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Diocesan Synod: caring for our children

The June meeting of Oxford Diocesan Synod took time to discuss how we can best support children, families and schools. Members also considered a revised environmental motion for General Synod and the draft 2024 budget. 

In his presidential address, the Bishop of Oxford said that there is much to be done to support parents and children in responsible approaches to the internet. Drawing on his work in the House of Lords to improve the Online Safety Bill, along with some alarming statistics about material available to children online, his address set out the challenges the next generations will face, the need to monitor and limit access to social media and the resources of Christian faith to establish and build a vital core of Christian identity rooted in God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Watch Bishop Steven's presidential address below, or read a transcript on his blog.

Board of Education (ODBE)

Members heard from the Bishop of Buckingham and Chair of the Board of Education, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, and Mr Tony Wilson, Diocesan Director of Education. Bishop Alan began with a summary of the many issues facing our schools following the pandemic and the pressures arising from the cost-of-living crisis, giving thanks for the support of Bishop Steven Croft to the work of the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education

ODBE relies on self-generated income and Tony's presentation looked back on a busy year with wide use of the Space Makers contemplative toolkit, and that 280 schools are now on a service level agreement with ODBE. 93% of all church schools in the diocese are currently categorised as outstanding or good by Ofsted.

Tony reported an exciting year ahead supporting schools with their net-zero plans and the news that ODBE will become a national delivery partner for NPQs. His presentation and slides can be viewed in full below.

Children, Young People and Schools 

Work with children, young people and schools is a key part of our common vision for a more Christ-like Church. Oxford Diocesan Synod members heard from the Bishop of Dorchester, the diocesan chaplaincy adviser and our three discipleship enablers about how we support children, youth and families in schools, at home and in church. The presentation included a film from four different churches about their work and a lively Synod discussion followed. Both can be viewed below. Among the many responses from Synod members to this area, comments included:

  • How do we combine dedicated youth activity, which benefits young people who may feel isolated in their own church, with intergenerational work?

  • Churches across the traditions are struggling to get back post-Covid and there's a shortage of volunteers [see also recent research findings]

  • Where chaplaincy is happening there is much fruit. How can that work be expanded?

  • The church can be perceived as ‘anti’ – how do we welcome people when this is the perception?

  • Respecting that children and young people are seriously engaged with major issues (e.g. creation, climate change, social justice...), and that the Holy Spirit is moving in them 


Annual review and 2024 budget

Picture of the front cover of the annual review for 2022/3Synod members took note of the Draft Budget 2024 and Parish Share Apportionment, and also the Annual review. Sir Hector Sants, Chair of the Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance (ODBF), commented that 2023 financial performance is 'broadly on budget to give us a very small deficit, primarily as a result of the fact that our Parish share recovery, our contributions from everybody's gifting, looks to be around 95%.'

"I remain in awe of everybody's contribution to that process, and we're all very, very grateful for the giving that we see. I remain very conscious of the difficult environment which people are in in economic circumstances, and just generally, indeed, the pressures on the parish share model."

Sir Hector reiterated to Synod members that the overall approach for the diocese remains to try to ensure that there is no change in relation to our clergy staffing levels. To finance this, and ensure stipend increases for the clergy, the diocese uses a combination of Glebe income and parish share [see On the Money for a full explanation]. 

Sir Hector closed the item noting that the diocese is moving to a 5 year forecast and projection of diocesan income and expenses, to to improve future planning and stability.


Other topics

  • Christ Church Governance Review

    Bishop Steven introduced the Christ Church Oxford governance review paper and outlined the process ahead for the group considering the recommendations. 'Some are internal, and may well be achieved quite quickly, but some will demand changes to the statutes which will require external approval and probably at Privy Council level. So we're not imagining a quick process either distilling the initial report into proposals, or of them being enacted'.

  • Safeguarding Panel Annual Review

    A report from the Independent Safeguarding Panel is produced annually and shared with Synod members. The latest report notes that the diocese has invested so that each episcopal area now has its own caseworker, with the Head of Safeguarding adding a Diocesan strategic perspective. The new structure has reduced the amount of outstanding casework in the diocese.

Closing address and next meeting

Mr Peter Foot gave a reflection at the end of the meeting, noting the quality and richness of members' discussions through the morning together. Mr Foot was grateful for the presidential address, "We received a brilliant address by Bishop Steven on Artificial Intelligence. It's a privilege to be a briefed in that way".

The Bishop of Reading closed the meeting with a blessing and the Synod will next meet in November.

Information about Diocesan Synod is available at

Page last updated: Friday 16th June 2023 8:33 AM
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