Canon Colin Craston, a Second World War naval hero who went on to become one of England’s leading evangelical priests and a past-chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, has died. Colin Craston died peacefully as his home yesterday (Thursday), St Paul’s Day. He was 94. He had served his entire ordained ministry, after his curacy, at St Paul’s Church in Bolton, Greater Manchester.
Canon Craston was educated at Tyndale Hall in Bristol, earning a BA from Bristol University in 1949 and a Bachelor of Divinity from London University in 1951. In 1992 he was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate in Divinity.
He was ordained deacon in 1951 and priest in 1952, serving his curacy at St Nicholas’ Church in Durham. In 1954 he became vicar of St Paul’s Church in Bolton, which he served for almost 40 years. During that time he also served as priest in charge and then vicar of Emmanuel Church in Bolton, becoming Team Rector of the newly created team ministry in 1986. In 1968 he was made an honorary canon of Manchester Cathedral and he also served as Rural Dean of Bolton. In 1985 he was made one of the Honorary Chaplains to Queen Elizabeth II. He retired in 1992 and retained permission to officiate until his death.
He was elected as the Church of England’s clerical member of the Anglican Consultative Council in 1981, and remained on the ACC for 15 years; serving as vice-chair and then chair of the Council from 1990 to 1996.
“Canon Colin Craston will be gratefully missed for his pivotal contributions to the life of the Anglican Communion,” the current chair of the ACC, Archbishop Paul Kwong, the Primate of Hong Kong, said. “He brought with him many gifts during his fifteen years of service on the Anglican Consultative Council, six of those years as Chairman.
“He helped build up the Communion for mission and laid down a strong foundation upon which the future development of the Communion has been possible,” Archbishop Paul said.
The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, described Colin Craston as “a highly significant figure both in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.”
He said: “He served the Anglican Consultative Council with distinction, particularly during his time as chair. His wisdom and insight were widely valued. There will be many people around our global family who will mourn his passing but will remember with warmth just how much his life enriched theirs.”
In 2011, Canon Craston was the first clerical member to be admitted to the newly-created Order of William Temple, an honorific of the Diocese of Manchester. Canon Craston was admitted to the Order by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, and the Bishop of Manchester, Nigel McCulloch, at a service during the General Synod meeting in York. The honour was given “in recognition of his long and distinguished ministry within the Diocese of Manchester, the Church of England, and the Anglican Communion”.
He had served as chairman of the Li Tim Oi Foundation, which supports women’s ordination to the priesthood worldwide. He put forward arguments for the ordination of women from an evangelical perspective, concluding an article in The Churchman journal with these words: “That is why we face now, and not before now, the possibility and rightness of ordination of women. The time is ripe for a development in the man-woman relationship that has been ‘on the cards’ ever since the cross provided the remedy for man’s sinfulness, the healing of his impaired relationships, and the potential for realising wholeness in human personhood. The New Testament has had this ‘timebomb’ waiting for the kairos one day to be created by the Lord of history.”
He published six books: Heaven, Science and the Last Things; Evangelical and Evolving; Debtor to Grace; Biblical Headship and the ordination of Women; Anglicanism and the Universal Church; and Silence of Eternity.
His book “Evangelical and Evolving: Following the Gospel in a Changing World” was published by Hymns Ancient & Modern in 2006, which was described in the book as “a critical time for Anglican evangelicals.” It was written at a time when the furore over the appointment of an openly gay bishop and blessings for same sex couples in parts of the Communion, and the move towards the consecration of women bishops in the Church of England, was leading to the establishment of breakaway churches.
In it, he argued that while some conservatives were saying “If you don't agree with us, you are not in Communion,” most evangelicals were uncomfortable with such extremism. Through its pages, he sought to articulate the views of many open evangelicals about key issues of the moment: interpreting Scripture, authority, belonging to the Church, the ministry, sexuality cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, and more. He argued for “biblical humility and compassion as with others we explore theological diversity.”
In 2014 he was awarded a medal by the Russian Federation for his work protecting Arctic convoys during the Second World War. Canon Craston had served as a wireless telegraphist on the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Eclipse for a year before being sent ashore in March 1943 having been selected for a commission. The ship sank seven months later in the Aegean Sea near Greece, with the loss of 119 of the 145 crew. “My life was absolutely dependent on coming off that ship . . . my friends and colleagues were all on it,” he told the Bolton News ahead of the medal ceremony in Manchester Town Hall. “I’m 91 years old, yet I could’ve died aged 20.”
He had previously received eight medals for his war service – but the ceremony at Manchester was the first time he received an award in person.
He told the Bolton News: “I’m very, very pleased to be receiving this medal. It’s a great privilege. I’ve heard for a long time that the Russians wanted to honour those who served in the convoys and I look forward to being given a medal in person.
“I remember my war years well. There were dreadful weather conditions along the way . . . ice, gale storms, you name it. I appreciated the experience. It was very interesting”.
After his first wife died, Colin Craston found love again with the Revd Brenda Fullalove. The couple were married at Lambeth Palace in a service presided over by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey. The Revd Canon Colin Craston leaves behind Brenda, two children and a number of grand-children and great grand-children.