Climate change ‘shrug culture’ challenged by church declaration

Climate change ‘shrug culture’ challenged by church declaration

Leaders representing the UK’s mainstream churches have called for repentance over the prevailing “shrug-culture” towards climate change.

Archbishop Rowan Williams, Bishop Richard Chartres, Archbishop Barry Morgan, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, and leaders of the Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed churches were among those signing Operation Noah’s Ash Wednesday Declaration.

“Traditionally, Christians commit themselves to repentance and renewed faith in Jesus Christ on Ash Wednesday,” said David Atkinson, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Southwark. “We must live out that faith in relation to our damaging consumer economy, over-dependence on fossil fuels and the devastation we, as a species, are inflicting on God’s world. We believe that responsible care for God’s creation is foundational to the Gospel and central to the church’s mission.”

The Declaration, also signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is framed around seven biblical themes and argues that to be a Christian is to accept the call to radical discipleship and to work through the implications for church life of a real change in lifestyle.

Mary Grey, Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of Wales, believes the Declaration — subtitled “Climate Change and the Purposes of God: a call to the Church” — comes at a key moment.

“A second Earth Summit is being prepared and the world seems apathetic towards the real threat to all planetary life,” said Professor Grey.

Bishop Atkinson, who leads Operation Noah’s theological think tank, pointed to specific, historical confessions calling the church back to its biblical and theological foundations — notably, the Barmen Declaration of the confessing church in Nazi Germany.

“Various confessions also addressed apartheid in South Africa,” he said. “We believe that this is a time of urgency for the church. The threat of runaway climate change is the most significant moral question facing us today.”

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