St Ebbe's church minister to be ordained in the CofE

Al Horn

The 'remainer' strategy for conservative evangelicals in the Church of England seems to be growing stronger with the news that the senior minister of a church plant from St Ebbe's, Oxford is soon to be ordained in Christ Church Cathedral.

The Diocese of Oxford's Twitter feed has revealed that Al Horn, who joined the staff of St Ebbe's in 2001 and has been ministering in Oxford without a bishop's licence for nearly 20 years, "is being ordained to continue his role as senior minister of St Ebbe's in Headington".

St Ebbe's is a large CofE conservative evangelical church in central Oxford attended by many university students.

St Ebbe's Headington was launched as a church plant by the mother church in another parish in the east of the city in 2001.

Its website says: "Back in the late 1990s, the evening service at central St Ebbe's was at capacity in terms of numbers, and something needed to be done if we were to grow further. Many of us lived in east Oxford. After much prayer, discussion and consultation, we were able to start an evening service in September 2001, meeting in Headington School."

Central St Ebbe's operates under the delegated episcopal oversight of the 'flying' Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Rev Rod Thomas, the Provincial Episcopal Visitor (PEV) for CofE conservative evangelical churches opposed to the ordination of women.

Bishop Thomas is due to ordain Mr Horn, a former journalist, as deacon in July.

Oxford Diocese was asked by this website about the governance of St Ebbe's Headington, specifically whether the church plant will now operate under a Bishop's Mission Order, which sets protocols for church plants and 'fresh expressions' of church operating in established parishes, but has declined to answer.

St Ebbe's Headington was asked about Mr Horn's view of the spiritual trajectory of the CofE and the church plant's relationship with the local parish church in Headington. But so far the church has not responded to the press enquiry.

In December 2018 the Rector of St Ebbe's, Canon Vaughan Roberts, was one of around 100 clerics who signed a letter criticising the Oxford Bishops' revisionist approach to sexual ethics. Christian Today reported at the time: "A letter to the bishops signed by a wide grouping of more than 100 church ministers says that 'the situation [in the diocese] is serious.

"If not addressed, we would all struggle to support the leadership of our bishops in this matter and a number of our churches may want to seek alternative means of receiving episcopal ministry, in recognition that your position is seriously differentiated from theirs. This would be a tragedy."

The letter was issued in response to the Oxford bishops' offer of 'interim LGBT guidance and support' in their diocese  in October 2018, which critics feared was intended to pre-empt the outcome of the official 'Living in Love and Faith' process on sexuality.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, has a particular interest in fresh expressions of church. In 2004, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, appointed Dr Croft national leader of the CofE's Fresh Expressions Team. In 2009, he became Bishop of Sheffield and Bishop of Oxford in 2016.