PRESS RELEASE: Now it’s all hands on deck! Christians encouraged to ask their church to declare an ecological emergency
Press release 9th May 2019
On 1 May 2019 a national climate and environmental emergency was declared in the UK Parliament. Green Christian calls on church denominations and their governing bodies to play their part. The charity is encouraging Christians to ask their elected church representatives and leaders to:
- Join in declaring a climate and ecological emergency as a church, locally, nationally and worldwide
- Renew the church’s understanding of its mission for this time of emergency
- Give leadership through worship, preaching, mission and practical measures, and through the voice they have locally and nationally.
As if the dangers of climate change were not enough, scientists warned last week that urgent action must be taken to protect species and avert a collapse of nature. The Climate Change Committee also advised that carbon emissions must be reduced to ‘net zero’ by 2050. However, British faith leaders say that the target should be reached sooner than 2050 and Extinction Rebellion is pressing for zero carbon as early as 2025. The House of Commons’ declaration paves the way for cross-party political action. But many Christian leaders, such as Pope Francis, say that an ‘ecological conversion’ is necessary if action is to be taken at the scale and speed required.
Green Christian is urging Christians to ensure that their churches step up to the task and provide society with moral leadership and spiritual insight to help mobilise change. They have called for the governing bodies of denominations to declare a climate emergency, and are now encouraging ordinary Christians to take the initiative by approaching those who represent them.
Paul Bodenham, chair of Green Christian, said: “After the declaration of emergency in Parliament, it’s now all hands on deck – government, business, civil society, faiths, everyone. We urge our fellow Christians to ensure that their church communities grasp their mission, courageously and creatively. Humanity faces profound trouble, and sacrificial choices are necessary if we are going to salvage a future. With faith those choices may just become possible.’
According to Green Christian a church’s declaration of ecological and climate emergency should contain a theological rationale, clear commitments to take swift practical action, and ways that it will adapt its mission, teaching and leadership for an ecological conversion.
1. Green Christian’s call for churches to declare a climate emergency was announced on 29 April 2019. Later the same week (1 May) the House of Commons declared an environment and climate emergency, paving the way for cross-party political action. The Climate Change Committee (2 May) advised that carbon emissions must be reduced to ‘net zero’ by 2050. Faith leaders have said (3 May) that the target should be met sooner. At the same time (3 May) scientists preparing for a forthcoming UN biodiversity summit have warned that human life is also being put at risk by the mass extinction of species.
2. Further advice for members of denominations and representatives on governing bodies is available at www.greenchristian.org.uk/emergency. Green Christian invites promoters and proposers to contact them at email@example.com for co-ordination. Individual congregations can make a declaration of emergency. At national level, among the governing bodies which it is hoped will declare an emergency are:
Synods in the Church of England, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church
United Reformed Church Synods and General Assembly
Church of Scotland Assembly
Catholic Bishops Conference
Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
National networks and federations of evangelical and charismatic churches.
3. According to Green Christian a church’s declaration of ecological and climate emergency should contain:
- A policy statement consistent with declarations being made by other faith communities and civil society organisations. Green Christian has offered text for such a statement, and can help with co-ordination.
- A theological and ethical rationale appropriate to the denomination’s tradition
- 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, in order to lead humanity into an ecological conversion, but also to help civilisation adapt to the climatic deterioration and loss which are already inevitable
- An overhaul of training and formation so that preaching, worship and mission address the emergency, and equip people to respond
- Promotional material on the most effective ways in which people can reduce their share of carbon emissions.
4. A sample policy statement for use in a Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency is appended below. As a resource for Christian ethical underpinning to a declaration, a statement on Christian ethics and the ecological emergency published by Christian Ethicists Without Borders in March 2019 may be found useful.
5. The most effective ways for people to reduce their share of greenhouse gas emissions are to eliminate air travel, shift to a plant-based diet, and improve home insulation. The charity also recommends that people tackle their MP, for instance at the forthcoming mass lobby of Parliament, ‘The Time is Now’, on 26 June.
6. Alongside this initiative, Green Christian is seeking to respond to a recent upsurge in ‘eco-anxiety’ and ‘climate grief’. They are making plans to offer spaces where people who are wrestling with difficult feelings about the ecological crisis can find mutual pastoral support. They will also publish liturgies of public lamentation which can be used in places of worship and public spaces.
7. For press enquiries please contact Paul Bodenham, Chair of Green Christian, on 07470 907656 or 01949 861516, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
8. Green Christian was formed in 1981 to share green insights with Christians, and Christian insights with the green movement. The charity produces resources, campaigns and events to help people relate environmental issues with their faith, and integrate environmental action into their mission. www.greenchristian.org.uk
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 imagine and model ways in which our faith and 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 unleash shifts 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.