bishop-of-oxford
Church of England

New Bishop of Oxford enthroned with L-plates

Bishops don’t much like the word ‘enthroned’ these days. Perhaps it’s a bit too imperial or exalted for modern notions of accessibility and equatability. So now we focus on their ‘installation’ (in a chair) or the ‘inauguration’ of his (or her) ministry. It is surely preferable to be enthroned in a seat than installed like a kitchen sink, but, whichever you prefer, the Rt Rev’d Dr Steven Croft was done yesterday at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. And at the moment when the Dean, the Very Rev’d Professor Martyn Percy, said, ‘Behold your Bishop’ (this was before the bongos started playing), his cope was flung open to reveal two L-plates.

Now, some will think this rather crass, and others will find it trendy and ‘missional’. The Canon Professor Mark Chapman, who was present (and witnessed the bongos), explains: “The service was typically legal and in his sermon the bishop told us he was a disciple of Jesus, which, I suppose, is reassuring, and that he was likely to make mistakes, which is probably true.”, So, the L-plates indicate the ongoing discipleship of an imperfect overseer.

But since Dr Croft has been Bishop of Sheffield for eight years, he’s hardly a novice, is he?. We don’t really want learners as bishops, do we? Don’t we need experienced pastors, preachers, teachers? Doesn’t the church need spiky prophets and fearless theologians? How do experienced vicars view a bishop sporting L-plates? How does the world? Hasn’t Steven Croft been enthroned installed at Oxford Cathedral because he is already deemed by the Crown Nominations Commission to be manifestly qualified for the task?

L-plates must be displayed by all new UK drivers at all times, until they have passed their driving test. And until that time they hold only a provisional licence and must be accompanied by another driver who is over 21 years of age and has held a full licence for the type of vehicle being driven for at least three years. Perhaps the Very Rev’d Dean is going to sit at the new Bishop’s side for a year or two, or at least until he gets his feet securely under the throne? And when the Dean is content that all tests have been passed, perhaps the Bishop can exchange his red L-plates for green P-plates (‘P’ for probationary – less experienced than most but rather more than an learner). In Northern Ireland there are also amber R-plates (‘R’ for restricted – must not exceed 45mph). It is important to note that you can get up to six penalty points if you don’t display an L-plate or if it isn’t the right size.

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work‘ (1Tim 3:1). And the Church of England is in dire need of an episcopacy of devotion and discernment, not least because they ordain clergy, exercise jurisdiction, and minister the Word of God. They are the church’s chiefest governors, of which the Queen is supreme, and, like all such government, their authority originates in accord with ancient tradition and in consent of society. They are tasked with protecting the flock from wolves, and guarding the church from heresy and evil.

There is no time for ignorance, error or mediocrity in the episcopacy. When the rot sets in, it spreads quickly. You see it in the bullying disdain, oligarchical arrogance and retreat to the cushy palaces of innocuousness. They preach sermons of milk in a vacuum of spiritual oblivion. The world sees the hypocrisies of power and wealth, and the ornaments of majesty and nobility. Where, they ask, is the meat of theology and the fruit of salvation? And where is the solemnity, reverence, awe and dignity?

Is the sacred inauguration of a new bishop the place for clowning stunts and horseplay? Some will say yea: ‘He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh‘ (Ps 2:4). Others will say nay: “Speak not so unskilfully and foolishly of God, or holy things, as may tempt the hearers to turn it to a matter of scorn or laughter…” Perhaps it doesn’t matter what you think: the world hears the bongos and sees the jest, and they like what they hear and see. The word is heard, and the church made visible.

Ministry is a holy work, but the communication of holiness is a political act. It doesn’t plant itself, and the fruit doesn’t grow of its own accord. Steven Croft has been called by God to be a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ to lead disciples to greater holiness. You can carp and criticise, or you can pray for him. We all have L-plates when we’re on our knees.

  • Inspector General

    The very L plates that Christ used in his ministry, perhaps…

    To think that wretched church is part of Christ’s continuing mission to harvest souls from otherwise death, or is it one big joke nowadays….

    • Anton

      I believe that the Catholics have five copies of the L-plates believe to have been used by Christ stored in various European cathedrals, all asserted to be authentic.

      • The Explorer

        No, no, there’s only one set of two plates. The five cathedrals have half a plate each.

  • The Explorer

    It feels a bit like being taught to drive by a learner, when one would benefit from a qualified and experienced instructor.

  • The Explorer

    The ‘L’ might indicate a pleasing humility, a disavowal about knowing everything: a welcome counter to Linus’ ongoing assertion that Christians claim to know what’s best for everybody. But it does rather smack of yet-prevailing educational theory in which what was once known as the ‘teacher’ is now the cultural facilitator who enables the student’s (not pupil’s) journey of pedagogical discovery.

  • Anton

    You can carp and criticise, or you can pray for him.

    That isn’t an either/or, Your Grace!

  • Anton

    According to the Book of Common Prayer, Church of England Bishops are consecrated. I remember reading an Anglican cynic suggesting that the process involved his follow bishops gathering round him and surgically removing his spine. Let us hope that this chap isn’t another church liberal. I’ve reached the conclusion that there is no accommodation to be had with those. They drove me to nonconformism.

  • Anton

    Crown him with many, er, L-plates.

  • CliveM

    In NI, after a driver has passed his test, there is a probation year where they have to wear R plates. Considering his previous experience, maybe these would have been more appropriate.

  • And where I ask, was the topless chorus from the WI doing a number from “Jesus Christ, Superstar”?

  • Linus

    My understanding is that L stands for Loser.

    No doubt the assembled congregation held their hands up palms outwards with all fingers folded down except the index, to which the thumb was held at right angles.

    Well, they would have if I’d been there…

    • Linus

      How silly of me! I forgot L stands for Linus. That was my coded message to you all. Now that I’ve infiltrated the Anglican episcopate, expect the pace of change to pick up.

      • Anton

        Are you related to Linux?

      • chefofsinners

        L stands for Loser at all times. Not least when it stands for Linus.

        • Linus

          So if the L word always stands for Linus, what does the C word stand for?

          I think we can all figure it out…

          • chefofsinners

            Consummate.

          • Linus

            I can think of two far more likely candidates. One related to female anatomy. The other to male.

            Take your pick. Either seems eminently suitable given your congenital stupidity and arrogance.

      • The Explorer

        Lenin said the best way to deal with the opposition is to lead it, so you have an illustrious predecessor in your strategy (with a name also beginning with ‘L’). But given the state of the Anglican episcopate, surely you infiltrated it long ago?

        • Linus

          No, they managed to get themselves into their current parlous state. I’m merely taking advantage of the opportunity that several generations of creeping secularism have made possible. Anyone can be an Anglican bishop. The only qualification you need is an ability to look stupid in a ratty old cardigan, and preferably to have a scraggly beard. Or mustache if you’re a woman, or gender non-binary.

          My task is to guide them through the various stages of abandonment of their Christian beliefs. Once they’ve all been Sponged into submission, I’ll then sell off the property portfolio, preferably to one buyer so we can work out the sous-table in one transaction.

          At the moment Ian Schrager is interested. Redeveloping the Abbey with an ultra-modern steel and glass aesthetic would make the Westminster W a unique destination. The presidential suite will include a glass cube of a bathroom suspended over the former high altar, featuring St. Edward’s Chair converted into a paperless electronic WC that tests you for diabetes and IBS before giving your bits a shampoo and set and blow drying them to resemble the hairstyle of your favourite member of the Royal Family. The Diana Flick. The Kate Swish. The Anne Facelift. Or, for Brazilian guests, the Wills Pate…

          • The Explorer

            Seeing your initial twice has certainly turned you frisky!

        • carl jacobs

          Surely Lenin thought the best way to deal with an opponent was to have him shot in the back of the head. Thus he would build the New Soviet Man.

          • The Explorer

            Yes. I think he was talking about before you get into power. Once you’re there, there IS no opposition.

  • Albert

    And at the moment when the Dean, the Very Rev’d Professor Martyn Percy, said, ‘Behold your Bishop’ (this was before the bongos started playing), his cope was flung open to reveal two L-plates.

    I think this kind of trivialisation of Christian ministry is a pity. I take the point, but why does everything have to be a form of entertainment, these days?

    Pope St Gregory the Great, also felt the task of being a bishop was beyond him, but rather than reducing the role, he spoke of his inadequacy. That way, the importance of Christian ministry was not trivialised (after all, scripture says that those who teach will be judged more strictly, so it’s not something to joke about), even while the inadequacy of the particular minister was acknowledged.

  • chefofsinners

    What the L is he thinking?

    • Anton

      Surely “an handcart”?

      • chefofsinners

        Or if you’re Linus, L in a handbag.

    • carl jacobs

      You are encourageable. You know that, don’t you. And the proper phrase would be “L in a hand basket”.

      • Anton

        There is no “L” in “hand basket”.

      • (Ahem)

        “Going to hell in a handbasket”, “going to hell in a handcart”, “going to hell in a handbag”, “go to hell in a bucket”, “sending something to hell in a handbasket” and “something being like hell in a handbasket” are variations on an American allegorical locution of unclear origin, which describes a situation headed for disaster inescapably or precipitately.

        • carl jacobs

          Ask 100 random Americans to complete this phrase: “We’re going to hell in a ___”. 99 will say “hand basket”. The 100th won’t know the expression.

          • They don’t even know their own allegorical locutions? Figures.

          • carl jacobs

            The NFL has come to Britain. Why aren’t you watching the Colts play the Jaguars? They’re in London at this very moment.

            That’s pronounced “JAG-whars” not “JAG-ooh-ars” btw.

          • Jack’s been watching The Premier League. Tottenham are doing well this year.

          • carl jacobs

            18 is still greater than 17 and much more than 13.

          • Early days …..

            October 26th.

          • magnolia

            Ah well they will learn to be “Jag-you-ers” then, if only short term!

  • Sigfridiii

    How nice it would be if, just for once, they appointed a bishop with at least half a clue as to what a bishop is for.

  • The Explorer

    At first glance, I thought the Bish was wearing an uninflated life jacket. Hope that’s not prophetic.

  • len

    All Christians are on a journey there are many pitfalls on the way, some get
    stuck in ‘religion’ and progress no further, some take the broad road with ends
    in destruction.
    There is a narrow road with many twists and winds but this is the road that
    leads to the Kingdom of heaven….
    To be a Christian one has to pass through the narrow Gate(which is Christ)
    and then proceed to take the path which leads to salvation.
    Some scorn taking this journey at all saying this journey is an illusion
    which leads nowhere…

  • carl jacobs

    They are tasked with protecting the flock from wolves, and guarding the church from heresy and evil.

    And a fine job they’ve done of it, too. There is surely no better way to protect the church from heresy & evil than to simply abolish the concepts. The broad church that believes nothing in particular is too inert to generate opposition.

  • John

    Jesus said “Learn from me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest for your souls” (Mat 11.29). If the bishop considers himself a learner in that sense his ‘L’ plates are much to be welcomed.

  • preacher

    He seems like a nice chap, with a good sense of humour & as I haven’t heard of him, or the message he preaches, further negative speculation would be wrong & churlish.
    But is he the leader that the church needs in this day & age, when the World teeters on the brink of death & destruction, with nations threatening each other & world leaders killing the children of their own people with gas & chemical weapons besides bombs & bullets ?.
    Surely we need men of the calibre of the first disciples – who preached & died willingly for the gospel, or the likes of the Wesley brothers who counted it not shame to be rejected & scorned by the church of their day as well as those that they suffered to reach, or William Booth & his soldiers who were beaten & spat upon, who told a member of his band not to wipe away spittle from his uniform, as ” It is a medal of glory in the service of the Lord “.
    Where are the Prophets, the Elijah’s, Isaiah’s & Jeremiah’s ? Men who stood up to earthly Kings, in the service of their Heavenly King of Kings & Lord of Lords. No ‘L’ plates needed then, Kings & priests trembled at their message.

    • Martin

      Preacher

      The current bunch seem afraid to express dissent with the government over homosexuality.

      • preacher

        Hi Martin, ‘ seem ‘ doesn’t ‘ enter into it, the majority decline to disagree with any thing or anybody in order to lure people into their fellowships. Regrettably this is not just confined to one part of the Church but is becoming universal. Repentance hurts & costs, – but without it, unpopular as it is, no progress is possible.

        • Martin

          Preacher

          I’d say it is rampant in many churches but there are those who are faithful.

          • preacher

            Indeed there are brother & many in some parts of the World are having to be faithful unto death. Their faith has been tested in the fire & they have not been found wanting.
            My concern is the weak, submissive state of much of the Western Church, Wolves have got in among much of the flock & weakened it, when the enemy attacks in strength only God will be able to win the victory.

        • Anton

          Yet the failure to hold a biblical line on this subject is actively repelling quite a lot of people.

          • preacher

            True, but there is no option, if we compose our own rules, philosophies & beliefs to please mankind, it has no power to save & is even more dangerous because it offers a placebo instead of a cure.
            Therefore we must hold fast to the commands of the Lord – then we are pointing them to Him & are not accountable if they reject Him.

  • I hope he has the courage of Archbishop Sentamu, who has recently told the truth about many migrants in a way that gets people landed with damaging labels such as racist, far-right, fascist etc.

    • preacher

      Welcome Gerry. Good to see a new contributor.

  • magnolia

    I think it is half humorous, and half appropriate to Oxford, surely the nation’s foremost seat of learning, to have an Oxford graduate who is still learning. Would Oxford want, approve or like someone who was past learning? Yes an overseeing learner but nevertheless ready to learn from those around! Good for him!,

    • The Explorer

      Yes, indeed. Life is an ongoing learning experience.

    • Anton

      I’ll take Cambridge.

      Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley – made in Cambridge, burnt in Oxford.

      • magnolia

        Ah, make that Risen to greater glory in Oxford -and now-indeed, or so we are told, reassembled and studying and reaching out on the blogoshere from Oxford……

    • Pubcrawler

      “Oxford, surely the nation’s foremost seat of learning”

      Pfft.

      • CliveM

        Biased?

        • Pubcrawler

          Moi?

          *innocent face*

      • The Explorer

        Dawkins was there.

        • Pubcrawler

          Quid multa?

  • Andym

    On a point of order (or pedantry), as he was a bishop already, wasn’t he translated?

    • He’s transitioning?

      • Cressida de Nova

        LOL

    • Anton

      It’s easy to translate liberal theology: I don’t really believe in this stuff. Is Steven Croft a liberal? That does not appear to have been discussed yet here.

      • The Explorer

        His Wickipedia entry describes him as an ‘Open Evangelical’. I’m not clear what ‘Open’ means in this context.

        • Sybaseguru

          From my time in Synod I got the impression his open evangelical stance looked remarkably like a fascist liberal one – you know the type – you can believe anything as long I agree with it.

          • The Explorer

            Thank you.

  • Martin

    For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. Titus 1:5-9

    OK, so it doesn’t actually say ‘experienced’ but elder does imply a certain amount of experience. 1 Timothy 3 tells us that he must be able to teach and not a new convert. All in all I think this ‘bishop’ is a rather silly, vain man, quite the opposite.

  • David

    Two of the worst things are pompous Bishops and pompous Oxbridge graduates, especially professional academic ones. If you combine the bishop bit with the academic, then you really have a problem.
    If this little joke means that he will try not to be pompous, than that is a thing to be glad about.
    Of course there is much, much more to being a good bishop, and building up the body of Christ – the Church, but only time will tell how well he does that.

  • Is he going to a stag do?

    • Inspector General

      Can’t wait to see what he’ll spring when he conducts his next funeral, Marie. Perhaps a speaker secreted in the weeping mourners loved one’s coffin…

      • Jack hears the new bishop will be serving prune juice in Holy Communion. He will be announcing: “If the Holy Spirit won’t move you – the prune juice will loosen you up.”

        • carl jacobs

          You see. The difference between Chief’s incorrigibility and yours is that Chief at least tells funny jokes. More or less funny anyways. Sorta kinda.

  • Inspector General

    ” Steven Croft has been called by God to be a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ to lead disciples to greater holiness.”

    Do you know, Cranmer, sometimes it is not so obvious whether you are squeezing your followers bladder sponge or not…

  • IrishNeanderthal

    Regarding that word. . .

    On occasions like this, I imagine a Windows message such as “Please wait while your bishop is installing”.

    But no progress bar filling up from zero–100%.

    • chefofsinners

      Progress bar going backwards would be more like it.
      The CoE needs a factory reset.

      • A whole new operating system, not a reset.

        • chefofsinners

          Beware. I hear the Catholic Church has recently been scammed by a company called JesuIT.

          • A temporary setback, no more. The Church has survived worst. It’s facing its greatest challenge in 500 years.

        • Anton

          Yes, but one that permits parallel processing rather than hierarchical level architecture.

          • An Apostolic and Universal Church – as Christ intended. It’s already in place and has been since Pentecost.

    • Royinsouthwest

      Would the good bishop need a reboot afterwards?

      • Little Black Censored

        A boot anyway.

        • Dominic Stockford

          They all need the boot.

  • Pubcrawler

    Drat, and double drat!

  • chefofsinners

    This is an attempt at installation art, something like Tracy Emin’s bed, only not so tasteful. The bishop is hard of hearing and thought someone said ‘Learner prize’.

    • Inspector General

      The truth is rather more prosaic. He is a silly arse who hails from academia, where such displays of idiocy would have the undergrads rolling on the floor with mirth…

      • chefofsinners

        Philistine. Art is wasted on you.

        • Inspector General

          Fret not. You are the finest clown here to date, although the Bishop of Oxford…

          • chefofsinners

            Not my art, the art of the bishop of Banksy, spraying graffiti over the enthronement ceremony.

  • “Perhaps it doesn’t matter what you think: the world hears the bongos and sees the jest, and they like what they hear and see. The word is heard, and the church made visible.”

    Indeed ….

  • The Explorer

    ‘L’ is for Learner, and also for Linus:
    For where there’s a plus, there’s always a minus.
    ‘L’ is for light in the dark of the world;
    ‘L’ is for Lord, by whom we are called.

    • Mike Stallard

      and L is for Love and not Looking for Laughs.

  • dannybhoy

    How much do bishops get paid..?

  • While it is difficult to understand the motives of this particular bishop, we live in an age of empty symbolism. Remember the ‘Bring back our girls’ placards of Michelle Obama and David Cameron. How quickly they then forgot ‘our girls’. The objective is to garner public attention, not to the cause or the victim, but to the high mindedness of the public figure. People who pull such stunts are fairly confident that the fickleness of the media will see to it that nobody remembers what they said six weeks ago.

  • Mike Stallard

    a. If you are going to make a joke, please do expect it to be funny.
    b. If you are going to have music, please make sure it is fitting. At a funeral of a teenage boy suddenly dead when his bike hit an oncoming car, for example, playing something deliberately silly is not funny and it is not clever. To me consecration and “installation” of bishops is just as sacred.
    What incredible arrogance!

  • Geoff Lumley

    Ummm, it’s not often that an enthronement of a Bishop makes the news. Well done to the new Bishop for getting reported, displaying humility (a Learner like the rest) and God bless him as he now gets on with the job.

  • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

    Formerly Bishop of Sheffield eh? Redder than Diane Abbott’s thong, no doubt.

  • Dominic Stockford

    He looks a fool. Which tells us a lot.

  • Vox Populi

    At least he did not tell us which football team he supports. This is now mandatory if you want to be a bishop. It appears on all their bios. They make it a point to tell you when invited to a new place to give a talk.