AS FOSSIL FUEL companies report record profits while underinvesting in renewables and exploring for new oil and gas, UK Christians are calling on Church of England (C of E) and Catholic dioceses yet to make a divestment commitment to do so this Lent. 

Starting on Ash Wednesday and continuing throughout Lent, Operation Noah will feature each of the 40 dioceses which had yet to divest from fossil fuels at the start of 2023. Written prayers, video messages, and facts about the devastating impacts of fossil fuels will be shared as part of the campaign. Christians will also be invited to write to their bishop, get their local church to divest, and reach out to diocesan financial decision makers to discuss divestment.

The ‘40 Days, 40 Dioceses’ campaign is being supported by the National Justice and Peace Network, Laudato Si’ Movement and Young Christian Climate Network, and echoes calls from the Vatican, World Council of Churches, and Anglicans in the Global South for faith groups to divest from fossil fuels, which are the driving cause of global heating and are fuelling conflict around the world. Just this past weekend, the Anglican Communion – a global body of 85 million Christians – passed a resolution calling for no new fossil fuel developments.

Between the C of E and Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, 40 dioceses had yet to make a formal divestment commitment at the beginning of 2023, though that number has now changed: in January, the Diocese of London announced it would divest; last week, Lichfield Diocese announced its divestment; and on Monday, the Diocese of Rochester divested.

Operation Noah – along with GreenFaith, Green Anglicans, Laudato Si’ Movement and the World Council of Churches – is also preparing for the next Global Divestment Announcement by faith institutions, which is scheduled for 20 April 2023, just before Earth Day.

With the exceptions of the CofE and Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, which both still have fossil fuel investments at the diocesan and national levels, most major UK denominations – including the Church in Wales, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Quakers in Britain, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain – have now divested from fossil fuel companies. An increasing number of CofE and Roman Catholic dioceses have also divested from fossil fuels; in fact, during the last two years alone, the number of CofE dioceses to divest has increased to 18 from a starting point of zero.

The Rev Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah and Rector of All Saints Church, Ascot, said: “Last year’s analysis from Global Witness showed that 20 fossil fuel companies – including Shell, Total, BP and ExxonMobil – planned to spend nearly $1 trillion on fossil fuel expansion at the very time we have to stop all new oil and gas developments if we’re to have any hope of preventing runaway global heating. And this winter, while millions of people suffer due to high energy bills, fossil fuel companies are making record profits. For Churches and dioceses to profit off of the misery of other people, and the destruction of our beautiful world, is not acceptable. Investing in fossil fuels is not ethical. We must divest this Lent.”

Anne Peacey, Vice Chair, National Justice and Peace Network, said : “We see all around us the devastating effects of the lack of care for creation, with resulting destruction of our natural world, increasing conflict, poverty, movement of people. We must hold fossil fuel companies to account, making excess profits at the expense of many of our brothers and sisters around the world, as well as our own children and grandchildren. Lent provides an opportunity to reflect, and challenges each of us to consider how we might work towards solutions that promote the common good. We encourage all to join in the Operation Noah Lenten divestment campaign.”

Dr Chris Manktelow, Campaigns Lead for the Young Christian Climate Network, said: “What we spend our money on reveals what we love. If Christians are called to love our neighbour and care for creation, then Churches should be investing in climate solutions and not in fossil fuels, which we know are driving global heating and conflict around the world. As young people, we deeply care about the future of God’s world and the Church, and we encourage you to support Operation Noah’s divestment campaign this Lent.”

Joseph D’halluin, Divestment Campaigner, Laudato Si’ Movement, said: “The fossil fuel industry is making record profits from a business that pollutes our environment, negatively impacts on the rights of present and future generations, and plunders our Common Home for the benefit of a few. In his recent trip to the DRC, Pope Francis clearly stated that Africa ‘is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered.’ This is why he has called on all Catholics and people of goodwill to remove their money from the fossil fuel industry.”

The Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, said: “We have to say no new fossil fuel projects, as they will lock us into decades of further global warming. Fossil fuel companies not only contribute to global warming, they also cause environmental degradation and human rights abuses. It is time to divest, for the sake of impacted communities and for the sake of generations to come.”

Andrew Jenkins, Divestment Campaigner, Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham, said: “I have worked for many years to resettle families in coastal Bangladesh who have lost their land due to climate change-related sea level rise. I continue to ask our Bishop and Diocesan Finance Committee: How do I explain to these people that we intend to continue to profit from our fossil fuel investments, which are destroying their land and livelihoods?”

* See the dioceses yet to divest here.

* Source: Operation Noah