Alumni Spotlight: Revd. Canon Dr. Stephen Hance
By: Kari Lutes, Alumni Office Intern
Stephen Hance (DMin 2009) came to Christ at the age of five after
his mother talked to him about the importance of accepting Jesus into his heart. Stephen continued to follow Christ, but realized that something had been missing in his faith when he began to attend an Anglican church with his schoolmates.
“I had quite a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit there when I was fifteen or sixteen years old, which brought my faith to life and changed it quite radically,” Stephen said. “Prior to that I thought being a Christian was something that you did as an act of will, sort of gritting your teeth and doing the right thing even when you didn’t feel like it. What I didn’t have was an experience of God, the Holy Spirit, as somebody who made life, being a Christian, joyful and gave you the power to live for Christ.”
A visiting speaker came to Stephen’s church. His talk, which Stephen described as, “straightforward” and “biblical,” created a powerful change in Stephen’s faith. The speaker invited people to come to the front of the room for prayer at the end of his talk and ended up praying for Stephen.
“I had a powerful experience of God,” Stephen said. “I felt myself physically being filled by God, it was like a kind of white heat, my feet went up through my body and I began to speak in tongues, which I didn’t really know anything about.”
The experience gave joy and power to Stephen’s faith and years later he was ordained in the Anglican Church at the age of twenty three. Stephen had a degree in sociology and theology and a masters in theology, but found himself looking for more, a search which ultimately led him to Asbury.
“I found myself thinking it would be good to get some fresh input, particularly in the area of leadership,” Stephen said. “It was really about leadership for me.”
Stephen began to read books on leadership and attend leadership conferences, hoping to learn to lead well by following the examples of good leaders. Stephen was at a leadership summit at Willow Creek Church in Chicago when he came upon Asbury, who had a stall filled with brochures in the marketplace.
“I know there isn’t one as a matter of course, but that year there was,” Stephen said. He picked up a brochure about Asbury’s Beeson program and found that, “it ticked every box,” of what he was looking for.
“I remember standing there with the brochure in my hand and praying, ‘God this is exactly what I’ve been looking for,’” Stephen said.
At the time, the Beeson program was a part-time four-year program that required Stephen, who was working as a parish minister, to leave England for only six weeks of the year. Stephen applied for the program and soon received a call from Dr. David Rambo. David asked Stephen if he was sure he wanted to do the program, since Asbury had never received an applicant from Britain before and had intended the program for students from Africa and the Far East.
“I said, ‘I’m sure I’d like to be considered for it,’” Stephen said. “I thought, ‘he’s already trying to talk me out of it, so I’m not going to get the place.’ But I did get the place.”
While Stephen came to Asbury to learn more about leadership and grew as a leader during his time in seminary, what he ultimately came away with was a sense of the global church.
“The biggest thing that I got out of it was the different perspectives of people who had come from other parts of the world,” Stephen said. “Things that were obvious to me were by no means obvious to them, and things that were obvious to them were not obvious to me.”
Stephen now works in London as a director of missions and evangelism for The Diocese of Southwark and as one of the canons of Southwark Cathedral. Stephens’s role is two-fold: to help the cathedral to be missional and evangelistic and, within the diocese, to help parishes develop their own plans for missions and evangelism.
Stephen has learned two key lessons while working within the realm of missions. This first is that each church has a unique opportunity for missions, and that is where their focus should be.
“We make it hard for God to use us in missions when we try to copy what someone else is doing, that is true for individuals and for churches,” Stephen said. “Ask, ‘what is the doorway that God has set before you?’ and walk through it.”
Stephen has also learned that Christians need to recover confidence in the gospel and in God.
“I think we need to recover confidence,” Stephen said. “The same God who said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light, is still at work in the world today. He isn’t thrown or anxious by any of the challenges we face.”
Stephen’s prayer for the future is that he would bring life to the church.
“My longing has always been that God would use me to bring life and renewal to the church,” He said. “Everything I have done, really, has been about that.”
One response to “Alumni Spotlight: Revd. Canon Dr. Stephen Hance”