Looking back at Diocesan Synod, November 2020

The Church’s response to the fourth industrial revolution, the care and wellbeing of Ministers and those in Leadership in a Christ like Church and the work of Parents and Children Together (PACT) were just some of the subjects discussed at last month’s Synod which met on 14 November 2020, rather extraordinarily, or perhaps, for now, ordinarily, via zoom.

Despite the remote nature of the meeting, Diocesan Standing Orders were carefully adhered to and participants were welcomed by Bishop Steven, followed by notices, approval of minutes and questions. Despite this new, digital approach to Synod, all members were afforded a fair and equal chance to voice their questions and interact with Bishop Steven, the Diocesan Secretary, and each other.

The full recording of Synod includes the move to amend the Diocesan Scheme for 2021 Triennial Election and online breakout sessions and can be viewed by clicking on the image above.

Presidential Address by the Bishop of Oxford

As proposition 22 became law in California last month, Bishop Steven used it’s passing to reflect on the global implications it may have, the future of work and the Church’s role in the fourth industrial revolution. Read the Bishop’s address in full here.

“How should the Church respond to this fourth industrial revolution and these massive changes in the future of work? Fundamentally our response should be to welcome any technology that augments human dignity and worth, while staunchly resisting every application of technology that threatens or replaces human dignity.” 

The Care and Wellbeing of Ministers and those in Leadership in a Christ-like Church

Bishop Steven announced the approval of the Clergy Covenant for Wellbeing, confirming it as an Act of Synod (following the February 2020 Diocesan Synod meeting). He reaffirmed the Diocese’s commitment to promoting the welfare of clergy and their households so that the whole Church may flourish in the service of the mission of God.

Bishop Olivia followed this with a thought-provoking dive into the importance of wellbeing for ministers and those in leadership positions, reminding Synod members that it is a complicated nexus, with each of us affected differently by stress and strain due to life circumstances including age, gender, family status, ethnicity and disability. Synod members were encouraged to use the resources provided by the Church, including the newly launched Flourishing Together in Church Leadership, to enable the wellbeing of everyone in Church leadership, despite their differing needs, so that, together, we may be the fully functioning body of Christ.

In conclusion, she spurred Diocesan members on to, not just keep their ideas within Synod and on paper, but to get out amongst their congregations and fellow church leaders, encouraging ‘Big Conversations’ to help encourage a shift towards a culture where the ministry and discipleship of all is equally recognised and valued.

Following online breakout sessions, members overwhelming accepted the motion to:

  • Adopt the Clergy Covenant for Wellbeing as an Act of Synod
  • Commend Flourishing Together to all parts of the Diocese
  • Welcome the Dignity in Ministry and at Work Policy
  • Encourage ongoing proactive consideration of wellbeing issues at parish, deanery and Diocesan level.

For further information regarding the discussions held in the breakout sessions, please refer to the minutes of the meeting (available soon)

PACT – Parents and Children Together

Synod was joined by four members of PACT’s senior team who gave a brief overview of the work they do in support of families and children across the Diocese. PACT has had a relationship with the Diocese since its inception in 1911 and has grown to a charity with an annual income of £3million in 2019/20, supporting 500 families over the last year. Over the last three years they have placed over 200 children in loving homes and continue to support vulnerable women through their female only project, Alanna House. As well as this, their innovative work with children who have experienced domestic abuse through Bounce Back 4 Kids is helping to break the cycle of domestic abuse across Oxfordshire.

Their work is vital, especially in the current climate and their Chief Executive, Jan Fishwick, expressed her enormous gratitude to the Diocese and parishes who have supported PACTs work this year, despite the fiscal ramifications of Covid 19. Jan was keen to point out that PACT share the Diocese’s Common Vision and called on Synod members to work with them to help raise awareness of domestic abuse and the support needed for adoptive families and children, a point echoed by the Bishop of Buckingham who praised their inspirational work in his summing up.

The full presentation can be viewed by clicking on the image below.

Finance

The Revd. John Tattersall, Chair of the Board of Finance, spoke to the financial papers circulated to Synod, making clear that the Board of Finance were keenly aware of the dark days that many parishes currently face. He drew out four clear ways in which the Diocese is responding to Covid-19:

1) The freezing of Parish Share – no Deanery, other than specific deaneries that are receiving temporary transition relief, will face an increase in their Parish Share. John reiterated Bishop Steven’s request from earlier in the year, that those who are able, might increase their share from 5% to 6%.

2) Reducing Central Diocesan costs – John confirmed that there will be no cuts to clergy costs but there will be a 15-20% cut from the Central Diocese’s costs.

3) Total Return Funds – the Diocese will be able to continue to draw down from this fund at the same rate as it currently does over the next three years

4) The Diocese’s commitment to the wider Anglican community – the Diocese has committed to supporting struggling dioceses over the next four years, as well as donating to the Archbishops Fund.

The motion to approve the 2020/21 budget was then put to each House and was overwhelmingly passed.

Both John and Bishop Steven took the opportunity to relay the Diocese’s thanks and good wishes to Alison Jestico, who retires at the end of December. Find out about her successor, John Orridge, in the news section of the website.

Closing Remarks

The Bishop of Buckingham drew the meeting to a close with a reflection on the morning’s activity reminding those present to, “let your living, reflect the good news of Jesus Christ”. He commended the assembled on their commitment to mutual respect, which was eloquently demonstrated by the honest, respectful conversations that were had across the digital space.

About Diocesan Synod

The Diocesan Synod is the governing body of the Church of England in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. Alongside the Bishops, its membership is drawn from parishioners and clergy, and new members are elected every three years.

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, has a duty to consult the Diocesan Synod on matters of general importance and concern to the Diocese and, in turn, the Diocesan Synod provides a connection to deanery synods and PCCs.

Members of Diocesan Synod gather three times a year to discuss issues facing the Church and to share experience from across the Diocese. Members can also put themselves forward for boards and committees, such as the Bishop’s Council. Diocesan Synod plays a key role in helping the Church respond to the challenges that face us all and to become the best Church we can be for this generation. Find out more at oxford.anglican.org/diocesan-synod