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Posts Tagged "Bishop Steven Croft":

General Synod:Not Just About Women Bishops : The Revd David Keen

david keen

An old friend of Lay Anglicana, the Revd David Keen, blogs as ‘Opinionated Vicar‘. He has spotted what some of us (OK, I) missed, which is that the ‘re-imagining ministry’ part of the quinqennial aims has been dusted off and is being currently looked at seriously under the leadership of Bishop Steven Croft (ie the previous blogs here about evangelism were part of a larger picture). This is how David begins his blog post of 27th June; he has added further related posts on June 29th, referring to ‘Towards The Conversion of England’ under the heading ‘We don’t need any new intiatives’; then on 3rd July a post on Church Growth in the CofE – discussion paper and finally on 4th July Background Reading for General #Synod.

If you are interested in lay ministry in the Church of England, I urge you to read them all.


General Synod: Sneaking in a radical growth strategy whilst everyone is looking at women bishops

I’ve been critical in the past for the absence of mission from the agenda of General Synod. Looking at some of the papers for sessions starting next week, I’m quietly encouraged.

The full agenda is here, and most of the Saturday is going to be spent in small groups trying to thrash out the women bishops issue (again). The day closes with a 90 minute debate on GS1895. Stay awake at the back there! This is a half-time review of the Church of England’s 3 priorities for the current 5 year cycle. They are:
– contributing as the national Church to the common good;
– facilitating the growth of the Church;
– re-imagining the Church’s ministry.

Each of these will be the subject of a major General Synod debate in the next 12 months, with church growth kicking this off in November.

The paper makes it quite clear which of the 3 is considered to be top priority:

The opportunities for contributing to the common good at a time of considerable social and economic distress are enormous. But the Church of England’s capacity will be less than it would wish unless it can also make progress in reversing the long term decline in numbers and increase in the age profile of its membership. (p2)
(there is a)  ‘mistaken conflation of evangelism and evangelicalism…growth is an authentic priority for all the strands within Anglicansim and should be a practical priority for all’
from the conclusion: it is, rightly, the challenge of growth that is increasingly at the centre of the church’s agendas. As in New Testament days there is a sharp awareness of the challenge posed by an abundance of fields white to harvest and a relatively limited supply of labourers (p10)
Hidden away are some radical thoughts: in a section on vocations there is a growing sense that the current stress on the individual’s sense of vocation needs to be redressed to a greater extent by reference to the kind of clergy who are suited to the present mission challenge and especially to meet the need for greater diversity. I.e. the CofE is looking at rewriting the criteria for leadership selection to put mission leadership as a much higher priority.
The paper outlines some of the work being done under each of the 3 headings, and adds in a paper by Steve Croft, bishop of Sheffield. It’s worth a read, outlining some of the reasons why we don’t talk about church growth in the CofE:
“The agendas of bishops meetings and other meetings are dominated by questions of gender and ministry and human sexuality leaving little quality space for deeper engagement with evangelization”…
and suggests ‘7 disciplines of evangelisation’, which is a really interesting section: watch this space on this one. It’s classic Croft: take some practices and ideas which have been beyond the pale in Anglican circles and describe them in terms and ways which bring them into the fold. Thus ‘ecclesial formation’ (church growth) ‘forming new ecclesial communities’ (church planting). You may see a lot more of this quoted in the months and years to come.
The Croft paper is also here, on his blog as Bishop of Sheffield.
Finally, there is GS Misc 1054. Otherwise known as “Making new disciples: the Growth of the Church of England” I almost feel I need to repeat that title, just in case you thought you’d misread it first time round. It’s a companion paper to the Quinquennium review above, and makes the theological and practical case for prioritising church growth in the CofE. It recognises that decline can’t go on for much longer without the parish system ceasing to function, and that traditional Anglican outreach to the ‘church fringe’ is no longer enough. It’s the kind of honest appraisal of where we’re at as a church that I’ve been wittering on about for some time….
[Now please go to David’s blog to read the rest of the post ]

Can We Use Imagination More? – Simon Sutcliffe

Digital image

In a recent Lay Anglicana post we were introduced to some work that has been done by Bishop Steven Croft which can be read in full here. In his paper Bishop Croft outlines 7 disciplines of evangelisation which I have copied here but ought to be read in the context of the whole paper:

1.     The discipline of prayerful discernment and listening (contemplation)

2.     The discipline of apologetics (defending and commending the faith)

3.     The discipline of evangelism (initial proclamation)

4.     The discipline of catechesis (learning and teaching the faith)

5.     The discipline of ecclesial formation (growing the community of the church)

6.     The discipline of planting and forming new ecclesial communities (fresh expressions of the church)

7.     The discipline of incarnational mission (following the pattern of Jesus)


Croft isn’t the first to come up with a list of points or words that might enable the church to grow, but if I’m honest I would rather go with Cron’s 5 words in the novel Chasing Francis and be a church that takes seriously, transcendence, community, beauty, dignity and meaning. But even then, the whole thing is just a lot more complex than hanging a movement on a number of hooks.

Steven Croft’s first and the seventh point I would want to completely agree with. A disciple of Jesus is called both to be attentive to a God who longs to be in relationship with God’s people (1) and to place ourselves into similar scenarios with a similar mindset as The One who calls us out into the world (7). Nor do I have a problem with 4, this is the business of discipleship and I, along with all followers of Jesus, have an obligation to learn from those who think differently and those who have gone before. So points 1,4 and 7, are, for me, part and parcel of being a Christian. They relate to evangelism in the sense that they are assumed prerequisites.

I am more cautious about the other disciplines. At this point I ought to declare my hand fully. I am an ordained Venture FX pioneer (the pioneer ministries scheme in the Methodist Church) and I am the Tutor for Evangelism and Church Growth at The Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham. I am utterly in debt to the Church and to the work of Bishop Croft; my bread and butter is Fresh Expressions and I am so grateful for the Mission Shaped Church movement that has reshaped the landscape of British ecclesiology and our understanding of the mission and ministry of the whole people of God.

But you sense a ‘but’ ….

I think I have a number of questions about his other points. Firstly, it all seems a bit church-centric to me which feels like the wrong place to begin, and therefore we are likely to end up somewhere we never intended to be (which might not be a bad thing). Secondly, and related to the first, I’m not convinced that more churches leads to more Christians – I don’t think the evidence bears that out (Some work done by Dutch theologian Stefan Paas suggests something similar you can read some of his work here). Thirdly, I’m not persuaded apologetics will lead to ‘a new evangelisation’ – it demands me to out-think my atheist and other-faith friends, which seems a bit colonial to me.

This church-centric view is prevalent in most discussion around evangelism. In a paper going to the General Synod under the heading ‘The vital importance of making new disciples.’, it reads:

The simple fact is this: unless there is a significant increase in new people joining the Church over the coming years, that there will be an accelerating decline in the overall number of worshippers.

Para 15


I’m not overly surprised by this church-centric assumption. I spoke at the English version of the Roman Catholic conference Croft attended that began his thought process. Then, like now, I recognised an almost naive assumption that if the church only did what it does better, and if only we could convince people of the faith we share, then our churches will be full. But, like I said, this is my bread and butter – I know that it is simply much more difficult than that. My experience, and the narrative of other pioneers, tells me that we need more than ‘doing church better’ (Parish Renewal) nor can we rely on outsmarting some clever protagonist of new atheism in the local pub.

The problems lies, I suspect, in the telos, the end result, of evangelism. If we are to think that the chief aim of evangelism is salvation (whatever you might mean by that) and that the only expression of salvation is bound up in membership of a recognised mainstream church, then you will naturally assume that evangelism will lead to church growth and that we will know we are succeeding because our church grows and we will finally succeed when all the world becomes Christian.


What if we begin to see evangelism differently? What if, for instance,  the diverse mix that makes up the tapestry of human life and community is somehow God-inspired? So my ministry, as a pioneer, is not to try and mould people into the same shape as me, but to celebrate and point out the rich diversity that is God’s will for all creation.  So instead of lovingly creating a monochrome peoples known as the Church – it is part of my role to work with The Artist to bring together all the raw materials of Jew and Gentile, Male and Female, Theist and Atheist, Muslim and Sikh …. to form the most beautiful, radiant and glory-filled mosaic for all eternity. We might call it Kingdom.

You might not agree with the last paragraph, and that’s fine, but is it possible to think of evangelism and discipleship (the two can never be far from each other) in such a way that the church is vital, but not the centrepiece of God’s missional activity? Or are we always bound to an old expression of theology for a Fresh Expression of Church?

Can we imagine more ….

The image is Imagination by: David Hollingsworth vi Seed Resources

Simon Sutcliffe


Candidates for Cantuar: Steven Croft


Steven John Lindsey Croft was born in 1957. He went to Heath Grammar School in Halifax, Yorkshire, and studied classics and theology at Worcester College, Oxford, after which he studied for the priesthood in Durham at Cranmer Hall, St John’s College. He is married to Ann and has four children.


Bishop Steven was ordained as deacon in the Diocese of London in 1983 and as priest in 1984.  The Crockford’s entry reads:

* +CROFT, The Rt Revd Steven John Lindsey. b 57. Worc Coll Ox BA80 MA83 St Jo Coll Dur PhD84. Cranmer Hall Dur 80. d 83 p 84 c 09. C Enfield St Andr Lon 83-87; V Ovenden Wakef 87-96; Dioc Miss Consultant 94-96; Warden Cranmer Hall Dur 96-04; Abps’ Missr and Team Ldr Fresh Expressions 04-09; Bp Sheff from 09. 

In the mid 1990s, Bishop Steven was  diocesan mission adviser. He then became Archbishops’ Missioner and Leader of the Fresh Expressions team under Archbishop Rowan Williams. He was a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council from 1997-2000.

It is said of some candidates that they may be too old; Bishop Steven is only 55  but on the other hand has only been a bishop since January 2009. Also, except for his curacy in Enfield, all his ministry has been in Yorkshire and the neighbouring County Durham.


He is a co-author of Emmaus: the way of faith (1996-2003), a set of resources for Christian nurture widely used in the UK and across the world. He is author or co-author of a number of books including Ministry in Three Dimensions (1999 and 2008); and Travelling Well (with Stephen Cottrell) (2000). His first novel for children and adults, The Advent Calendar, was published in 2006.  In 2009 Jesus’ People: What the Church should do next challenged the reader to rethink both the role of Jesus in the Church and that of the Church in today’s society and culture. He wrote the Church of England ‘most digital Lent course yet’ for 2011, about which Church House Publishing said:

 Household music and DVD collections could be a good starting point for studying the Bible this Lent, teaches a new five-week course called Exploring God’s Mercy, compiled by the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft. Suitable for church groups, couples or individuals, the course prepares us for the festival of Easter by reminding us just how much God loves us, using Scriptures, specially filmed You Tube videos, podcasts for iPods, group discussions and prayer. It recommends playing popular songs or DVD clips at the start of each session, to set the scene for that week’s theme.


The Sheffield Diocesan Website is up to the minute, and relies heavily on videos. This means that readers like us can form quite a clear impression of what life with Bishop Steven as the Archbishop of Canterbury might be like. (The impression might still be erroneous of course).

As in the case of Bishop Tim Stevens, he is often filmed in strong light which makes his eyes narrow rather alarmingly . You may think I make too much of this, but if the eyes are windows of the soul, it is difficult to form an impression of someone whose eyes are hidden. (If I were in charge of his PR, I would also frogmarch him to Trumpers, the Curzon Street barber). Other YouTube videos are his initial ‘sermon’ at, his Easter message (you can see his eyes) and his address to diocesan synod July 2012



Bishop Steven is an evangelistic Evangelical.

Both Sheffield bishops voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, as did their clergy and laity.

At General Synod  in July 2012 he voted  to adjourn the debate to enable reconsideration of  amendment 5.1.c

(the position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops).

Bishop Steven has been a strong opponent of same-sex marriage:

“One in four marriages in England are performed by the Church of England and that proportion is rising at the moment. In every marriage service the priest begins the service by spelling out what marriage is – a union between one man and one woman with the intention of it being lifelong. So it is really important to register back to the Government that this is not a minor change, this is a fundamental change to a very, very important social institution.”

You can see possibly the best (ITV) video interview with him in this clip, where he explains, sitting at his desk with no props or gimmicks, exactly what his views are.  Am I alone in seeing an iron hand emerge in this charmingly velvet glove?


Leap in the dark assessment

Bishop Steven Croft would make an excellent Archbishop of York in due course.

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