IN AN address heard by Pope Benedict XVI at the
Synod of Bishops in Rome (
News, 12 October) on Tuesday, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr
Steven Croft, suggested that the Roman Catholic Church could learn
from the Fresh Expressions movement.
Invited, with other fraternal delegates, to address the synod
for four minutes, Dr Croft encouraged the bishops to "reflect
further on the formation of new ecclesial communities for the
transmission of the faith to those who are no longer part of any
Church". The fruit of Fresh Expressions was often "a new
community of young people, or families, or the elderly", who could
then begin to offer prayers and worship.
Dr Croft also spoke of the part played by the diaconate. In the
Church of England, he said, deacons were described as "heralds of
Christ's kingdom and . . . agents of God's service".
He suggested that the new evangelisation, the theme of the
synod, was a call to "the formation of mature disciples able to
live in the rhythm of worship, community, and mission". In a blog
written on Wednesday of last week, he suggested that "the idea of
discipleship and of making disciples" was "the most striking
absentee" from the discussion at the synod. He would return to
Sheffield with the insight that the Church required "Christians who
will not melt in the heat of the day, but endure and be sustained
and grow stronger in their witness".
Writing online, Dr Croft described the synod
as "formal but not stuffy", and said that the speeches delivered by
bishops were "mostly very interesting". There was "a deep sense of
something stirring". The picture painted by bishops from Europe was
"bleaker . . . than I recognise from Britain", while Africa, which
had "spectacular numbers" of bishops and priests, was "much more
Presentations from North American and Western Europe had been
united by "a willingness to ask a series of more difficult
questions" about abuse scandals and the situation of the
Dr Croft observed "two different kinds of contributions" from
bishops: those that "argue that to go forward the Church must
return to fundamentals and do them better", and those that
suggested that it must "listen more deeply to culture, understand
it better, and be prepared to communicate the gospel in new ways.
. . Just occasionally there is a glimpse of a contribution which
suggests that both are essential."