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Church of England Bishops: James Langstaff


James Henry Langstaff (born 27 June 1956) is the current Bishop of Rochester. He was educated at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.  He is married to Bridget and they have two adult children, Alasdair and Helen.



Bishop James Langstaff  trained for ministry at St John’s College, Nottingham and was ordained in 1982.

His ordained ministry began with a curacy at St Peter’s Farnborough, after which he was Vicar of St Matthew’s Duddeston and St Clement’s Nechells. He was then chaplain to the Bishop of Birmingham Mark Santer for three years,  Area Dean of Sutton Coldfield and  vice chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance.  He was  the Suffragan Bishop of Lynn in the Diocese of Norwich from June 2004 to December 2010.

The Crockford’s entry is as follows:

* +LANGSTAFF, The Rt Revd James Henry. b 56. St Cath Coll Ox BA77 MA81 Nottm Univ BA80. St Jo Coll Nottm 78. d81 p 82 c 04. C Farnborough Guildf 81-84 and 85-86; P-in-c 84-85; P-in-c Duddeston w Nechells Birm 86; V 87-96; RD Birm City 95-96; Bp’s Dom Chapl 96-00; P-in-c Short Heath 98-00; R Sutton Coldfield H Trin 00-04; AD Sutton Coldfield 02-04; Suff Bp Lynn Nor 04-10; Bp Roch from 10.



I have not found any – I would imagine his outside interests keep him pretty occupied.


In an interview for Kent Life, he was reported as follows:

 Bishop James, a youthful and very smiley 55, tells me he is particularly interested in urban regeneration initiatives and social and affordable housing.

And this in no token interest, either – he is Chair of Housing Justice, the national voice of the churches on housing and homelessness. And following the coldest December on record in England for the last 100 years, he has launched a ‘Coats for Christmas’ campaign, to provide coats and other winter clothing for children and young people in the Diocese of Rochester who might otherwise have to go without.

And having spent 11 years of his life as a parish priest in some of the toughest areas of Birmingham, Bishop James has real experience and understanding of what pressures both people and priests face in challenging communities.

He also has international experience to draw upon from his time as Bishop of Lynn, when a real source of joy for him was the link with the Province of Papua New Guinea and of which time he says: “It has been a huge privilege to develop friendships with Christians in a very different culture, from whom I have learnt so much.”…

Clearly used to being very ‘hands on’, how different is his role now? “It’s more about putting the right people in the right places with the right projects.

“Inevitably my role is ‘{darting} about’, which is great in a way, however, there are some particular areas of engagement in which I have a track record  such as the criminal justice system, housing and homelessness, so those are areas where I shall continue to show an interest.”

Bishop James “hugely appreciates” the work of chaplains and their chaplaincy teams in prisons and made early visits to Rochester Youth Offender Institute and HM Prison Cookham Wood. For the last two years in his former role he made a point of going to visit one of the prisons in Norfolk on Christmas Day.

So what will Christmas in Rochester bring this year? “Christmas is strange as a Bishop, because when you’re in a parish you’re very much rooted in your community and there’s a whole kind of flow and build up of the whole community, whereas for me in my role now, it’s less like that,” he says.“So although, for example, I will do one of the Christmas services at the cathedral, I also want to go to a parish where they haven’t got a vicar at the moment. Last Christmas I took the midnight service at Swanscombe because they were vicar-less at the time and it was really nice to be able to do that.


A glowing testimonial from Bishop Nick Baines:

James brings all the right qualities and experience to his new ministry. He will be pastorally strong and has both Church and world in a healthy perspective. He will be good news for clergy and people of Rochester.

Thirdly, he brings vast experience of both urban and rural ministry and has the wisdom that derives from that experience. Good news for communities in the diocese.

Fourthly, he brings international experience of partnership with dioceses in other parts of the world, particularly Papua New Guinea and Sweden. He will now bring that experience and clarity of engagement to Rochester’s link with Harare, Zimbabwe – and this (along with the commitment of the Bishop of Tonbridge, Brian Castle) will strengthen the Zimbabweans and the links my own diocese (Southwark) has with the other four dioceses in Zimbabwe.



Difficult to assess in this paper exercise. Possibly veering towards Anglo-Catholic, but I base this on the tenuous link with the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commisssion of which Mark Santer was a member while Bishop James served as his chaplain in  Birmingham. He voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant. He also voted in favour of adjourning debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c,  a position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops.

 Leap in the dark assessment

Without a clear steer emerging from Bishop James’s online persona, I would take Bishop Nick Baines’ quoted remarks as the best assessment we have.


The illustration is downloaded from © the Diocese of Rochester; the photographer is Louise Whiffin

6 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

Despite my being in Cantebury Diocese, I actually live in the Rochester Diocese so have taken an interest in Bishop James doings so to speak.

He has impressed me when I’ve heard him interviewed on Radio Kent and I’ve read some of the stuff he writes in the Diocesan Magazine that goes to all parishes.

He is a complete contrast to his predecessor, who unfortunately, had a habit of alienating his Clergy, although many laity liked him.

Bishop James has been a breath of fresh air in Rochester and would make a very able ABC. Although, I suspect, that the people of Rochester would be most upset to lose him so early into his ministry with them.

Rochester has direct links with Zimbabwe and I know that Bishop James has been particularly proactive in maintaining those links and urging parishes to pray for what is happening to the Anglican Church there. This is an interest that he shares with Bishop Nick as well.

Probably an outsider, but given the lack of any progress with other candidates, he might just be the one to sneak up on the rails and cross the finishing line ahead of the rest.

Lay Anglicana said...

We are so lucky, E, to have the gloss of someone who actually knows Bishop James. Would you like to hazard a guess as to whether he is Evangelical, Anglo-Catholic or??

25 October 2012 19:14
25 October 2012 17:49

Bishop James is a strong supporter of women bishops. His churchmanship is not easy to put in a box as it seems very broad. He is an extremely wise and spiritual man and a good listener and, in my opinion, is doing a fantastic job as Bishop of Rochester.

layanglicana said...

Many thanks Penny. It is invaluable to have personal insight like this and I am very grateful. You will appreciate that there are huge disadvantages to doing these portraits based solely on the material publicly available. There are some advantages as well, which is why I set out on this journey, but the extra dimension is always valuable.

13 February 2013 23:32
13 February 2013 23:27
Revd Christopher Morgan said...

He SHOULD go far , but I expect he wont. He has a passion for being as Christ to All, but is caught up in the politics of Anglicism. I have crossed paths with him many times, and like him very much, but have also seen the “cant comment because its not protocol” side to him. Pity.

admin said...

Many thanks for this. It is always interesting to have light shed on these pen portraits by someone who has actually met the bishop in question :>)

04 June 2013 22:02
04 June 2013 21:05

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