On 1 May 2019 a national climate and environmental emergency was declared in the UK Parliament. Green Christian is calling on church denominations and their governing bodies to play their part – but we need your help. Please ask your elected church representatives and leaders to:
- Declare a climate and ecological emergency as a church – locally, nationally and worldwide
- Renew the denomination’s understanding of its mission for this time of emergency
- Give leadership through worship, preaching, mission and practical measures, and by making its voice heard locally and nationally.
Even individual congregations and house churches can make a declaration of emergency. At national level, among the governing bodies with which Christians could engage are the following:
- Synods in the Church of England, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church
- Methodist Conference
- United Reformed Church Synods and General Assembly
- Church of Scotland Assembly
- Baptist Assembly
- Catholic Bishops Conference
- Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
- National networks and federations of evangelical and charismatic churches.
Why declare a climate and ecological emergency?
The official Climate Change Committee advises that carbon emissions must be reduced to ‘net zero’ by 2050. However faith leaders say that the target should be reached sooner, and Extinction Rebellion is pressing for net zero as early as 2025. As if the dangers of climate change were not enough, scientists warn that urgent action must be taken to protect species and avert a collapse of nature.
The House of Commons has declared an environment and climate emergency, paving the way for cross-party political action. However many Christian leaders, such as Pope Francis, have observed that an ‘ecological conversion’ is necessary if action is to be taken at the scale and speed required. Churches have a vital role to play.
We are calling for denominations to join in declaring an emergency. However, to ensure their governing bodies consider it, church members like you will have to take the initiative and approach the people who serve on your church’s governing body. Below we outline what we suggest you should ask for and how we can help.
What should a declaration contain?
We recommend that a church’s declaration of ecological and climate emergency should include:
- A policy statement consistent with those declared by other faith communities and civil society organisations. We offer some model text for such a statement below, and we can help with co-ordination between proposers and between denominations.
- A theological and ethical rationale appropriate to the denomination’s tradition. You might find this statement useful as a starting point.
- A commitment to take swift practical action to reduce the church’s own share of emissions to ‘net zero’
- A review of the church’s mission in society, so as to lead humanity into the necessary ecological conversion, but also to help civilisation adapt to the climatic deterioration and losses which are already inevitable
- An overhaul of training and formation so that preaching, worship and mission address the emergency, and equip people to respond
- Promotion of effective ways in which people can reduce their share of carbon emissions. Among them are eliminating air travel, shifting to a plant-based diet, and improving home insulation. We also recommend that people tackle their MP, for instance at the mass lobby of Parliament, The Time is Now, on 26 June.
What to do next
Find out how your church’s national decision-making processes work, and identify people who could promote a declaration of emergency. If you can, contact someone who represents you at national level, outline the proposal, and ask them to advise on procedure. In many denominations, proposals must first be approved locally, and then referred to the national governing body. Either way, see if you can track down someone who is ecologically aware who can champion the cause vigorously. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a year to get through the procedures – this problem won’t be going away.
Please let us know what you have done at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can help with co-ordination. Even if you don’t need help, please let us know if you take action, because other members of your denomination who contact us might benefit from knowing. Please let us know if we can pass on your details to people we think should be in touch with you.
Alongside this initiative, we want to help people find ways to handle feelings of ‘eco-anxiety’ and ‘climate grief’. We are making plans to offer spaces where people who are wrestling with difficult feelings about the ecological crisis can find mutual pastoral support. If you would be interested in developing such a service, please get in touch.
Most of Green Christian’s resources are available freely to all – now is not the time to restrict access to information and support. But there is no better time to join Green Christian if you can, so that we can reach more people with our urgent yet hopeful message.
Sample declaration text
We (add name of governing body) declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency
We pledge to work with and support our congregations and government, at local and national levels, in tackling this Emergency, and we call on others to do the same.
These are our intentions:
1. We will tell the Truth
Governments and their public broadcasters must tell the truth about the Climate and Ecological Emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and communicate the urgency for far-reaching systemic change.
We will communicate with members of our congregations and support them to discover the truth about the Emergency and the changes that are needed.
2. We will take Action
Governments must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
We pledge to work towards reducing our emissions to net zero by 2025.
We will challenge policies and actions of local and national governments and their agencies, where they do not help to reduce emissions or consumption levels.
We will actively work to inspire and enable our congregations to protect and renew our life-sustaining planet.
3. We are committed to Justice
The emergency has arisen from deeply systemic injustices. Faith communities can imagine and encourage fundamental changes in the ways people relate to one another and the world, in our values and behaviours.
We will do what is possible to help our congregations and the communities they serve to talk about about how the Emergency will affect them and the changes that are needed.
We believe that all truth-telling, action and democratic work must be underpinned by a commitment to justice both within our nation and towards other nations, particularly those who are poorer.