Ad Clerum from the Bishop Adrian Newman
Dear Stepney clergy colleagues
I am writing to you, slightly ahead of a public announcement later today, to let you know that I have decided to step back from full time ministry on health grounds. I will be resigning as Bishop of Stepney and will withdraw from public duties at the end of October.
For the past 12 years I have suffered from debilitating headaches, which rather reluctantly I have come to acknowledge as migraines. In recent years these have accentuated and deepened, to the extent that I now experience them for 48 hours every 8 days (I can almost set my clock by their regularity). Over the years I have learned how to manage (and work through) them, but every time they occur they leave me exhausted.
At the start of last year, I was put on new medication, which made an amazing difference to the headaches, but towards the middle of the year I found myself experiencing mental health issues in the form of anxiety – a completely new experience for me. It took 6 months for me to consider that the medication might be playing a part in this, and it now seems likely that the anxiety had a medical basis. So I’m now off medication, with significantly reduced anxiety, but the headaches are back with a vengeance.
The long and short of it is that I have reached the point where I feel I need to step aside and see if I can recover my health. I’ve looked at various ways of stepping back but eventually decided that I needed to stop entirely (rather than take sabbatical leave), so my intention is to give myself 6-9 months of rejuvenation and see if I can recover.
It has taken me a while to find the courage to make this decision, because it feels like a step into the unknown. But a combination of prayer and the encouragement of my family (who are the ones who have witnessed at close quarters the impact the migraines have on me) has convinced me that I need to see if a period away from the front line will help me recover.
Gill and I have a small cottage in Essex which will accommodate us over this period of ‘time out’. I have no plans for what happens at the end of this time, although I turn 60 at the end of this year and we have just had our first grand-child, so it feels like a good time to try and re-calibrate things and see what God might be calling me to do next. Gill will continue her curacy at St John of Jerusalem, and she also begins a new part-time hospital chaplaincy role in Harlow towards the end of August.
Bishop Pete (Broadbent) will become Acting Bishop of Stepney – again! – to cover the vacancy period, and I’ll make sure that all practical arrangements are properly communicated before I leave.
I have greatly enjoyed working alongside +Sarah and would love to have stayed longer. London’s leadership is in very good hands and promises an even brighter future.
It has been a huge privilege to be Bishop of Stepney, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in the whole of the country. I happen to think that you are the best group of clergy anywhere in the Church of England, and I can’t believe how blessed I have been to serve among you.
I will remain fully committed to Stepney for the remainder of my time here, and I am sure there will be opportunities in due course to say a proper farewell. For now, this comes with my prayers and thanks for your company on this journey of faith.
This was written by the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, former Bishop of Stepney.