A group of 17 Anglican bishops from all six continents have called for urgent prayer and action on the “unprecedented climate crisis.”
In Scotland, the United Reformed Church’s Synod has made the decision to divest from fossil fuels and agreed that no further investment in fossil fuels shall take place. The Anglican declaration The World Is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice sets a new agenda on climate change for the 85 million-strong Anglican communion.
The declaration commits the bishops to specific initial actions, including energy conservation measures in church buildings; more renewable energy; nurturing biodiversity on church land; supporting sustainability in water, food, agriculture and land use; reviewing churches’ investment practices, including the call for divestment; and closer ecumenical and interfaith co-operation.
The group, formed by bishops from countries that are major contributors to climate change as well as those producing low levels of carbon but disproportionately affected, met in South Africa in February to build on months of online conversations.
The Archbishop of Cape Town and Primate of Southern Africa, the Rev. Dr Thabo Makgoba, who brought the group together, said, “We accept the evidence of science: Human activity, especially in fossil-fuel-based economies, is the main cause of the climate crisis. The problem is spiritual as well as economic, scientific and political. We have been complicit in a theology of domination. While God committed the care of creation to us, we have been care-less – but not hopeless.”
The bishops commended the Fast for the Climate initiative, joining many others in fasting and praying for the climate on the first of every month.
Women make up majority of the world’s poorest and are hit harder by climate change. The Rev. Ellinah Wamukoya, bishop of Swaziland and Africa’s first woman bishop, said that “Women are more often dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, so the contribution of women is essential in decisions around climate change. Our communities must be equal, as in the Eucharist.”
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rev. Nicholas Holtam, has welcomed the call to tackle what the bishops call an “unprecedented climate crisis.” A member of the delegation, he noted that issuing the declaration during Holy Week and addressing the churches on Good Friday “is a mark of the seriousness with which we view the crisis of climate change.”
The resolution on divestment was passed at the Synod Meeting, which took place 20 to 22 March, at the Scottish Police College, in Tulliallan, Fife. The URC Synod of Scotland will now examine its financial arrangements and ensure that its investments do not endanger creation.
Rev. John Humphreys, moderator of the URC’s Synod of Scotland, said that the Synod has shown a clear commitment to ethical investment through “an affirmative action against climate change.”
Humphreys also spoke about the role of churches in the debate on climate change. “We hope and pray that other churches will feel able to respond ethically to the growing threat of catastrophic climate change,” he said.