Christian Climate Action’s protest during a live radio broadcast from Chichester Cathedral has sparked some criticism. Holly Anna Petersen says that far from being unchristian, standing up for the poor is more important than anything


Source: Christian Climate Action

From the very beginning, the Bible tells us that God made humankind in his image (Genesis 1:26). Progressively, the Bible teaches us more and more about how that image is meant to be shown in us.

For Christians, Jesus is the ultimate example of how God appears in human form. And much of Jesus’ teaching is about justice for the poor. “Love the Lord your God” Jesus says, “and love your neighbour” (see Matthew 22:37-38). He doesn’t separate one from the other; they are inseparable parts of being a follower of Christ.

Existential threat

There are many people today who are poor in one way or another, particularly those who are affected by climate change. Climate breakdown is acknowledged as a real and significant issue – an existential threat - by the vast majority of scientists from every discipline and from across the world. Those same scientists also recognise that human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, has caused that climate change.

Our actions came from a place of deep love and compassion

Surely the poor today are not the people who run the dioceses of the Church of England. These are the privileged people. Yet because of their faith, they are called to reflect the image of God most closely. For us, as Christians, that means doing everything we can to bring about justice and fullness of life for those who suffer.

Ethical investments

Climate change is causing untold suffering around the world, therefore the Church should be using its power, money, time and effort to bring climate justice to the world. One of the most obvious ways of doing that is by investing ethically in companies that promote the wellbeing of all. Investing in fossil fuel companies that cause and contribute to death and suffering, particularly of poorer people in the Global South, is simply unchristian.

This is why Christian Climate Action (CCA) chose to disrupt the evensong service in Chichester Cathedral last Wednesday.

On 18 November, Chichester diocese voted not to divest from fossil fuels. It is one of only three dioceses in the Church of England that has not done so, despite the CofE nationally voting to end its investment in fossil fuels. CCA had been engaging with Chichester diocese in the run up to this vote, and held a vigil outside the cathedral on the day.

Rooted in prayer

Our decision to protest during the service, which was being broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, was rooted and enacted in prayer and worship. The group stood up, sang a penitential chant, read out a statement and then walked slowly back through the central aisle.

Climate change is causing untold suffering around the world

Our actions came from a place of deep love and compassion for God, for every person on earth and for every part of creation, which the Bible tells us that God loves simply because he created it (Genesis 1:31). The CCA members that took part did so in a spirit of penitence, recognising our own complicity in the suffering of those in countries racked by drought, flooding and crop failure.

Jesus was not someone who conformed to the accepted ways of behaving when he saw injustice or suffering. He put his head above the parapet, spoke truth to power and challenged the religious leaders to put love and compassion before anything else.

Christian Climate Action would welcome further dialogue with the diocese now, to further explain our actions and help them work towards divestment from fossil fuels.

Read why Rt Rev Gavin Ashenden thinks that interrupting a church service is not a Christian act here