THE Archbishop of York has announced his retirement from the Anglican church's second-highest office - to become vicar of a West Yorkshire town parish.
The Rt Rev David Hope is to retire next February and become Vicar of St Margaret's Church, Ikley.
The announcement was made to the congregation yesterday, with Dr Hope present.
He said: "I have always hoped it might be possible to conclude my ministry as I had begun it, as a parish priest."
Dr Hope was Bishop of Wakefield between 1985 and 1991, heading the diocese which covers the Huddersfield area.
The patrons of St Margaret's Church are the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield.
Dr Hope's announcement has not come as a surprise to many within the church. For several years he has suggested he would like to `return to the ranks' when he retired, rather than take his seat in the House of Lords.
His decision will mean swapping his £50,000- a-year salary for an £18,000 stipend and the magnificent Bishopthorpe Palace for a small vicarage in a market town.
Most controversially, Dr Hope described his sexuality as a "grey area" and said he lived a celibate life after a campaign by gay activists to force the Church of England's closet homosexuals to "come out."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said Dr Hope was one of God's great gifts to the church.
"Ilkley is a lucky parish," he added.
Dr Hope was born in Wakefield in April, 1940. he is the son of a builder and was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in the city.
He went on to study at Nottingham University and St Stephen's House, Oxford, and was ordained in 1965.
He held two curacies in Liverpool and was chaplain of the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest, the Romanian capital.
He was made Bishop of London in 1991 and Archbishop of York in 1995.