On Monday 8th May, Christian Climate Action staged a wedding between the Church of England and fossil fuels to protest the Church’s continued investment in the industry. The sketch and short prayer vigil took place on the steps of Church House, Dean’s Yard, Westminster.
The event, which was part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation, aimed to encourage the Church of England to show moral leadership and divest from the fossil fuel industry. Currently the Church is pursuing a policy of engagement – holding shares in the industry and using shareholder status to try to change the industry’s behaviour. Christian Climate Action believes that engagement cannot work because there is not enough time for it to prevent runaway climate change having a devastating impact on people and God’s creation. They also do not think it is right for the Church to profit from an industry that is making money from wrecking the earth’s climate.
In the sketch, where the Bride of Christ, representing the Church of England, was to be given in marriage to the fossil fuel industry, there was an objection from Jesus Christ, who persuaded the bride to break her engagement with fossil fuels and seek forgiveness.
After the play the guests heard about the impact of coal mining and climate change in Colombia and Uganda before joining in a short prayer vigil.
Diana Salazar, of Colombia Solidarity Campaign, said, ‘the Church of England invests in BHP Billiton and Anglo American, two of the biggest mining companies in the world, and both with significant coal mining operations. They are among the owners of the Cerrejon opencast coal mine in Colombia, which has a history of forced evictions of farming communities and destruction of rural livelihoods. The mine has a massive impact on water in an arid region, and when mine management are challenged about this they try to evade responsibility by blaming water shortages on climate change. Climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, primarily coal, so this is rather an ironic excuse for a coal company to use.’
Jim Green talked about his recent visit to rural Uganda with a Christian Development Agency. ‘Every community we visited were talking about the effect of climate change. For some it meant having only one meal a day, or, in some cases, one meal every two days.’
The Church Commissioners were ‘invited’ to the ‘wedding’ but were unable to attend. Before leaving, Holly Petersen, dressed as the Bride of Christ, handed in some chocolate hearts and a card to the Church Commissioners’ Communications Officer, asking them to conclude the Church’s engagement with fossil fuels.
Caroline Harmon of Christian Climate Action said:
‘The Church of England claims to be a responsible investor, and has a strong moral voice. It claims to understand the threat and urgency of climate change, yet instead of divesting from the biggest fossil fuel companies, they continue to engage. As part of the Global Divestment Mobilisation we invited the Church Commissioners to the wedding of the Church and fossil fuels, where we highlighted the impacts of climate change and prayed for more urgent action.’