Diocesan Synod Summary

“From small beginnings great things come”

More than 120 members joined the online gathering of the first Diocesan Synod of the new Triennium on Saturday 13 November. Documents discussed at the meeting are available to view online. Prior to the main Synod meeting, the Houses of Clergy and Laity met separately to elect the new Chairs of the Houses for the new Triennium. Geoff Bayliss was re-elected as the Chair of House of Clergy and John Sykes as Chair of the House of Laity. Following a vote later in the meeting, Julie Dziegiel was also elected Vice-Chair by Synod members.

Welcome

The session began with a time of worship and prayer led by the Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham. Bishop Olivia had just returned from COP26 in Glasgow and shared a reflection of her time at the climate summit. She read the moving poem Tell Them by Kathy Jetnil-Kijine from the Marshall Islands illustrating the extreme and devastating impacts of climate change on remote world islands.

Questions

Prior to each Synod members have the opportunity to submit questions. Chair of the ODBF, Revd Canon John Tattersall, responded to a question raised about the increase in central administration costs for the diocese, the increase in Parish Share over the past 10 years and how the cost balance will be addressed:

“We are deeply mindful that we shouldn’t just be increasing cost at the centre, we should be increasing the funds we devote to parishes.

“The bulk of the increase in costs at the centre is made up of safeguarding costs, that is something that we cannot refuse to fund, and the safeguarding team are there to serve and support our parishes.

“The other big increase has been in the Diocesan Advisory Committee which issues faculties for improvements in changes to church buildings. That again is a necessary support for our parishes.”

 


 

Presidential Address by the Bishop of Oxford

Bishop Steven introduced the new Addressing Poverty and Inequality report from the diocese. Bishop Steven shared about his time as part of the Sheffield Fairness Commission, prior to joining the diocese, and what this taught him about the complexities and many lenses of poverty and inequality: “As a church we have a calling to serve the poorest in our communities and to steward our own wealth guided by values of justice and compassion. As a whole church we have a responsibility to maintain, and if we can, to deepen the way in which our society lives out the call in the prophets and in the gospels to justice and a fairer society.”

The presidential address is available to read on Bishop Steven’s blog.

 


Addressing Poverty and Inequality

The Venerable Stephen Pullin, Archdeacon of Berkshire and Hannah Ling,  diocesan Social Justice Adviser, presented the brand-new report from the diocese – Addressing Poverty and Inequality: Supporting churches to love and serve their communities during COVID-19 and beyond.

“This report bears witness to the incredible ways the church across our diocese has responded during the pandemic, drawing alongside communities, and supporting the most vulnerable”

  • Churches are not always clear of their context which is shaped by a variety of factors – many church leaders know their areas well, but others found this difficult.
  • Churches want more help in knowing how to engage and feeling able to engage – building networks and connections with other churches and organisations.
  • The ‘decentring’ of church action is crucial in expanding our impact – working in partnership with others outside of the Church is an opportunity for increasing our impact.
  • We must not forget social justice – there is an important distinction between justice and action, one mitigates the issues and the other tackles the root causes of poverty.

Archdeacon Stephen shared how the report will inform an initial steer on how the diocese can best support the work of parishes through provision of training and learning resources for churches, further developing advocacy across the diocese, and developing connections between churches. He highlighted the tone of the support provided by churches in the diocese and value of providing agency rather than considering individuals as objects of charity:

“You don’t do for other people, what they can do for themselves.”

The Synod passed the Motion celebrating the work of churches in tackling poverty and inequality, affirming the additional action during COVID-19 and encouraging churches to put ‘addressing the causes and consequences of poverty’ at the centre of their mission.


2022 Revenue Budget and Authorisation of Expenditure, and Deanery Apportionment

Canon John Tattersall, as outgoing ODBF Chair, presented his last motion to Synod on the 2022 budget, authorisation of expenditure and contributions from deanery share. John explained the different parts of motion and parameters facing the diocesan budget:

  • Parish Share for 2022 will be frozen in recognition that parishes have had to cut costs during the pandemic.
  • A diocesan Parish Share review opened to all clergy and church officers in November and led by Julie Dziegiel.
  • ­Total Return funds from our glebe capital gains are used to fund our common vision.
  • ­The diocesan commitment to moving to net zero will cost a significant amount and will be funded by total return income.
  • ­Stipend and salary of clergy and diocesan staff will increase in 2022 and the level will be reviewed again as the cost of living rises.
  • ­There has been no enforced cut in stipendiary clergy numbers in the diocese.

“The rigor with which costs are constrained at Church House, beats the rigor with which we have been able to cut costs elsewhere…we have done our upmost to keep these costs to a minimum… thank you very much for all that you are already doing, parish and deanery treasurers and those who seek to raise funds…the amount they have managed to raise over the current year has exceeded our expectations, and to clergy for being supportive of those efforts.”

John responded to a series of questions and comments from Synod members including the efficiency of the use of diocesan funds when compared with other dioceses.

“Our total staff costs in the diocese, as a proportion of total diocesan expenditure, is 10th lowest of all the dioceses in the Church of England, and the ratio of numbers of stipendiary clergy to support costs is the second best of all dioceses.”

“The vast majority of common vision money goes on the development fund given directly to parishes and the new congregations initiative, supporting the build-up of parishes and congregations.”

 


Giving and Fundraising

Joshua Townson, Generous Giving Advisor in the diocese, joined the Synod sharing an update on changes in giving during the pandemic (2019-20) and how local churches and the diocese can respond: “Financial ups and downs are a regular part of church life, and we continue to adapt as churches and as a diocese.”

Joshua highlighted that the source of income has shifted rather than a new source of income being found as cash collections decreased by £1.6 million and giving through the Parish Giving Scheme increased by £1.6 million. Overall planned giving in the diocese saw a 0.38% increase in giving. “We have 845 new donors this year through the Parish Giving Scheme which equates to four new givers per church”

Joshua recommended a range of resources to empower churches to encourage regular giving, including:

  • Generosity Week and the Generosity Toolkit from the national Church developed for PCCs.
  • A new diocesan initiative Preaching on Generous Giving.
  • A new diocesan resource for churches planning for a regular giving campaign will be launched in 2022.
  • Online and contactless giving through Give A Little and QR codes
    the diocese is working with the National Church to access funds for card readers for 10% of parishes in the diocese.
  • New diocesan resources about Legacy Giving to be launched in the coming months.
  • The diocese has partnered with Action Planning a fundraising consultancy to provide training for churches in the diocese.
  • Fundraising in a Box
  • Easy Fundraising App

 


Appointment of Chair and Vice-Chair of the Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance

Bishop Steven formally proposed the nomination of Sir Hector Sants as the new Chair of the ODBF. Hector begins the role on 1 January 2022 with John Tattersall remaining as Chair until the end of December.


Annual Report and Accounts of the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education

The ODBE Deputy Director, Gordon Joyner, introduced a new scheme under the 2021 DBE Measure which was passed at General Synod earlier in 2021. The main chunk of the Measure refers to designating the DBE as a company limited by guarantee.

“The DBE went through a significant restructure in 2015 and the structure of the current board is fully in line with the new Measure. It is considered most appropriate for our ever-changing area of work including liaising with 28 academy trusts.”


Development Fund

John Sykes, Chair of the Development Fund Panel, presented an encouraging update, 200 applications and 120 awards later, about the projects reflecting where God is at work in communities across the diocese.

“The Development Fund is firmly rooted in our Common Vision. It is more than just a way of just giving finances to parishes, it’s to encourage discernment and the application of the principles and techniques all developed as part of the Common Vision Programme.”


General Synod Update

All of the newly elected members of the General Synod and those who have been re-elected were introduced and welcomed. A list of diocesan representatives is available on the General Synod page.


Farewell to Revd Canon John Tattersall

Bishop Steven expressed warm thanks to the outgoing Chair of the ODBF, John Tattersall, for his work over the past eight years.

“You have made a huge contribution to the life of the diocese…the amount of work you have done behind the scenes is absolutely immense…You have brought deep Christian commitment and pastoral wisdom and the ability to listen… you have been unfailingly patient and have played your part in a number of various significant appointments of senior staff.”

Reflection – “From small beginnings great things come”

John Tattersall closed his final Synod meeting as Chair with a reflection on the session and the many different areas of work of the diocese.

“As a diocese we can’t change the world, but we can start with small beginnings, and we shouldn’t despair over these small beginnings…the gestures we are able to make and must continue to make are immensely important because of the influence they have throughout this diocese and the country.”

“I have been terribly impressed by how united we all are in wanting to address fundamental issues and wanting to make a difference in the world…from small beginnings great things come.”

“Thank you all for your support over the past 8 years. Many of you work incredibly hard to ensure that we do get Parish Share in, we are able to pay our clergy and able to sustain the great work of this diocese.”


Watch the Diocesan Synod meeting