Operation Noah, a UK cross-denominational body campaigning and working for action on climate change, has issued a Declaration to mark the start of Lent: a time in the Christian year when Christians particularly focus on what their faith means to them.
In itself, this may not seem noteworthy. Environmental groups in the church have been issuing calls to action for years. But there are three reasons why this Declaration has greater significance.
The first is that while climate change is still a major focus, the issue is placed clearly in the wider settings of social justice and social and economic problems in our society. Amongst the questions it poses are:
How do we balance our energy and material consumption with the needs of the poorest communities, and of future generations and other species? How do we sustain hope in the midst of fear and denial? How can we encourage global cooperation, challenge unsustainable economic systems and change our lifestyles?
The claim is thus being made that a straight substitution of green energy for fossil-fuel energy is not sufficient, whether possible or not. It is an issue that all of us need to address, not leaving it to governments or a technocratic elite.
The second, and most significant, is that these issues are described as confessional. This term goes back to the Reformation, and their attempt to define what aspects of faith were sufficiently fundamental that all believers had to hold to them, and which were matters of legitimate debate. The most significant modern parallel is 1934 Barmen Declaration. German church leaders, observing the policies of the early Nazi regime, concluded that they were so strongly against the principles of Christianity that no Christian could reasonably support them. For more information on this point, see notes from Tim Gorringe’s Operation Noah lecture in November.
As Operation Noah note, making climate change a confessional issue is similarly significant:
Operation Noah see this Declaration as a call of considerable significance. It marks a definitive line for the church: if we are Christians these are key issues which we need to respond to – as individuals, as local churches and as a national Church.
The third is that the declaration has been endorsed by either the head or a leading figure from all the largest denominations in the UK, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, and representatives from the Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodists, the Baptist Union, the URC. This is not only a call from environmental interest groups to the rest of the church, but it has been responded to!
Of course, there is still the task of getting local churches and individual Christians to recognise and act on what their leadership has committed them to, but this is still a major step forward.
Read the Declaration and plenty of supporting material here.