Steven Croft was born in Halifax in 1957 and attended Sunday School each week from a young age, which is where his faith was nurtured. He attended a diocesan youth weekend at 15 years old and it was there that he invited Jesus into his life: “the faith of those around me became my own, and I had a deep sense of God’s call on my life”.
He read classics and theology at Worcester College, Oxford, from 1976-1980 and went on to study for the priesthood at Cranmer Hall, St John's College. He was awarded his doctorate on the Psalms in 1984.
After being ordained in 1983, Steven served as curate of St Andrew's, Enfield, before returning to Yorkshire as vicar of Ovenden in 1987, a parish of large council estates where Steven’s father grew up and where his grandmother still lived. Under his leadership, the church established a large network of community groups and grew in size to over 400 people, largely through adults coming to faith.
Steven became warden of his theological college in 1996 and returned to Durham to lead training for Anglican and Methodist ministry. He wrote widely about his experiences as a parish priest and in particular about the task of the Church to re-engage with those who had lost touch with the Christian faith.
Shortly after Rowan Williams became Archbishop of Canterbury, Steven was appointed Archbishops' Missioner and leader of the Fresh Expressions team. Returning to Oxford, Steven and his family were part of St Andrew’s, Oxford, and Steven also assisted at St Michael’s, Summertown.
For four years, Steven oversaw the emergence of Fresh Expressions, encouraging new ways of being Church in the 21st century, now a significant part of the life in the Church of England. The principles and materials developed by the team have been applied in many other denominations and across the world.
Bishop of Sheffield
In 2009, Steven was consecrated Bishop of Sheffield. At the heart of Bishop Steven’s ministry in Sheffield was a desire to connect the Church across the diocese more deeply together as one body and to re-engage with mission in the wider community with confidence and hope. He worked creatively with Anglicans of all traditions in a very diverse diocese.
Together with the senior team, Bishop Steven led the development of a strategy for evangelism and growth across the diocese.
Steven oversaw the release of £1 million of historic reserves for a project enriching thousands of young people's lives, began the development of a virtual learning hub, developed a six-year project to deploy development workers in poorer communities, and oversaw the launch of the new Common Fund.
Bishop Steven served on Archbishops' Council and chaired the Ministry Council of the Church of England. Steven led the development of the Common Awards in theological education and was a key part of the Renewal and Reform programme.
In 2012, he represented the Archbishop of Canterbury at the worldwide Synod of Bishops on Evangelisation in Rome, and teaches widely in the United Kingdom and overseas.
Bishop of Oxford
Steven was translated to the See of Oxford in July 2016.
In his inauguration sermon he said, "we are called to be the Church of the Beatitudes: to know that we are blessed and to seek always to be a blessing to the communities we serve." This calling became known in the diocese as a our common vision to become a more Christ-like Church.
Steven became a member of the House of Lords in October 2013 and was a member of the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence until 2020.
He is a founding board member for the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, and writes extensively on issues of online safety and digital ethics. Bishop Steven also speaks passionately both on his blog and in the House of Lords on the need to make gig economy a fairer, safer environment, particularly for the sake of today's young adults.
A leading advocate of fossil fuel divestment within the national Church, in April 2021 Bishop Steven was among 13 peers appointed to the Lords Select Committee for the environment and climate change. Steven has previously called for "nothing less than an ecological conversion of every person and every part of society".
At the heart of Steven’s ministry is a desire to engage in the wider community with confidence and hope. He has worked creatively with Anglicans of all traditions in a very diverse diocese, as well as with civic and community leaders and the leaders of other churches and other faiths.
2022 saw Bishop Steven visiting each deanery in the diocese to listen to local leaders and to support community outreach projects; a chance to "listen and to encourage the Church to be the best we can be in this time, for the sake of God’s world". Later the same year, Steven published "Together in Love and Faith", in doing so he became the most senior figure in the Church of England to support same-sex marriage.
“I’ve had letters from people who have told me, ‘I am 60 and gay and at a stage in my life when I want to explore faith again, but I don’t feel I can do it in a church that isn’t able to affirm my identity and who I am’. And others from churchgoing parents of teenage children. They are reflecting back to me their longing that their sons and daughters will grow up in the faith, but they understand that this is just not going to happen unless the Church can develop a way of affirming same-sex relationships."
The Bishop of Oxford's Outreach Fund supports the mission of the Church worldwide, responding to a range of requests for help in areas such as humanitarian need, Christian education, training and mission. In 2022, the fund made a total of £25,000 in donations.
Steven is married to Ann, who is originally from Bristol. Ann trained as a nurse at the John Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. Steven and Ann were married in St Ebbe’s, Oxford, in 1978 and lived the first two years of their married life in Jericho. Ann retrained as a nursery nurse in mid-life.
Ann pioneered and led what would become a huge mother and toddler group in the Nave at Sheffield Cathedral; a city centre ministry that saw +100 mums attend each week. Here in Oxford, Ann is involved with a church in Kidlington, (North Oxford) where they live, which recently won a Red Kite Award for the best Baby and Toddler group in Oxfordshire.
Steven and Ann have four adult children – Paul (married to Bebe), Andy (married to Beth), Amy (married to Simon) and Sarah – and eight grandchildren. Steven is a keen cook and bakes his own bread. The Bishop's Senior Staff Group will often hear of his latest creations: Christmas 2022 saw the arrival of a 'Christmas lunch pizza', complete with sprouts.
More from the bishop
Bishop Steven is author of a number of books, including Jesus’ People: What the Church Should Do Next (2009), which challenged the reader to rethink both the role of Jesus in the Church and that of the Church in today’s society and culture.
“One of my passions is forming disciples, and I encourage all churches to teach the faith to beginners.”
It was that passion that inspired Steven to join Paula Gooder, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell and the Rt Revd Robert Attwell to co-author Pilgrim, a widely respected resource to help churches to do just that. The Bishop has completed a number of pilgrimages in his time in the diocese, including an annual pilgrimage round one of the three counties and the St Frideswide Pilgrimage to Christ Church Cathedral.
More recently, Bishop Steven's Comfortable Words podcast series and subsequent book offered reflections on the wisdom of Isaiah for the Church in Covid times, and the book was featured in the Big Church Read for 2021. And Steven's popular podcast My (extraordinary) Family offers poignant conversations with fellow Christians.
Bishop Steven also leads a series of daily and weekly reflections for those new to or rediscovering the Christian faith each Lent, called Come and See. Now in its third year, Come and See is a warm invitation to all who feel adrift and have deep questions of faith.
Steven's writing and podcasts will often draw on popular culture. References range from The Lord of the Rings, to Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, Dad’s Army, TED talks, and his favourite song (‘Sweet Surrender’, John Denver). Throughout, his writing draws on, and extols, the principles of undefended leadership.
“Courage is difficult. I’ve wrestled all my life with inner fear and lack of confidence, in every role I have been called to, and I wrestle with it still. But I’ve learned at least to recognise moments of courage in others: when God calls you to begin a new charitable work, or a tough new job, or recomitt to a marriage, or challenge wrong behaviour, or to step out in faith. Those are the moments which define a life. To live abundantly us to dream impossible dreams and have the courage to pursue them.”
“We love to compare ourselves with others, often unfavourably. Even in families, people are simply different. There is, thank God, an infinite variety in creation and within the Church. Faith and love are refracted through our very different personalities and experiences, to the glory of God. We need to learn to be ourselves, the people God made us, and allow others to be the same.”
The Rt Revd Steven John Lindsey Croft
Ordained Deacon: 1983
Ordained Priest: 1984
Consecrated Bishop: 2009
Worcester College Oxford BA 1980
Worcester College Oxford MA 1983
St John's College Durham PhD 1984
Cranmer Hall Durham 1980
Curate, Enfield (St Andrew), London, 1983-1987
Vicar, Ovenden (St George), Wakefield, 1987-1996
Diocesan Mission Consultant, Wakefield, 1994-1996
Warden, Cranmer Hall Dur, 1996-2004
Archbishops' Missioner and Team Leader of Fresh Expressions, 2004-2009
Bishop of Sheffield, Sheffield 2009-2016
Bishop of Oxford, Oxford, from 2016