rt Rev Rob Saner-Haigh, who previously worked as Chaplain to Bishop James, said: “Bishop James will be hugely missed in Cumbria. We have been blessed by his kindness and pastoral care, his teaching and his leadership over so many years, all helped hugely by his famous sense of humour! He has led us through many different challenges, and even tragedies, with a deep love and care for all the people and communities of this county. He has shared, and lived, the hope of Jesus Christ throughout his ministry here and helped us know that God is for all.

    “Speaking personally, I have always been grateful to have a wise bishop I could trust, whose prayers and care I could rely on, and who never took himself too seriously. As Bishop James himself would say, behind every great man stands a surprised woman, and we are equally grateful to Alison, for her care, her welcome and generosity over 20 years. Alongside the legacy she leaves in pastoral care, she also leaves two wonderful gardens in Kendal and Keswick which have been transformed through her vision and energy. We give heartfelt thanks to God for them both. We will miss them hugely and wish them well for a long and happy retirement.”

    Bishop James will retire on 31 August and his powers will be delegated to the Bishop of Penrith during a Vacancy in See, as work begins to appoint his successor. He and Alison plan to move to the west Oxfordshire area to be nearer family.

    A special filmed message from Bishop James can be viewed on the Diocese of Carlisle’s YouTube channel.


    Notes to editors

    Biographical details:

    • Bishop James is 69 and was born in Aldershot in 1953.
    • He is married to Alison and has four children (Edward, Clare, Alexander and Anna) and six grandchildren.
    • After reading History at Trinity College, Oxford, he attended theological college in Cambridge and was ordained in 1978.
    • From 1978 to 1982 he was Curate at Leavesden All Saints in Watford.
    • From 1982 to 1994 he was Priest-in-Charge and then Vicar at Bar Hill Church in Cambridge and also served as Rural Dean for North Stowe.
    • From 1994 to 2002 he served as Residentiary Canon at Chester Cathedral, also serving as Diocesan Director of Ordinands and Director of Education and Training.
    • From 2002 to 2009 he served as the Suffragan Bishop of Penrith.
    • From 2009 to present he has been the Bishop of Carlisle.
    • In 2013 he was elevated to the House of Lords as a Lord Spiritual and has served as the Church of England’s lead bishop for health and social care.
    • In 2013 he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Cumbria.
    • Since 2014 he has been Clerk of the Closet, heading up the Ecclesiastical Household for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and King Charles.
    • Click here to read the Reimagining Care Commission Report.

    For further information contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Head of Communications, on 07469 153658 or at communications@carlislediocese.org.uk.