It has been announced today that James Langstaff, Bishop of Lynn in the Diocese of Norwich, is to be the new Bishop of Rochester. This is excellent news of an excellent appointment.

Firstly, James and Bridget are friends and will soon be neighbours. So, it will be great to have him/them closer and to have James in the group of South-East Bishops.

Secondly, 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.

But, the good people of Rochester also need to ask him about cross-cultural communication and what his experience has to teach the Church of England and the Anglican Communion during their current cultural ‘challenges’. Bishops in England confirm people who usually turn up to church clothed. In Papua New Guinea it is culturally unacceptable for a young woman to bare her thighs, but she always presents herself topless. I bet that never happened in Lynn and I bet it won’t happen in Rochester.

(Personally, I find it harder to cope when a candidate turns up for Confirmation wearing a Manchester United shirt…)