Ad Clerum from the Bishop of Stepney
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.