Bishop of Bath and Wells announces early retirement as he continues recovery from leukaemia

Bishop Peter Hancock

The Bishop of Bath and Wells has announced he will be taking early retirement on medical grounds as he continues his recovery from treatment for acute myeloid leukaemia.

Bishop Peter Hancock, 65, has been the diocesan bishop since 2014. 

During this time, he also spent four years as the Church of England’s lead bishop for safeguarding, a challenging role that saw him represent the Church at three hearings by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse into historic abuse.

He has been receiving treatment for leukaemia since last August and had been hoping to return to work soon, but was advised by doctors that his recovery still had some way to go and that at least initially, he would be required to shield.  

“So after much prayer and reflection, I believe this means that I need to take early retirement on medical grounds,” he said in a letter to his diocese.

“After seven years as Bishop of Bath and Wells I could not be more grateful for all the opportunities that I have had to serve the diocese and during this time I have met so many inspiring, faithful, creative, and courageous people and visited so many wonderful places.

“I don’t yet know what lies ahead, but I am sure the Lord will continue to lead and guide me and provide opportunities for ministry and service in the future. I remain hopeful and confident in his future for me.”

Bishop Ruth Worsley has been Acting Diocesan Bishop since the start of his treatment and will continue to head the diocese until the appointment of Hancock’s successor. 

Bishop Hancock thanked her, saying the diocese was “clearly in good hands”.

He added that it had been a challenging time for all in the Church of England, but ended with a message of hope.

“I am very aware of the challenges we are all facing and the extra burdens and responsibilities that we are all carrying,” he said.

“I am therefore particularly grateful for all that you are doing to sustain and support the life of the diocese and especially for all that Bishop Ruth has been doing as Acting Diocesan Bishop.

“The diocese is clearly in good hands and good heart, and my prayers and thanks are very much with you all.

“In the midst of all that is happening in the world today let us not lose sight of God’s gracious, loving care for us all.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby paid tribute to Bishop Hancock today, saying “his commitment to changing the culture and shining a light in dark places was an inspiration to us all”.

“I would like to thank Peter for more than 40 years of dedicated ministry in the Church. Anyone who has worked with him or spent time with him will know the deep authenticity of his personal faith and pastoral concern,” he said. 

“I have got to know Peter well during his nearly four years as lead safeguarding bishop, where his commitment to changing the culture and shining a light in dark places was an inspiration to us all.

“He led the Church’s response to IICSA , sitting through all three hearings. I know the enormous toll this took on him, but he always had the welfare of survivors at heart.

“I know the past year has been very difficult with his diagnosis and treatment for cancer. As with many others, I will continue to pray for Peter and Jane as they embark on retirement, that they will feel God’s great strength and love.”

A farewell service for Bishop Hancock is being planned for Pentecost, Saturday 22 May, the details of which are still being worked out. 

Bishop Worsley said he had been “a wonderful, warm and wise friend and colleague” in their past five and a half years of ministry together. 

“I shall miss him terribly. Clearly it is with sadness that we hear the news that he will not be returning to minister as Bishop amongst us,” she said.

“However, his recovery and health are of greater importance at this time and our prayers continue for Peter, [wife] Jane and the whole family. May they know God’s hope, grace and joy as they step into the future.”

Anyone wishing to say farewell to Bishop Peter Hancock and Jane can do so via the online message board.


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