In the 1980s he was Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie's Assistant for Anglican Communion Affairs.
First became famous in 1980 when he successfully negotiated the release of several hostages in Iran. In 1984 he negotiated with Colonel Gaddafi for the release of British hostages held in Libya and again was successful.
As an envoy for the Church of England, he travelled to Lebanon to try to secure the release of four hostages including journalist John McCarthy. He was himself held captive between 1987 and 1991. Waite remained in captivity for 1,763 days, the first four years of which were spent in total solitary confinement, and it was not until 18 November 1991 that he was released.
Following his release he was elected a Fellow Commoner at Trinity Hall in Cambridge, England, where he wrote his first book Taken on Trust. This became an international best-seller. His second book, Footfalls in Memory, was published in the UK in 1995 and was also a best-seller. His latest book published in October 2000, Travels with a Primate, is a humorous account of his journeys with Robert Runcie. He has contributed articles to many journals and periodicals ranging from Reader's Digest to the Kipling Journal, and has also contributed articles and forewords to many books.
He has been in constant demand as a lecturer, writer, and broadcaster ,and has appeared in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and throughout Europe. There has been a particular interest in the lectures he has delivered relating his experiences to the pressures faced by business executives, as stress, loneliness, and negotiating under acute pressure are but some of the issues with which he has a unique experience. His ability to communicate clearly and with good humour has meant that he is in constant demand as a speaker not only to the business community but also to professionals in religious groups, social work, education, and medicine.
He is also President of the charity Y Care International (the YMCA's international development and relief agency) and Patron of AbleChildAfrica.
He is also one of the Patrons of Emmaus UK, a charity for formerly homeless people.
In 1992, Durham University awarded him an Honorary Degree. He currently holds the position of Visiting Fellow at Magdalen College, Oxford.
On 31 March, 2007, Waite offered to travel to Iran to negotiate with those holding British sailors and marines seized by Iran in disputed waters on 23 March 2007.
On 27 May 2009 he announced in The Times that he is considering standing for parliament as an independent.
Durham University again awarded Waite an honorary degree at an award ceremony in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 30th May 2009.
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