TEN CHRISTIANS, INCLUDING A MEMBER OF THE CLERGY, held a protest at Wells Cathedral on Sunday 26 June, to urge the Diocese of Bath and Wells and 14 other Church of England dioceses to commit to divesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean energy.
The ten, all members of Christian Climate Action, took part in a Eucharist service and then, at the start of the final hymn, processed to the altar and faced the congregation holding banners with the words: ‘No Faith in Fossil Fuels’ and ‘Churches Divest Now’.
One person went to pulpit and explained to the congregation why the group was making this peaceful and prayerful protest. At the same time around 20 people gathered on the steps of the Cathedral with banners showing the same messages.
The activists are demanding that the Church immediately announces its intention to divest from fossil fuel companies and that they complete divestment by the end of October 2022, ahead of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Eygpt. They are also asking the Church to urgently speak out for immediate action to prevent irreversible climate impacts and ensure a liveable planet for all of God’s creation.
It is estimated that the Church of England dioceses, Church Commissioners and Pensions Board currently hold investments worth around £70 million in fossil fuel companies. To date, just ten out of 42 dioceses have announced full divestment commitments. Seventeen dioceses do not currently hold investments and the protesters are urging them to announce their commitment not to invest in the future.
The Rev Sue Parfitt, based in Bristol, gave her reasons for taking part in the action: “How could I not take part? I find it deeply shocking that many Dioceses in the Church of England, knowing all that they do as to the lethal effect of fossil fuels on all life on earth, are nevertheless prepared to gain financially through their continuing investment in the industry. The Church in all its forms needs to be taking a prophetic stand and calling on the Government to end all new exploration. How can it do this when it continues to benefit in such a direct and obvious way, as does the Diocese of Bath and Wells?”
Phil Manning, who is training for ordained ministry at Trinity College, said: “I am joining this action because the Church of England seriously needs to put their money where their mouth is in terms of declaring that we are in a climate emergency. The Church claims that caring for creation is part of our mission to the world (see five marks of mission) and yet, despite the fact that it’s been long proven that fossil fuels are damaging our world, it continues to invest and therefore participate in this destructive practice.”
Liz Rosser, a retired teacher, said: “Fossil fuels are killing us. We are facing the collapse of everything we know and love. People are dying and losing their homes now because of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels. It is abhorrent that the Church should continue to support and profit from investment in these killers. We have alternatives. Let’s invest in those.”
Ben Buse, a Research Associate and a member of the Church of England said: “I feel the Church must be prophetic in managing its assets, its life and preaching, with addressing the climate and ecological crisis in a way that is real to our faith. We need to stand in solidarity with the suffering of the earth and people.”
Ruth Jarman, a charity administrator who worships at her local church in Hampshire, said: “Jesus says ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ The Church of England has treasure that is destroying the future. What does that say about our heart? How can I not protest this corruption at the core of the church to which I belong?”
Business advisor Val King said: “Fossil fuel companies are making excessive profits and are pressing on to open new oil and gas fields, in spite of clear warnings from the United Nations that there should be no new exploration. The Church has an opportunity to speak out on behalf of those experiencing fuel poverty and those already suffering and dying from climate change in the global south. This is impossible while they continue to profit from fossil fuel shares.”
Dave Mitchell, a software developer and Church warden at his local church said: “The Church has a mission, a sacred duty, to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and to seek to transform unjust structures of society. The extraction and burning of fossil fuels has a damaging effect on life on earth, on ecosystems and the climate, and also causes appalling injustice, in that those who are most affected by climate change are the least responsible. By investing in the fossil fuel industry, the Church is complicit with the system that causes climate change and the resulting damage to our planet. We are here to demand the Church of England divests from fossil fuel companies now.”
Karen Grattage, mother of a toddler and a churchwarden in Bath and Wells Diocese said: “I’m really worried about the future for my child and other people’s children. I think people don’t realise churches are still investing in companies that are destroying the planet and I want things to change before it’s too late.”
Stephen Jarvis, a retired plumber, teacher and designer said: “The fossil fuel economy we have all grown up with is what is driving climate change, ecocide, inequality and the obscene wealth that leads to corruption and repression in our society. All the churches must divest from this system and instead invest in that which gives life, otherwise how can they claim to represent the teachings of Jesus?”
Since 2013, most major Christian denominations have made a commitment to divest from fossil fuels including the Quakers, the Church of Ireland, the United Reformed Churches, theMethodist Church. the Church of Scotland. the Church in Wales and the Baptist Union. The Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church are the only major denominations still investing in fossil fuels. Worldwide, more than 400 religious organisations have made divestment commitments in recent years.
Since 2013, most major Christian denominations have made a commitment to divest from fossil fuels including the Quakers, Church of Ireland, United Reformed Churches, Methodist Church. Church of Scotland. Church in Wales and the Baptist Union. The Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church are the only major denominations still investing in fossil fuels. Worldwide, more than 400 religious organisations have made divestment commitments in recent years.
Those taking part in the action at Wells Cathedral acknowledge that the Church Commissioners have agreed to begin divesting from fossil fuel companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement in 2023. However, they contend that companies like Shell are still committed to future fossil fuel exploration and that there are very few signs that they will align themselves with the Paris Agreement.
Christian Climate Action is a community of Christians supporting each other to take meaningful action in the face of imminent and catastrophic anthropogenic climate breakdown. Since November 2018 they have worked closely with Extinction Rebellion, and have become known as the Christians in XR.
* Source: Christian Climate Action