TEN Christians, including a priest, held a climate-change protest during the morning eucharist at Wells Cathedral, last Sunday.
The campaigners, who were backed by banner-waving supporters outside the church, want Anglican dioceses to commit themselves to disinvesting from fossil fuels and investing in clean energy before the COP27 climate conference at Sharm el-Sheikh, in November.
Afterwards, the Cathedral’s Chapter Clerk, Jackie Croft, said that the protest was “peaceful and conducted with dignity”.
The ten members of the Christian Climate Action group, including the campaigner the Revd Sue Parfitt, had joined the service, but, during the final hymn, moved to the altar, where they raised banners inscribed: “No faith in fossil fuels”, and “Churches divest now”. One of the campaigners, Sarah MacDonald, went to the pulpit to explain why they were making what they called a “peaceful and prayerful protest”.
Afterwards, Ms Parfitt, aged 80, said: “How could I not take part? I find it deeply shocking that many dioceses in the Church of England, knowing all that they do as to the lethal effect of fossil fuels on all life on earth, are nevertheless prepared to gain financially through their continuing investment in the industry.
“The Church in all its forms needs to be taking a prophetic stand and calling on the Government to end all new exploration.”
On Tuesday, Ms MacDonald and several protesters met the Bishop of Taunton, the Rt Revd Ruth Worsley. She described it as “a very constructive and friendly meeting”, during which they were assured that Bath & Wells diocese does not have any investment in fossil fuels, and is fully committed to reach net zero.
“They told us about the various things they are doing, and they are expecting to make an announcement in due course that they have divested from fossil fuels,” Ms MacDonald said. “We encouraged them to take a bit more of a stand, particularly at a national and government level, to articulate the Church’s opposition.
“Bishop Ruth recognised that our action was useful and gracious. She recognised that we took the action in a prayerful manner, and she prayed with us at the end of the meeting.”
In a statement, Bath & Wells diocese said that it was “committed to ensuring that creation care is central to all our worship, thinking, actions, and policies”. It had declared a climate emergency in 2020, and was committed to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
“The diocese has a creation-centric approach to investment, and invests in line with guidance laid down by the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, which means divesting from fossil-fuel companies not aligned with the Paris Agreement by 2023. It currently holds no shares in oil or gas companies.”