It is very hard to dislike someone who introduces himself as ‘a bit of an oik from Essex’, as Bishop Stephen does in this 2011 address to Sheffield diocese. And I defy you to dislike Bishop Stephen Cottrell. Dare I insist that you listen to the first 9.55 minutes of this 47.55 minute video? You will not regret it. It is masterly, both as a memorable sermon in the truest meaning of the word and as an example of showmanship, the orator’s art of slowly drawing the audience in. And then please listen to the rest of it as well.
I have never met Bishop Stephen, but I too have been drawn in to the group of his followers. I became hooked one August, when researching a ‘thought for the day‘ for a service of Matins which I was due to take. I came across Bishop Stephen’s ‘Do Nothing to Change Your Life: Discovering What Happens When You Stop‘. I was entranced. Realising that I needed to quote a large chunk of it for full effect, I thought I had better ask the bishop whether he minded. So I, the smallest of small fry, emailed the Bishop of Reading, as he then was. I don’t know what I expected – a standard reply from a minion perhaps – but instead I had the most charming personal reply from Bishop Stephen himself, wishing me (I don’t think he used the word ‘luck’) as a lay worship leader.
Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell, born 31 August 1958, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, was educated at Belfairs High School and the Polytechnic of Central London. After studying at St Stephen’s House, Oxford he was ordained in 1985. He is married to Rebecca, and they have three teenage children.
The Crockford’s entry reads as follows:
|+COTTRELL, The Rt Revd Stephen Geoffrey. b 58. Poly Cen Lon BA79. St Steph Ho Ox 81. d 84 p 85 c 04. C Forest Hill Ch Ch S’wark 84-88; P-in-c Parklands St Wilfrid CD Chich 88-93; Asst Dir Past Studies Chich Th Coll 88-93; Dioc Missr Wakef 93-98; Bp’s Chapl for Evang 93-98; Springboard Missr and Consultant in Evang 98-01; Can Res Pet Cathl 01-04; Area Bp Reading Ox 04-10; Bp Chelmsf from 10|
He was nominated Bishop of Reading in 2004, after the Jeffrey John affair. Cottrell had been a supporter of Jeffrey John’s original appointment. He said of his nomination:
I am looking forward to becoming the next Bishop of Reading with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.I believe my work in mission and evangelism has prepared me well for the challenges facing the church in this new century.I hope and pray that my love for and understanding of the different traditions of the Church of England will enable me to be a focus for unity in the Reading Episcopal area.
Bishop Stephen has been Bishop of Chelmsford since 7 October 2010.
Bishop Stephen is a prolific writer, his Amazon coverage running to three pages (allowing for one or two other Cottrells to have crept in). It says much to the credit of both, I think, that he has written several books with Bishop Steven Croft, the Evangelical, although he is an Affirming Catholic.
His most recent book is ‘Christ in the Wilderness: Reflecting on the Paintings by Stanley Spencer ’ which was published this month by SPCK.
The Wikipedia entry on Affirming Catholicism describes it as follows:
The movement represents a liberal strand of Anglo-Catholicism and is particularly noted for holding that Anglo-Catholic belief and practice is compatible with the ordination of women. It also generally supports ordination into the threefold ministry (bishops, priests, deacons) regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The movement was formalised on 9 June 1990, at St Alban’s Church Holborn in London by a number of Anglo-Catholic clergy in the Diocese of London who had been marginalised within, or expelled from, existing Anglo-Catholic groups because of their support for women’s ordination to the priesthood. It developed a theological stance which was staunchly liberal in matters of inclusivity but traditionally Catholic in matters of liturgy and the centrality and theology of the sacraments whilst believing that traditional restrictions on who may receive them should be re-examined.
Bishop Stephen’s diocese, Chelmsford, rejected the Covenant. Bishop Steven himself abstained, as has now been confirmed by one of the comments on this blog.
On the question of women, Bishop Stephen voted in favour of adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, a position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops.
Leap in the dark assessment
When we first made the list in the priority suggested by Oddschecker, Bishop Stephen was 13th in line to the archiepiscopal throne. Today he is 11th, having overtaken Bishops John Packer and Tom Wright in the last couple of days.
A passionate proponent of mission and evangelism, Bishop Stephen’s inclusive attitude and charm might be just the right prescription for the Anglican Communion and Church of England at this juncture?