CONFIRMATION services in the Church of England are about to become politicised after the General Synod voted to include a liturgical response to ‘the climate emergency’.
The July sessions in York saw the bitter divisions in the C of E laid bare, particularly over sexual morality and in the row over the sacking by the Archbishops’ Council of two members of the Church’s Independent Safeguarding Board. It was on the last morning of the five-day hate-in that the Synod voted overwhelmingly for the ‘Responding to the Climate Emergency’ motion moved by the suffragan Bishop of Reading, Olivia Graham, on behalf of Oxford Diocese.
A firm believer in the bulldozer as a means of achieving Net Zero in the national Church’s property portfolio, Bishop Graham intoned in her concluding remarks in the debate last Tuesday: ‘On buildings retro-fitting is not always the answer. We need bespoke solutions for each building clearly and sometimes the bulldozer is the best one but sometimes retro-fitting is and we have just completed our first retro-fit in Oxford Diocese at the cost, I believe, of £75,000 but we now have a Net Zero vicarage. We hope that it is the first of many.’
She further proclaimed: ‘Ninety per cent of a church’s entire carbon footprint lies with the congregation . . . Let us be in no doubt, Synod, that we cannot invent or spend our way out of this crisis. It’s going to need us to change.’ In case you think I am making this up, here is a video of the debate, with Bishop Graham making her appearance about two hours in.
Her motion brimmed with eco-religious zeal for Net Zero regardless of the cost and the concerns of many churchgoers and the wider public. ‘Building departments’ and ‘education departments’ across the C of E are to be issued with ‘authoritative national guidance notes, advice and training on key technical and procedural questions relating to the adaptation of buildings for the Net Zero target’.
Candidates for ordination are to be drilled in left-wing environmental dogma, dressed up as a deeper understanding ‘in how care for the earth is part of our Christian faith and a missional imperative’.
The motion called on the government to ‘review the weight given to environmental public benefit in planning regulations to facilitate the installation of renewable technologies, including for buildings that are listed or in conservation areas’.
The most significant part of it for the ministry and mission of parish churches relates to confirmation services when, in the presence of a bishop, individuals who have been baptised as babies own the baptismal vows their parents and godparents made on their behalf.
The motion requested that ‘Bishops and the Liturgical Commission’ encourage the inclusion of an additional question to confirmation candidates in the commissioning part of the service: ‘Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the Earth?’
At present, there are five questions in this part of the C of E’s Common Worship confirmation service: ‘Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?’; ‘Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?; ‘Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?’; ‘Will you seek and serve Christ in all people, loving your neighbour as yourself?’; ‘Will you acknowledge Christ’s authority over human society, by prayer for the world and its leaders, by defending the weak, and by seeking peace and justice?’
Candidates respond: ‘With the help of God, I will.’
Any confirmation candidate should be able to answer those questions in good Christian conscience. But the new one, pious though it sounds, is clearly an expression of a secular political agenda that not everyone is signed up to. Ros Clarke, a lay member for Lichfield Diocese, tried to move an amendment leaving out the question but the Synod voted to keep it in.
Thus salvation, according to the new secular eco-religion endorsed by the C of E, would appear to be by building works rather than by the grace of God, and works that millions of working people in Britain are not able to afford. A diocese such as Oxford, one of the wealthiest in the C of E, may well be able to afford to create Net Zero vicarages but for many people struggling to pay their mortgages re-fitting their homes would be an unbearable burden.
Christianity, by contrast, is an infinitely more generous religion, expressed in the Book of Common Prayer Collect for today, the Sixth Sunday after Trinity: ‘O God, who hast prepared for them that love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding: Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.’