Churches have a prophetic role when it comes to speaking out about the destruction of God’s creation by fossil fuels, according to members of Christian Climate Action.
Parishioners from St Luke’s in Holloway were among the action group members who marched through London last Saturday, part of a month of climate action by Extinction Rebellion.
Melanie Nazareth, a Catholic member of CCA, described climate campaigning as “fundamental to our faith”, especially after the latest United Nations report on 5 April that warned of extreme steps needing to be taken to avert climate disaster. She was concerned that young people do not perceive Churches as doing enough. They are active on social justice issues, she said, “but the climate crisis will amplify all those concerns”.
Last Sunday, members of CCA lobbied Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols outside Westminster Cathedral after a Palm Sunday Mass, urging that the Catholic Church completely divests from fossil fuel companies.
Banners were unfurled with messages such as “Churches divest now” and some campaigners lay down, covered in white sheets, “representing those around the world who are suffering the effects of climate breakdown now”.
Martin Jarvis, a 67-year-old Catholic from Ealing said: “I feel the church is too slow to take up Pope Francis’ spirituality and his call for climate justice and social justice.” The Diocese of Westminster told The Tablet: “It has committed to do its utmost to become carbon neutral by 2030 in its parishes and curial buildings.” Its plan includes transitioning to cleaner sources of energy and divesting from electrical utility and fossil fuel companies that have not taken any steps to manage their businesses in line with the Paris Accord.
Sally Chapman, a Catholic from Devon, was at Westminster Cathedral, and earlier in the week at a Just Stop Oil protest, calling for the government to immediately halt licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuel. Nonviolent direct action, which shut down fossil fuel infrastructure across the UK, included members of Green Christian blocking an oil terminal in Thurrock.
Last Sunday, clergy were involved in a sit-in on Lambeth Bridge, along with nurses and doctors highlighting health problems linked to climate change. Their banner read: “For Health’s Sake, Stop Funding Fossil Fuels.” A midwife’s banner read: “I don’t want to deliver babies onto a dying planet.” Some health workers were arrested.
Support for nonviolent direct action is growing. Dr Carmody Grey, assistant professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham, told The Tablet: “Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion, Christian Climate Action and other civil resistance groups represent a fully reasonable response to the failure of leadership this emergency represents. They are not ‘extremists’. The ‘extremists’ are those who continue with business as usual. Our children will face a world increasingly incapable of supporting human life. The UN Secretary-General has said, simply: ‘Delay means death’. All Christians and people of good will should challenge the suicidal myopia of the government’s proposal to sponsor further extraction of fossil fuels.”