The Bishop of Oxford versus evangelical Anglicans

Did the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, consult the Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, the lead bishop on the Living in Love and Faith process (LLF) on sexuality, before launching his attack on the orthodox leaders of the Alliance?

With the General Synod now underway in York, Bishop Snow is tasked with persuading members to accept the House of Bishops' controversial LLF proposals to push ahead with standalone services of same-sex blessing on a trial basis.

Christian Today contacted Bishop Snow's office to ask whether he had been consulted before Bishop Croft fired off his broadside against the Alliance. Their leaders wrote to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell, on June 26 objecting to the bishops' latest LLF proposals.

Leicester Diocese said enquiries about LLF should go to the central C of E communications team. A statement from Church House Westminster is awaited about whether the lead bishop was duly consulted as a matter of courtesy.

The leaders of the Alliance coalition of evangelical charismatic, conservative evangelical and Anglo-Catholic networks in the Church of England have just issued a response to Bishop Croft's blog-post of July 2.

They have responded robustly to Bishop Croft's challenge to its claim that its coalition of orthodox networks is supported by more than 2,000 clergy. 'I see no real evidence that this is the case (and I note that the Catholic signatories seem not to have signed the latest letter),' he blogged.

The Alliance replied: "The evidence of support for our network is that individual clergy members of the Church of England have each formally and personally expressed support for the Alliance online at and we have their names (including 138 clergy in the Oxford diocese so far). The Catholic signatories remain an essential part of the Alliance and their views are clear from their signatures on past letters, their recent public statement, and their support below. The clergy currently supporting the Alliance come from churches which represent 36 per cent of the Church of England's average Sunday attendance and 55 per cent of the Church of England's under 18 average Sunday attendance."

The Alliance response to Bishop Croft is signed by Tom Middleton, director of Catholic network Forward in Faith. So, Bishop Croft's attempt to drive a wedge between the evangelical and Catholic wings of the Alliance seems to have failed.

Despite its bluster, Bishop Croft's blog was revealing of the high-level revisionist strategy for changing the C of E's doctrine on the exclusively heterosexual nature of marriage. He was blatant in his use of the 'salami-slicing tactic', a term coined in Hungary in the late 1940s to describe the Communist Party's takeover of the country.

Bishop Croft, who in November 2023 became the most senior C of E bishop to come out in favour of allowing full same-sex marriages in parish churches, drew the Alliance leaders' attention to how far the salami of the traditional Anglican teaching on sexual morality has already been sliced down: "The authorisation of Prayers of Love and Faith (even as stand alone services) simply gives alternative liturgical provision to enable services which could legally happen without PLF. All of you as signatories have been part of a Church for many years in which these services have happened."

Bishops Croft and Snow have some career history together. They were respectively Bishop and Archdeacon of Sheffield when the Rev Matthew Ineson, then an incumbent in their diocese, made disclosures in 2012 and 2013 that he had been raped by the serial church abuser, the Revd Trevor Devamanikkam, when he was 16. Bishop Croft was one of the bishops criticised in the 2023 C of E report into the scandal for mishandling Mr Ineson's disclosures.

Even if Bishop Croft did consult his former archdeacon, his cantankerous blog against the Alliance a few days before the July 8 debate on LLF can only have exacerbated the deep divisions in the Synod. The question arises what Bishop Snow makes of his colleague's intervention.

Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in the UK.