Rt Rev Colin Fletcher,
Acting Bishop of Oxford

WHEN are we getting a new Bishop of Oxford?" is, I think, the question I am asked most frequently at present – only bettered at times by the very much appreciated one: ‘And how are you doing – doing your two jobs?’ Each, of course, has therefore got a pretty well-honed answer, depending slightly on who I am talking to. To the latter the answer is that I am doing all right, though the pressures of trying to be in two places at once does get to me at times, and it will be good to welcome our new bishop into place in due course.

So when will that be?

In answer to that question it is difficult to be specific with regard to dates but the general timetable is now firmly set. The process really kicks off again as the Diocese’s ‘Vacancy in See’ Committee meets to finalise the statement of needs and person specification for what we believe we need a new bishop to be and to do.

The Prime Minister’s and Archbishops’ appointments secretaries visit the diocese in mid-November to meet a number of people to talk things through and the post is then advertised. Provided a person is over 30 and an Anglican priest, they can be recommended for the role and I hope lots of suitable names will be put forward.

After that, the shortlisting will take place early in February and the interviews a month later. Health and DBS checks will then need to be done and the nominated person’s name goes to Downing Street and Buckingham Palace before an announcement is made in – I guess – May or June (though this is the stage where the timetable becomes a bit elastic). Given the fact that she or he will have to give at least three months’ notice from their present job, I think we may well be welcoming the new bishop around this time next year – but only time will tell.

So, what will they be doing when they arrive? Whoever they are they will have the joy of getting to know the diocese which stretches from est of Slough to south of Newbury, to west of Chipping Norton and north of Milton Keynes. If they are a woman, they will probably immediately become a member of the House of Lords, though a man will have to wait a few years before doing so.

And then they will have a particular responsibility for caring for the city of Oxford in all its richness and diversity.

My guess is that they will want to spend some time settling in before they start to make their own particular impact on the Diocese.

Clearly there will be a number of challenges that will face them immediately – not least in the whole area of the need to work together in partnership with others as the public sector cuts bite even more than they have done to date. Not only that but the restructuring of education provision brings its own series of challenges and opportunities.

Internally the diocese faces the challenge of how to respond appropriately to our new housing areas and the pressures on many of our rural communities.

It is an exciting time in the life of our church and it is one that I am looking forward to as a colleague of our new bishop.

But please pray for them from now on. It’s a big job and whoever comes will, I am sure, value those prayers as they fulfil this next stage of their ministry.