A more Christ-like Church

contemplative, compassionate and courageous for the sake of God’s world

Introduction to our common vision

Our world is changing in new and unprecedented ways; we must think afresh about inequality, our communities, and what it means to be human. We need to be the best Church we can be in such a time as this: a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world.

We are not the society for the preservation of old buildings (important though our heritage assets are). We believe that a church is the community of God’s people, not the building. We believe that becoming more Christ-like is about who we are called to be, not what we’re called to do.

This is our common vision for every Christian in every church and every school across this Diocese. We want to discern what God is already doing in our communities and figure out how best we can join in.

The call to become more Christ-like, to sit at the feet of the Lord, is not the preliminary work we need to do before a new corporate strategy and a five-year plan. This is our vision and this is our strategy. It is the response we are called to make. We are continually adapting and reshaping our common vision as, together, we discern God’s will.

And we are just beginning.

People / Church

Key facts and parish information


With over 1,000 churches, schools and chaplaincies, the Diocese of Oxford is one of the largest and most complex in the Church of England. Did you know that:

  • The Diocese of Oxford (serving Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes) is the fifth largest diocese in the Church of England by land area and, already, the fourth most populated diocese in the country.
  • Our 283 church schools educate around 58,000 children
  • Over 1,000 clergy and 300 Licensed Lay Ministers serve 52,000 regular Sunday worshippers at our 815 churches. At Christmas, our churches will welcome over 150,000 people from across the Diocese.
  • …but there are major conurbations where the church lacks strength, and 27% of people in our congregations are aged 70 or older
  • According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, 52% of people in Britain now declare they are of no religion. That proportion is growing. With every decade that goes by, people understand less and less about the Christian faith.
  • Massive new housing and population growth in this diocese will mean that another half a million people are living here by 2026 (210,960 more homes and 475,000 more people).
  • Reading has a higher number of Looked after Children than the rest of Thames Valley and more than double the rate of Oxfordshire and some other parts of Berkshire.
  • Oxfordshire has high levels of teenagers not in education, employment or training and high levels of emergency hospital admission for injuries in young people. More than twice the rate of Reading.
  • Barriers to housing are high: 122 neighbourhoods in this diocese are in the 10% most deprived access to housing and services.

Statistical information is also available at parish/benefice level. You’ll find your parish mission statistics and finance dashboard using the link below, which is organised by deanery. You can also access deprivation and poverty data for your parish using the links below.

Our common vision process is:

  • Emergent
    We are continually adapting and reshaping our common vision as, together, we discern God’s will.
  • Locally shaped
    We are seeking continually to navigate by where the energy is at a local level and to discern where the Spirit is leading. We do not believe that our common vision can embrace every part of our common life: we want to celebrate and bless and work well in a range of other areas of ongoing work and excellence while developing new priorities in a creative and sustainable way.
  • Messy, untidy and iterative
    …but very energising!

Be sure to keep in touch with developments throughout 2020 through the pages of Pathways magazine, via eNews, Bishop Steven’s blog or our social media channels (Twitter | Facebook).

We are called to respond

The climate emergency is one of the most pressing issues of our age. We also see a deepening mental health crisis among our young people, growing inequality across society and, in this Diocese, a huge influx of new buildings and new communities (see Key Facts, above).

We know that there is a hunger in our communities for purpose and meaning and love. Questions about life and faith are as deep as ever, and we are called to respond: to become a more Christ-like Church: contemplative, compassionate and courageous for the sake of God’s world.

Some of the key facts are challenging, but we have substantial resources that we can draw on and a willingness to act. We have listened with God to the big questions, the challenges and opportunities we have as a Diocese, and we are responding to those questions in five different areas of focus. You can find out more about the work of each focus area using the navigation at the top right of this page.

What does this mean for my parish?

There are already as many as 1,700 community action projects in this Diocese and ever more stories about how our churches are living out and spreading the good news, so what are called to do together next as part of this journey? How do we all share in this common vision?

God’s Spirit is a Spirit of infinite variety and creativity. Parishes should explore the five areas of focus and consider what it means for their local context; our common vision is one that gives people, parishes and benefices the permission, and opportunity, to do things differently.

We want to avoid the McDonaldisation of the Church and, instead, value the God-given of creativity, diversity, new gifts and life that are already present in every local church. Watch Bishop Steven talking about the importance of local mission and introducing the tools and resources that are now available.

Watch Bishop Steven

The only person in the life of the Church who is able to call the Church to mission is Christ. It is when the local church hears the call of Christ that we will let down the nets. That is why the process of renewal begins and continues and ends in encountering God in Jesus Christ and setting Christ again at the centre of our common life.

Contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.

On compassion: “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life . . . the Church’s very credibility is shown in the way she shows mercy and compassionate love . . . Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

This diocesan vision for a more Christ-like Church is deeply rooted in scripture and it has set us on a journey that is simultaneously inward and outward-facing by calling us to be more contemplative, compassionate and courageous. I continue to be inspired by the sacrificial manner in which clergy and laity are working out this vision within the local community.