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Welsh Primate uses presidential address to urge action on climate change

19 April 2023

Church in Wales

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John

The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John

CLIMATE change is now an emergency that requires every individual to take active steps towards reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and limiting global warming, the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, told the Governing Body at its meeting in Llandudno on Wednesday.

In the light of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in March which confirmed that human activities had “unequivocally” caused global warming, the Archbishop said that the problem presented both a challenge and an opportunity for the Church in Wales.

That document made “deeply sobering reading”, he told the meeting. “The temptation is for us to hang our heads at this point. . . It is easy to imagine that we can do little in the face of the scale of the emergency, and that decisions, too, are made elsewhere over which we have little control. This is not true.”

He urged the Church in Wales to become “prophetically active” in personal choices, ministry, and advocacy for change. “There are clear commitments we can make before God: assessing our own carbon footfall and taking remedial action to reduce offset it; an ongoing commitment to recycling — re-use, reduce, and recycle.

“Although these changes can seem small, their main effect is on the way markets work. We are able to shape the priorities of multinational groups in goods and services by making personal choices. Traditionally, we’ve called this stewardship. But it is now perhaps invested with a new energy and prophetic edge.”

At the meeting, an Energy Footprint Tool was launched, to enable every building to audit its energy use (News, 14 April). The Archbishop also announced that the Church in Wales would host an environmental summit in 2024, which would bring together some of the key stakeholders in conversation about ways in which Wales could be an exemplar of good practice.

“It is my hope that politicians, those in the agricultural world, those who monitor our rivers and soils, academics, and environmentalists would be present to begin a different kind of conversation — less about blame, and more about finding the points at which co-operation can happen,” he said.

“We’re all in this together, and the solutions require co-ordination and courteous, intelligent, and unguarded conversation. . . That the Church in Wales will host such an occasion, and with the support of numerous organisations across Wales, is the measure of respect in which we are held.” The Church, he suggested, had “a kind of credit; fewer irons in the fire, here”.

The Representative Body’s decision to release £100 million from its historic reserves to invest in evangelism would be far-reaching, the Archbishop told the meeting. “Despite volatile markets, there are good reasons why now is the time to be developing our thinking and planning. . . We know there are things we can do together far more effectively than apart, and allow greater energy to be at work in our church communities as a consequence.

“We have seen that there are communities which can grow. And the good news is that they are growing in urban and rural spaces, in Evangelical and Charismatic as well as Catholic traditions; they are unilingual and bilingual, and even multilingual.”

He went on to give an example: St Thomas’s, Swansea, where there had been numerical growth across the age spectrum, and was notable for its warm culture of welcome.

Archbishop John commended significant developments around safeguarding, which he described as “a robust framework, matched with professional specialists to work with us and to shape policy for the Church in Wales. . . An independent safeguarding panel ensures we don’t fall into the trap of marking our own homework.”

The Monmouth Review, which examined events and issues surrounding the retirement of Bishop Richard Pain in 2020 (News, 17 December 2021), had resulted in substantive changes around questions of recruitment, support, and accountability, besides addressing culture change in the Church, the Archbishop said.

One issue which needed more serious engagement was the Dignity at Work Charter. “We have more work to do around proper expectations and how we become better and safer as a Church, and are looking to engage the Church more thoroughly with the charter.

“There is more work to do, still, to make us a better Church — financial training in Ministry Areas, and how to manage our buildings’ portfolio, will be matters to which we will need to return.”

He praised the Periodic External Review report for St Padarn’s Institute, describing it as a strong endorsement of the quality and direction of training undertaken by the college, but acknowledged that there was more to be done as a Province. “We also need to develop the breadth of ministries the Church needs, and how to blend these well within a generous understanding of what it means to be Anglican.”

Learning to walk together needed to become normative if the Church in Wales was to see its life flourish, he concluded: “It is the Lord who knows each of us by name, who loves us unconditionally, who asks us to make the decision not to let our heart be troubled and to respond to his call with faith and confidence.”

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