Sheffield – Bishop’s Statement

Bishop Steven Croft of Sheffield Diocese has made a further statement on the ordinations.

Bishop of Sheffield, Dr. Steven CroftOn Sunday 10th February I received a short note informing me that Pete Jackson had been ordained in Kenya the previous day to serve the Church plant in Walkley in Sheffield. This news was a complete surprise.

“In 2003, Christ Church Fulwood planted a new church, Christ Church Central, in the centre of the city led by the Revd. Tim Davies.  Despite extensive discussions, the plant could not be contained within the legal structures of the Church of England.

“The Diocese of Sheffield has a strong commitment to mission, to evangelism and to church planting of all kinds.  Shortly after I became Bishop in 2009, I invited the community of Christ Church Central to explore with me the possibility of making a Bishop’s Mission Order to regularize their life once again within the Diocese of Sheffield and the Church of England.  After careful consideration, this offer was declined by Christ Church Central because of alleged wider differences between Christ Church Central and the Church of England.

“In 2012, Christ Church Central established a new church plant, Christ Church Walkley, with the support of Christ Church, Fulwood. This new plant was established with no consultation with the Diocese or with St. Mary’s Walkley, the local parish.  Although there has been some local contact between St. Mary’s Walkley and the new plant, no-one in the Diocese was given any notification of the plans to ordain Pete Jackson in Kenya on 9th February.

“I will be entering into correspondence in the next few weeks with the various parties involved in the decision to ordain Pete Jackson in this way to explore their motives and reasons for acting in the way that they have.  I will also be making contact with the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd. Eliud Wabukala and with Pete himself.

“As a diocese we are particularly concerned to offer our support and prayers to the parish of St. Mary’s Walkley who quite understandably have found these developments unsettling.  Bishop Peter will be present with them on Sunday 3rd March.  We also hold the Revd. Pete Jackson and Christ Church Walkley in our prayers.  We know that neither community will be helped by being the focus of an ongoing wider controversy.

“As a diocese we continue in our commitment to mission, to the making of disciples and to joyful and creative church planting within the order and polity of the Church of England.”

+Steven Sheffield
26th February, 2013.

He confirms that an attempt was made to bring the Christ Church plants into the Diocese under a Bishop’s Mission Order, but these were rebuffed because of differences between Christ Church Central and the Church of England. What these differences are are not spelt out, but they may be crucial to understanding the issues involved.

Bishop Steven’s statement highlights the fact that Christ Church Central were not pushed out in any sense – they chose not to be Anglican in England because they could not accept the Bishop’s authority. This is crucial, because as an inheritor of the Nicene Catholic Episcopal model, Anglicanism holds very clearly to the notion of “one bishop in one place”. One accepts the canonical authority of the Bishop where one is resident unless the Bishop is clearly heretical. To border-cross is to imply that the local Bishop is heretical (see the actions in the USA where such valid border-crossings have been made) and, like it or not, this is what the Kenyan ordinations have done with Bishop Steven Croft.

I’ve had more than one Evangelical Bishop contact me privately this week expressing anger at this whole development. There is a real sense this move has shattered Evangelical unity at a time when it is desperately needed, especially as we do not know what the next year or two has in store (with the Pilling Report and other developments yet to come).

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