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Bishop Tony to retire this summer after 42 years service

First published on: 3rd April 2024

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield, will retire this summer after 42 years of ordained ministry.

Bishop Tony, one of five Episcopal Area Bishops in the Anglican Diocese of Leeds, came to the then Diocese of Wakefield as Archdeacon of Pontefract on September 1, 1997, and so describes himself as “incomer” to Yorkshire for 27 years.

Ordained in 1982 in the Diocese of London, he began ministry as assistant curate at St Paul’s Church in Tottenham and later moved to be Team Vicar in the Parish of The Resurrection, in Leicester. In 1989 he was made Team Rector and in 1992 the Area Dean of Leicester North.

On December 6, 2002 he was consecrated as Bishop of Pontefract in York Minster by the then Archbishop of York, David Hope and after the creation of the Diocese of Leeds in 2014, he became its first Bishop of Wakefield in 2015.

“Having spent nearly two thirds of my 42 years of ordained ministry here in Wakefield the time has come to retire. Sue and I have loved living in Yorkshire and it has been a great joy to share in the lives of countless people, clergy, parishes and communities,” said Bishop Tony.

“The creation of the Diocese of Leeds was something that I couldn’t have imagined back in 1997, but it was worth all the incredible upheaval and adjustment under Bishop Nick’s leadership so that is ready to face the challenges facing the Church of England today.”

In tribute to Bishop Tony’s constant and faithful work for the church and communities, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds said:

“I first worked with Bishop Tony in the Diocese of Leicester from 1991 where we were both incumbents and then area deans. It was a privilege to serve with him then and, later, to follow him to West Yorkshire.

“He could not have been a better episcopal colleague during a time of change, challenge and opportunity. I will miss his calm, steady commitment to our diocesan ministry and mission. I am indebted personally to him for his constant support and encouragement.

“This diocese will lose a dedicated pastor, wise counsellor and exemplary bishop. In wishing him and Sue a long and happy retirement, they go with our love, gratitude, prayers and blessing.”

Bishop Tony’s vocation to the priesthood began to develop at the age of 13, and after training as a teacher and teaching Maths and Computer Science in Chelmsford for two years, he attended theological college in Salisbury for three years before being ordained.

“I always felt called to urban ministry, so I was pleased to serve in Tottenham in a church next to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and then inner city Leicester amongst some of our poorest places where multi-ethnic and multi-faith communities often felt deprived and neglected,” said Bishop Tony.

“In Leicester there was the challenge of engaging with all the different communities in the area to build understanding and work towards a more cohesive common life.  This involved closing some churches where congregations were in serious decline and building a Community Centre and buying a pub, which was used for community projects, and as a centre for ordinands to experience urban life in multi-cultural Britain first-hand. 

“Early in my time there, I was invited to serve as Chaplain to the first Hindu Lord Mayor of Leicester, a role which enabled me to get to know an even wider range of people and communities in the city, and to act as an advocate for them.”

“During my time in Leicester, the Church of England published its ‘Faith in the City’ report and we successfully gained regeneration funding for community projects.  By the time I left for Yorkshire, the parish employed nine community workers, and one of the first projects in the UK working with male perpetrators of domestic violence.”

Bishop Tony brought that commitment to interfaith issues and community cohesion to Wakefield, aiming to develop knowledge, understanding and determination to create opportunities for the different faith communities to work together in the area.

“Setting up the Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum, Kirklees Faiths Forum and Wakefield Inter Faith Group has helped raise awareness of faith issues and led to some significant events and initiatives, including Interfaith Kirklees, a nationally acclaimed project for schools, regular meetings between clergy and imams, and a project to bring together statutory and legal agencies in the UK and Pakistan to look at ways that they can work together for the benefit of the communities in both countries,” said Bishop Tony.

“I have been enjoyed being involved in many other areas of diocesan life including organising several clergy conferences, our church schools, our religious communities at Horbury and Mirfield, and travelling overseas leading pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Taize, and visits to our link dioceses in Pakistan and Tanzania.

“I will miss the clergy and people of the Wakefield Area in particular whom I have been privileged to serve. I thank them for their support for me and my family.”

Bishop Tony will retire on August 31, 2024 and his final service will be a Eucharist in Wakefield Cathedral on Saturday, July 6 at 11am. Everyone is welcome.

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