Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility

  1.  The terms of reference of the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility require it "to co-ordinate the thought and action of the Church in matters affecting the life of all in society". The Board reports to the Archbishops' Council and, through it, to the General Synod.

  2.  The Board is delighted that the Environmental Audit Committee is seeking information about activities related to the Earth Summit of 1992 and the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development later this year.

  3.  The Board cannot speak on behalf of other churches, but much of the Church of England's activity in relation to the two Summits has been ecumenical. This response therefore mentions activities involving churches other than the Church of England. The information is by no means comprehensive: it simply gives a thumbnail sketch of some of what has been happening during the decade 1992-02.

  4.  Following the Earth Summit in 1992, many churches became actively involved in local programmes to promote sustainable development in one form or another, frequently building partnerships with LA 21 officers and other local officials and activists. Now many churches are gearing up for WSSD later this year.

  5.  The nature of the churches is not be overly centralised in these sorts of activities, particularly given the local emphasis of the 1992 Summit. There are many examples of excellent work going on locally which thrive because they have grown from local enthusiasm and not from centralised directives. We are, however, seeking to share good practice with each other, and to this end networks have been established. The Environmental Issues Network of the ecumenical Churches Together in Britain and Ireland ensures that colleagues in the different churches keep abreast of each other's work. On behalf of this Network, EnCambs, A Rocha, Christian Ecology Link and the John Ray Initiative are producing information on WSSD for churches in the UK.

  6.  In the Church of England a network of diocesan environmental officers has been created. (There are 43 dioceses covering the whole of England, and colleagues in Wales are included in email groups).

  7.  Two examples of activities at diocesan level are as follows:

  (a)  In Lincolnshire, in 1992, the Churches Environmental Working Party launched a full colour document called Earth Covenant with a grant from the Earnest Cook Trust. It went to every Minister and church secretary from the Humber to The Wash. It asked for a commitment from each church to some change in behaviour that was more sustainable. Since then, many churches have changed, for example many now use low energy light bulbs, have paper recycling, purchasing policies, ethical investment, recycling schemes in their youth clubs, energy efficiency schemes, and churchyard conservation schemes. Since 1992 churches have been encouraged to work with Local Authority officers and LA 21 officers on community sustainable development projects.

  The Rural Action Environmental Scheme and its successor has given grants using LA 21 principles of sustainable development. The Churches Environmental Working Party put on several conferences after Rio—on Sustainable Development and LA 21—and was instrumental in helping to set up the Lincolnshire Environment Forum. One success of the Forum was to get all the Local Authorities to sign up to the Local Government Declaration on Sustainable Development.

  Lincolnshire 2000, a Working Group formed of interested parties including the churches, was formed. Apart from conferences the Group managed to fund a project for schools—a post of "Schools Environmental Co-ordinator" which ran for two years and was influential, and a project called "Parish Environmental Surveys" which was also helpful, but ran out of funding too soon.

  In October 1996 a major event linked to the Earth Summit was held at Lincoln Cathedral, called Earth Our Home. This ran for five days, with an international conference, the whole cathedral taken over for activities and exhibitions, and an exhibition of Aboriginal art in the Chapter House.

  St Francistide Lectures were begun in 1992 and ran till 2000, drawing together a wide cross section of people in Lincoln.

  Looking towards the next Summit, the monthly Diocesan Bulletin is hosting a series of short articles and encouragements to raise awareness. These are connected to two INSET days being held with the Diocesan Education Centre and the County Council, one in April and another in October after WSSD. To support this process a 40 page full colour Rio + 10 document is being circulated to schools electronically, using 10 key subject areas, with themes and activities. The idea is to use the post SATS week in late May as an environmentally focussed activity week. The response so far is enthusiastic. It has been noted with sadness that "Eco-Schools" includes all curriculum areas except RE!

  Work is also being undertaken with the Mothers' Union on a broad range of environmental issues, a process which, it is hoped, will gather national momentum in time for the Earth Summit, and so then become global.

  (b)  In Devon, since 1995, the Devon Churches Green Action Group has been developing a network of church magazine/newsletter editors across Devon from different denominations. This is primarily to mail them short articles on "Sustainable Living" for inclusion in their own publications. It is estimated that combined readership of such magazine/newsletters in Devon is between 50,000 to 100,000. The feedback on these has been very positive and creative.

  Much of the work in the Diocese has used the Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation process as a theological framework, for which Local Agenda 21 provides an environmental, social and economic action programme. Our overall aim is to create and enhance communities that are inclusive and sustainable, and to this end churches have a strong role to play in providing a vision and practice for living together in different ways.

  Activities include the following: setting up of Devon Christian Ecology Group with visits, speakers, a regular Newsletter and support for environmental work in Madagascar (Azafadi Project); supporting community economic initiatives, such as development trusts, credit unions, recycling networks, community businesses, composting, organic farms, etc; supporting a World Development Team working on the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, fair trade, landmines, arms sales, One World Week, global links and Mission Agencies Forum; running training workshops on green economics; ethical investment meetings; supporting Devon Churches' Sustainability Working Group (Local Agenda 21), which has inter alia produced a series of leaflets on issues in sustainable development, and has a "resource bank" or church audits, training, displays etc.

  In preparation for WSSD, Devon Churches Green Action Group is planning a Devon Earth Summit Banquet in July, to mirror the banquet which churches in South Africa will be putting on during the event itself. This will be a meal produced from local/fair-traded sources, and will encourage others to do the same at lest on a daily basis. The Banquet may later be repeated at a local level across the County in September. The Devon churches are also, in partnership with other organisations, producing a Devon map showing sustainable activities which it is hoped two young people will take to Johannesburg.

  8.  Information about two parish-based projects, from the Conservation Foundation and EnCambs, is appended.

  9.  The Bishops of the Church of England have taken this subject so seriously that they spent 24 hours studying environmental issues when they met together in 2001. A description is given in one of the Parish Pump newsletters appended to this response.

  10.  At an international level, key personnel in the Anglican Communion, which represents 70 million people in 165 countries, are working together to prepare for WSSD and to encourage a network of sustainable development activities across the globe thereafter.

The Venerable Michael Fox

Archdeacon of West Ham

Board member responsible for Environmental Issues

February 2002

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