England’s state church has backed a motion calling for new vicars to be trained in “ecotheology” and “eco-justice” alongside more traditional Christian ethics.
In a motion debated at a meeting of the General Synod in York, Church of England leaders adopted the programme of Green activism by 305 votes to six.
Suggestions on how to implement the motion included encouraging the faithful to upload fewer photographs to services such as iCloud and Dropbox, and installing solar panels on vicarage roofs.
Among other things, the motion called on governments around the world to limit global temperature rises to no more than two degrees, although it stopped short of calling on people to skip lunch on the first Monday of every month, as had been earlier reported.
Speaking in the debate, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “We are to be exemplary in what we do ourselves.”
The Daily Mail quotes him as saying: “That comes down to some very basic things about use of our buildings and imaginative work there; about how use our heritage; about how we use and invest our finances; and around how we heat and light things.
“Symbolic action such as use of paper at General Synod, the amount we travel, and disinvestment or the tackling and engagement with companies in certain areas, such as arctic drilling, are equally important.”
Introducing the motion, Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam, who is the Church of England’s chief spokesman of climate affairs, said:
“There has been some puzzlement about encouraging prayer and fasting.
“It’s not just about skipping a sandwich but helping those of us who are well fed to notice what it means to be hungry and to hunger for justice.”
Traditionally, Christians have fasted every week, abstaining from meat on all Fridays apart from major feast days – a practice which is still compulsory for Catholics in England and Wales. The motion did not suggest reintroducing this practice into the Anglican Church.
Bishop Holtam also said the Church would “develop and promote new ecotheological resources.”
“It is a new word to me too,” he added. “But it was used at the Anglican Communion Environmental Network conference in February.”
Without going into detail about what exactly it entailed, he said: “Christians will want to use ecotheology and seek eco-justice for the love of God and our neighbour.”
Among other contributions, Canon Margaret Swinson of Liverpool said that data storage clouds based in the US generate 97m tonnes of CO2 each year. We should therefore think twice before uploading photographs to data cloud services – such as Dropbox and iCloud.
Alexandra Podd of the CofE Youth Council also said the Church of England should consider putting solar panels on the roofs of vicarages.
However, Martin Sewell, a former Green Party activist and lay representative from Rochester, said:
“If there was a Nobel Prize for failed apocalyptic warnings, the green movement would win it every year.
“The capitalism we despise has reduced the proportion of the world’s people who are in absolute poverty from 53 per cent to 17 per cent since 1981. This is astonishing. How did it happen? It happened because of two forces – cheap energy and free trade.
“What if the choice is not green energy and helping the poor? What if the choice is between green energy or helping the poor?”