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Climate Change Faithful God

The Archbishop of York


Image Credit : Christian Census on Climate Change

On Saturday 21st April 2012 at York Minster, Anglican Archbishop John Sentamu will preside over an event organised by the Christian Census on Climate Change.

Here follows the script for a speech to be given by Ruth Jarman, a Director of Operation Noah, climate change campaigner for the Christian Ecology Link, a trained chemist and electronics scientist and a mother of three.


Speech by Ruth Jarman, 21 April 2012, York Minster. Please check against delivery.

The solution

1. We know from the Psalms that God has made us ruler over the works of his hands, that he has put everything under our feet.

And we know from what we have heard this morning that we are trampling it all with abandon. Now we know that, what are we to do ?

2. Psychologists say that when humans are faced with something that is huge but not immediately life threatening our default response is paralysis and denial.

a. And isn’t that what we are seeing – in the response of the people we know, in the response of our government, and, let’s be honest, in the response of ourselves – don’t you wish Martin Hodges and Ben Niblett had had a few too many Yorkshire bitters last night and made it all up ?

b. And isn’t it the easiest thing to just allow ourselves to fall into paralysing despair ? The Welsh poet and activist Saunders Lewis said, “There is nothing more comforting than despair. Then one can go on and enjoy life.”

3. But you wouldn’t be here if you thought that denial and despair were the right responses. Plus, the solution to climate change is dead simple – we know exactly what we need to do – we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground. But we’re not. So if we are not to abuse the position God has given us, we have to do something. We can act in 3 areas – as individuals, as a nation and as a church:

4. Individually, as part of our Christian discipleship we can choose not to conform to the pattern of this world in its use of energy. So we shun air-freighted food and tumble-dryers not out of guilt, not to “do our bit” and then feel we deserve that holiday in the sun, but as part of our Christian walk, knowing we can never do enough. I find it empowering and invigorating to expand my faith and values into pretty-much all areas of my life in this way. It’s liberating to realise that we don’t have to do what the economic growth machine wants us to do, we do things that are good for us, for our children and for the earth. Living the low carbon life can be profoundly deeper and more fulfilling than the default all-you-can-buy way of living.

5. Nationally, until preserving life on this planet becomes more important than preserving the current economic system, it’s going to be hard to solve the problem. Unfortunately, the physical chemistry going on in our atmosphere will not wait patiently while we sort out the nation’s finances. Now is the time for a Real Green New Deal with massive investment to kick-start a low carbon economy. To invest tax payers’ money in energy and transport infrastructure that is not helping us on our journey towards a zero carbon Britain is not only short sighted and immoral but also great folly. The oil will some day run out. We have to make the switch at some point. Why not do it now when we have the added benefit of saving civilization while we’re at it ?

We all know why the government is not doing what is required. Of course it’s more important for governments to be popular than it is for them to do the right thing. Our government needs to be reminded, strongly and uncompromisingly, that of all the things it does, presiding over a switch to a zero carbon economy is the only thing that will really matter to our children and to the rest of creation.

6. Which brings us to the Church.

a. The church’s job is to be the prophetic voice the world needs. Who best to remind our government and the business community of their responsibilities to the future but the faith communities ? The church must give voice to the climate scientists – the prophets of our day – who are speaking uncomfortable truths to this generation.

b. The church is embedded in an economic system that is destroying creation. How comfortable should we feel about that ?

c. Church has in the past stood up and spoken out against systems in which it was entrenched. In the 1930s in Germany Karl Barth and others wrote the Barman Declaration which rejected the influence of Nazism on German Christianity. It was a Confession – a courageous statement of dissent on an issue which touched the very heart of faith.

d. Operation Noah believes climate change to be such a confessional issue. In February we launched the Ash Wednesday Declaration calling on the church to repent and act on climate change. The declaration has been signed by leaders of all denominations including the ABC [Archbishop of Canterbury], and endorsed by many leading organizations including Christian Aid and Tearfund.

I’m going to end with a call to conversion. The transformation that needs to happen to society requires nothing less than a transformation of our desires brought about by repentance. But repentance is not something that we can decide to do. It is something that happens to us when, in true humility, we open ourselves to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Only then will we, and the world, be saved.

So the church has a whole new field of mission. There is now new urgency, impetus and meaning to Jesus’ exhortation to us to “preach the good news to all creation.”

Let us pray

“May the Spirit bless us with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships
so that we will live deep in our hearts.”

“May the Spirit bless us with anger
at injustice and oppression, the exploitation of people and earth
so that we will work for justice, equity and peace.”

“May the Spirit bless us with tears
to shed for those who suffer
so that we will reach out our hands to comfort them.”

“May the Spirit bless us with foolishness
to think that we can make a difference in the world
so that we will do the things which others say cannot be done.”

Amen

[Mark Wilcox. Copyright, 2004, St. Aidan Press, Holy Island]

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