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 (March 1), 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.
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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.
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.”
Bishop James will retire on August 31 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.