Anglican Bishop of Lancaster announces his retirement

The Anglican Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Geoff Pearson, has announced his retirement after nearly 43 years of ministry.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 11:16 am
Updated Monday, 16th January 2017, 12:21 pm

Bishop Geoff, 65, who has held the Suffragan Bishop role for more than a decade, said: “I have a mixture of feelings as this announcement is made. There is a real sadness about leaving colleagues and being part of the momentum that is building around the Diocesan Vision 2026.

“It has been a huge privilege to work in Lancashire with many lovely clergy and people … but I still have six months left to focus particularly on the Vision agenda and mission opportunities.”

Ordained in 1974, Bishop Geoff studied at St John’s College and Cranmer Hall, both in Durham. He was Curate of the parish of Kirkheaton in Wakefield Diocese from 1974 to 1977 before moving to Blackburn Diocese for the first time to be Curate-in-Charge and later Vicar of The Redeemer Church in Blackburn from 1977 to 1985.

In 1985 Bishop Geoff moved from Blackburn to London to work for one of the General Synod Boards - the Board for Mission and Unity – where he worked mainly with Diocesan Missioners and Evangelists. While there, he was also seconded to work as Evangelism Secretary for the British Council of Churches. That post took him around the UK as well as to Australia and the Philippines.

Another move then followed … to St Bartholomew’s Parish Church, Roby, in his native Liverpool where he was Vicar from 1989 to 2006; Area Dean from 2002-2006 and an Honorary Canon of Liverpool Cathedral from 2003-2006.

In 2006 Bishop Geoff was appointed to the role of Suffragan Bishop of Lancaster by the then Diocesan Bishop, Rt Rev. Nicholas Reade.

Since 2008 he has also ‘doubled-up’ as Associate Priest for St James’ Church in Shireshead, near Forton, which is situated next to his house and office in the village. Bishop Geoff understands he is the only Bishop in the Church of England who also looks after a local church.

In the decade since his appointment, Bishop Geoff has played a pivotal role in many Diocesan initiatives as a key member of the Bishop’s Leadership Team.

Reflecting on some of the highlights he said: “I have some wonderful memories of my time as Bishop of Lancaster and I give thanks to God for His call and His sustaining grace.

“I have tried to create an atmosphere where there is a passion for Jesus and for mission.

“Three prayer walks around the diocese underlined the kindness and hospitality of many local churches. For young people I helped establish Confirmation Camps; reached 100 Child Friendly Church Awards and the trip to South Africa in summer 2016 with a group of youngsters from the Diocese was a particular joy.

“I have been closely involved with two clergy training institutions, Cranmer Hall, Durham, and St Mellitus, North West, based in Liverpool. Both of these colleges are flourishing with exciting, young ordinands coming through.

“I support work among the homeless, especially in Lancaster; I am patron of ‘Run 4 The World’, a body which has raised lots of money and also involved local churches and I enjoy encountering children who have taken up my Bible Challenge. The latest Challenge that began in October 2016 is involving over 8,000 boys and girls across the County.

“These days I also write a weekly column in the Lancaster Guardian and I have been touched by the responses I have received to that column.”

Married for 43 years to Jean, the couple have three children and four grandchildren.

Bishop Geoff continued: “My wife, Jean, has been a fantastic support throughout my ministry and she has helped with hospitality; leading retreats; developing a Quiet Garden as well as preaching, teaching and pastoral care for clergy spouses.

“I think I am the only bishop in the Church of England who looks after a local church. I have done that for more than eight years and it has blessed me and my wider ministry.

“The church family in Shireshead, Forton, has been really supportive and I will miss their fellowship and loving encouragement.

“Laying aside 43 years as Priest and Bishop will be a huge challenge but I am also excited to discover what God has for us in the next stage of our life and ministry.”

Bishop Geoff’s final farewell will be at the Diocesan Synod meeting on July 15, which will be followed by a farewell service in Blackburn Cathedral.

Commenting on Bishop Geoff’s announcement, the Diocesan Bishop, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, said: “Bishop Geoff has given a lifetime of service to the Church, including more than a decade as Bishop of Lancaster. In terms of numbers of years since being ordained, Bishop Geoff is one of the longest-serving Church of England clergy currently in the Diocese.

“I am so grateful for his support during my first few years in the role of Diocesan Bishop. His experience has been invaluable and he will be really missed by me and the whole Diocese.

“There will be further opportunities to thank Bishop Geoff nearer the time of his departure but in the meantime we pray Geoff and Jean God’s blessing in these last few months in the Diocese.”

And fellow Suffragan Bishop, Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, added: “Bishop Geoff has made a massive contribution to the life of the Blackburn Diocese and he will be missed enormously.

“His passion for the Gospel, his boundless enthusiasm and his passionate care for the clergy and lay people in his care have all contributed to a very precious ministry of love across Lancashire. I have learnt so much from his wisdom and experience and have been privileged to count him and Jean not just as colleagues but also as friends.’