FOURTEEN Christians have been arrested for taking part in a protest in St Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday, in which they called on the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels.
The individuals were members of Christian Climate Action (CCA), who before the protest had written to all the dioceses that still invested in fossil fuels, asking them to disinvest by the end of the year. This was in light of the most recent report on the state of the climate from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which the UN secretary-general António Guterres described as a “code red” for humanity (News, 13 August).
On Sunday, immediately after the distribution of holy communion at the 11.15 service, a group of CCA members processed to the altar and faced the congregation, holding banners with the words “No Faith in Fossil Fuels” and “Churches Divest Now”. At the same time, about 50 people gathered on the cathedral steps, with banners displaying the same message.
The protesters inside gave a short talk, explaining why they were there, which received a round of applause from the congregation. The service continued with the protestors continuing to stand, holding their banners.
The Revd Mark Coleman, a retired priest in Manchester diocese, was among the supporters outside. He said: “I’m ashamed that we are investing so much: £70 million or so in fossil fuels. It’s time to stop that investment and move the money into something that saves life and protects all our futures — in God’s name.”
The group inside the cathedral had planned to stay there throughout the day and asked to meet the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, to discuss the Church’s investments. The police were called, however, and a group of officers arrived, arrested, and removed the protesters. Those arrested have since been released from custody.
A spokesman for the diocese of London said that a letter from the group was passed on to Bishop Mullally on Sunday evening, and that she has since responded with an offer to meet.
In their letter to those dioceses that still invest in fossil fuels, CCA writes: “The Church of England National Investing Bodies have pursued a strategy of engagement with fossil fuel companies. This strategy has failed to prevent Shell from harming the people of the Niger Delta and from continuing plans for future fossil fuel exploration, which includes a 20 per cent rise in gas production. On the contrary, the strategy has given moral legitimacy to companies whose core business is destroying lives and livelihoods and continuing to lobby against climate action.”
One of the protesters inside the cathedral, Rachie Ross, 53, who is a therapeutic coach, youth worker, and theologian, said: “It felt like the spirit of God was descending on everybody. It was quite beautiful.
“I’m here for a very straightforward reason. This is the most loving thing I can do for the Church of England. They don’t look like they’re doing that well with the purse, having 70 million quid stuffed in fossil fuels. They can’t say we have clean lips if we have dirty hands. It’s already too late: we need to take rapid action.”