His retirement comes three months ahead of the ending of Ripon and Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford dioceses and the creation of a new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales at Easter 2014. The new diocese will be led by a new diocesan Bishop of Leeds and four other Area Bishops - Ripon, Wakefield, Bradford and Huddersfield.
Between January 1st and the starting date for the the new diocese at Easter 2014, Bishop James Bell, the Bishop of Knaresborough will have Episcopal responsibility for the diocese of Ripon and Leeds. Bishop Bell will become the bishop for the Ripon Episcopal Area under the new arrangements.
Bishop John visits Black Sheep brewery as he gets to know the diocese in 2000
Bishop James Bell paid tribute to Bishop John Packer, saying, “John is probably the most collegial bishop in the Church of England and one of the most humane. That generous collegiality and warm humanity, together with his absolute integrity, abounding pastoral care and generous hospitality have shaped who and how we are as a Diocese. His passion for justice combined with transparent sincerity have won appreciation for his ministry regionally and nationally.”
Bishop John Packer will be 67 years old when he retires and will have the distinction of being the first and only ‘Bishop of Ripon and Leeds’. The new title for the diocese and bishop was created in 2000. He entered ordained ministry in 1970 as Curate at St Helier in Southwark, then served at Abingdon in Oxford Diocese. He was a tutor at Ripon College Cuddesdon, Vicar of Wath-upon-Dearne and then Team Rector at Sheffield Manor. He became Archdeacon of West Cumberland and was later appointed as Bishop of Warrington. Six years after becoming Bishop of Ripon and Leeds in 2000, he was called to the House of Lords where he has had an impact as Bishops' Parliamentary Spokesperson for immigration and asylum, urban affairs and welfare reform.
Bishop John meets the press on day of announcement in Ripon, 2000
In the letter today announcing his retirement, Bishop John says that by retiring in January the way will be open for a new Bishop of Leeds, whose appointment is expected to be announced in February, to prepare to come to live in Hollin House, north Leeds, the present residence of the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.
Bishop John writes, “It has been an immense privilege to serve in this diocese for the past thirteen years, to share mission and ministry with you, and to experience so many acts of generosity – as well as of challenge….Barbara and I have enjoyed living in both Sharow and Headingley and we look forward to the next stage of our lives in Whitley Bay in North Tyneside.”
He adds, “It has been a particular delight to work with [Bishop] James for the past nine years and I am pleased that he will have the responsibility for guiding Ripon and Leeds into the new diocese, where he will continue to work as Bishop of Ripon.”