On the 12th February the Church of England synod voted to set its net zero emissions target at 2030. The date was proposed by Canon Professor Martin Gainsborough (Bristol), in an amendment that brought the target forward fifteen years earlier than the initially recommended date of 2045.
The Christians of Extinction Rebellion, known as Christian Climate Action, played a key role in getting this amendment passed. The group held a memorial service outside the entrance of Church House, where the debate was being held. The service was in remembrance of the children who have lost their lives in the climate emergency. During the service letters were read out from children calling for urgent action and banners were held reading ‘2045 is too late’ and ‘children need us to act now’.
Christian Climate Action emailed each of the Synod members prior to the day inviting them to the vigil. The owners of Dean’s Yard, the courtyard area in front of Church House, tried initially to prevent the vigil from taking place by closing the yard. However, the vigil was redirected to entrance via Great Smith Street and took place on the pavement. At the end of the service, synod members were given small pots of snowdrops to take with them into the synod chamber as the net zero target was being debated. The snowdrop pots contained messages of encouragement to act, which had been written by children of St Michael in Lewes church.
Rev Helen Burnett, Vicar St Peter & St Paul’s Chaldon who led the service reflects on the new target “this morning when we gathered, dressed in the black of mourning to find we were barred from Deans Yard and the iconic entrance to Church House, forced to regroup by the roadworks in Great Smith St it was hard to imagine that our words and music might touch the hearts of synod delegates, but as they accepted snowdrops and acknowledged our witness it felt like change might be possible.
“I was back in the parish by the time I heard that the 2030 amendment had passed. This is joy to all those at the grassroots who are setting out on the journey to a more sustainable way of living. Now it is for the whole church to support synod in making the dramatic, sometimes sacrificial changes necessary to achieve net zero and begin the journey towards climate justice.”
Ruth Jarman, Christian Climate Action member and Mother of three from Hampshire who took part in the service says “I have been working and praying for decades for the church I love to be the prophetic community that the earth needs her to be. Today is an answer to my prayer”
Holly-Anna Petersen, 31, gave a reading at the memorial service on behalf of the Bangladeshi group Phulbari Solidarity – mourning the fact that at a protest of British mining company Global Coal Management, protestors came under paramilitary force, resulting in the shooting of 3 children. Reflecting on the result of the debate, she says “We, as the Church of England, have taken a bold and prophetic step today and shown that we are a faith that cares about the suffering of our neighbours around the world. Christian Climate Action is looking forward to working alongside the Church of England and environmental NGOs, as we make this target a reality. It’s going to be tough work making this happen but I can’t think of anything more worth our time and efforts.”