John Packer, bishop of Ripon and Leeds, has announced that he will be retiring in January.
John Packer started his career as a priest in South Yorkshire. And his experiences there, and in Leeds, no doubt contributed to that commitment.
He has been a very active member of the House of Lords, ready to attack injustice wherever he has seen it.
This year, for example, he challenged the Coalition government on the Bedroom Tax [Hansard 15 May and 21 October 2013], pressed for international tax justice [Hansard 22 October 2013] and was not afraid to raise climate change and international inequalities [Hansard 23 October 2013], and International aid levels [Hansard 15 May 2013]. He made strong interventions on the Coalition’s plans for Universal credit [Hansard 21 October 2013]
He’s been very active here in Leeds, working for these same goals.
In October he called on Leeds Church leaders to join him in support for Leeds Credit Union, of which he is a member.
And he has worked closely with Leeds Council’s leaders.
He is clear about his respect for them, and about his pride in Leeds.
“Leeds has responded well to the challenges of austerity and it has been good to work with the council on its response to increasing need within the city.
“The city is very open to the voluntary sector and to faith communities and it is only if we work together that we will be able to provide support for those who have been damaged.”
He is particularly proud of the city’s reactions in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings when the bombers came from Leeds.
“I am proud that there was not a backlash in Leeds. I was able to go meet with Muslim leaders and pray with them and be part of saying Leeds is a place where people of different backgrounds want to live together in harmony. And the fact is that we do have good community relations in Leeds.”
He must be especially pleased with announcements this week that Labour’s campaign to set a cap on payday lending – so strongly backed in Leeds and by people like himself – has been successful.
John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, paid tribute to the bishop when he attended what will be his last synod.
“One of the high points of his time in Westminster …[was] when he led the charge against the Government and the media over the welfare changes and the implementation of universal credit. His amendment to exempt children from the benefit cap was passed by a substantial majority . Then of course he got pilloried in the Daily Mail, I suspect the ultimate accolade!” He added, “He launched a major inquiry into the immigration and asylum system with the Children’s’ Society, he played a decisive role in the campaign to end child detention – he has always fought vigorously for a fairer asylum system.’
Bishop John Packer will be sorely missed in Leeds, including here in NW Leeds where he currently lives. He’s moving to be closer to family. But we wish him well in his new home in Whitley Bay on Tyneside – we’re sure we’ll be hearing more from him in his ‘retirement’.