Why we took action at St Paul’s

On Sunday 30th August 2021, 13 Christian were arrested at St Pauls Cathedral whilst demanding that the Church of England divests from fossil fuels in order to tackle the climate emergency. Around 50 more people demonstrated outside of the building with banners and interested with the public to explain why we were there. Ahead of the action, some of them recorded their reasons for taking part in both written word and in video (videos are at the bottom of this blog).

Rev’d Canon Jonathan Herbert: ‘The Church Commissioners and Pension Board rightly don’t invest in companies producing arms or tobacco, but surely investing in fossil fuels, with what we now know, is almost as deadly. It’s time for the Church Commissioners to take a lead and divest from death-dealing fossil fuels.’

Ruth Jarman: ‘We are demanding the immediate end to the Church’s investment in fossil fuels at this critical point in the history of humanity – following the IPCC report and ahead of UK hosting of COP26. I believe the Church Commissioners and Pensions Board believe they are doing the right thing by trying to engage fossil fuel companies via engagement but they need to update their strategy in the light of the ‘Code Red for Humanity’ as outlined in the most recent IPCC report and by the Head of the UN. The Church needs to take up its prophetic role at this time and dump fossil fuels.’

Sue Hampton, 65, an author and a Quaker from Berkhamsted: ‘I believe that protecting life on earth is what love requires and that it is the sacred duty of the church to cut ties with the industry responsible for climate injustice.’

Rev’d Tim Hewes, 71: ‘The Pensions Board and the Church Commissioners, by investing in fossil fuels, mistakenly believe that they can steer these all-powerful companies towards climate friendly policies. After years of engagement we know it’s not working. These companies are deaf to the entreaties of the church. We need to divest.’ 

Ben Buse, 36, a research associate and a member of the Church of England: ‘I feel the Church must be prophetic in managing its assets, its life and preaching, with addressing the climate and ecological crisis in a way that is real to our faith. We need to stand in solidarity with the suffering of the earth and people.’

Kate Chesterman, 55, a university administrator who was also arrested at a climate change protest in 2019: ‘The Church should be leading the way on care of the earth and social justice. It is entirely inappropriate for the Church to continue funding fossil fuels given what we know. IN particular we should not be funding companies who have proactively misled the public on the extent of the damage that is being caused.’

Paul Cooper, 75, a retired landscape architect: ‘The Church needs to act as if it believes that God made the world by stopping investing in fossil fuel companies that are destroying it.’

Clare Cooper, 63, a retired physiotherapist: ‘The latest IPCC report is the final warning to humanity. The Church, above all, should take the lead in divesting from fossil fuels immediately.’

Val King, 61, Employee-Ownership Consultant: ‘I am here as one of the millions of Christians on our planet; I believe we could become a beacon of hope and justice in the face of the climate crisis. But we have to hold those in power to account to act on behalf of the poor and the vulnerable and all of Creation.’

Dr Michelle Barnes, 52, former geologist, business woman and climate change activist: ‘It is morally reprehensible that the Church of England, into which I was confirmed, still has fossil fuel investments of £70 million. This cannot be reconciled with Christian values. Being stewards of God’s creation requires that we act and with all the urgency that the dire situation of climate breakdown requires.’

Rachie Ross, 53, therapeutic coach, youth worker and theologian. I’m asking the question: when did we lose our God-given evolutionary instinct to protect our young? Every other species protects and safeguards their young, just stand between a seagull and their nest or a sow and her piglets. When did we leave the garden of Eden with such force? I cannot let Jesus name be dragged through the flood and fire and I will not stand by and say nothing.

Caroline Harmon, 41, a trainer: ‘Jesus didn’t stand aside when he saw injustice. He threw unjust traders out of the temple and prioritised the most vulnerable. We are doing the same today. We see injustice in the way in which the Church of England invests its money and we have come to the ‘temple’ of our time – a prominent church building – to demand urgent change.’

Caroline and Rachie were not arrested.

Susie Peeler, 59, a university lecturer and antenatal teacher who was also arrested during a climate change protest in 2019, said: ‘As a Christian I must act to protect God’s creation from human greed and exploitation. My faith compels me to act. If that means further arrest in order to highlight the issues then I am prepared for that.’

Jackie Kightly, 53, a Catholic from Wrexham, said: ‘I’ve not been arrested before but I feel we have a moral duty to do all we can to help those who’ve least contributed to the climate crisis but are suffering the most. Divesting from fossil fuels is the bare minimum that Churches, corporations, institutions and governments should be doing.’

Stephen Jarvis, 65, retired plumber, teacher and designer, said: ‘In the light of the latest IPCC report, the time for engagement with fossil fuel companies is over. If the Church is to have any credibility in the world today it must share the dust of coal and fossil fuels from its sandals and proclaim a gospel of care for God’s earth and the poor. With COP26 on the horizon there is no better time.’

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