Chair’s annual report: June 2015
Date posted: 16 June 2015
This annual report was presented by Nicky Bull, Chair of Operation Noah, at our AGM on 13 June 2015 in Birmingham.
Summary of activities:
- After several years of trying, ON at last got an opening to speak at Greenbelt in 2014. Ruth and Siobhan gave a well-attended workshop on environmental activism from a faith perspective, with a particular focus on Bright Now.
- Our ON Co-ordinator, Kate Allardyce, developed a postcard to hand out and good feedback was received and Ruth Jarman developed a ‘polar bear’ post-card for people to colour-in and send in to the Church of England and the Methodist Church with their messages urging fossil fuel disinvestment.
- Operation Noah was involved in the People’s Climate March on 21 September 2014 as part of the Global Day of Action around the New York UN climate summit. Kate attended the planning meetings for the march and helped organise the multi-faith gathering at Victoria Embankment Gardens and promoted events across the country to a wide Christian audience. Around 40 Operation Noah supporters attended the London event.
- On 1 November 2014 Operation Noah hosted the ecumenical launch service for Pray & Fast for the Climate at St John’s, Waterloo attended by about 60 people and there were several other launch events around the country (Coventry, Brighton, Oxford and Lancaster). Isabel Carter, ON’s Chair until December 2014, put together the service and made arrangements. Kate produced a poster and flier for the service and prepared a press release which received very good coverage (and resulted in Isabel doing two radio interviews). Steve Chalke was the key speaker with several others taking part: Sarah Rowe of Christian Aid led a PowerPoint reflection on Psalm 148; Fran Chandler did a reading; and David Atkinson and Barbara Echlin led the prayers. Holly Peterson gave a testimony about why this initiative mattered to her and ON board members and supporters led the worship. Giles Goddard welcomed people and Darrell Hannah led the service. Following the service there was an open session with information stalls from the different organisations, including CAFOD, Christian Aid, A Rocha UK, Green Christian and SPEAK, and a short workshop about how to take the prayer movement forward.
- Pray & Fast for the Climate is one of five initiatives taken up by the Faith for the Climate network earlier in 2014. There is widespread ownership and enthusiasm for the initiative in the network. Several bishops are supportive of the initiative.The work of establishing a website and monthly prayers is being taken forward by Isabel Carter and Maranda St John Nicolle, Chair of Christian Concern for One World, with particular support from Tearfund. Fliers were designed and printed and paid for by Tearfund, with small contributions from Christian Aid and ON. The website (largely paid for by Tearfund) is www.prayandfastfortheclimate.org.uk
- A funding application was submitted to Mustard Seed for £15,000 to cover expenses but was not successful.
- Ruth Jarman and Kate Allardyce of Operation Noah organised an ecumenical service before the Time To Act climate march on 7 March 2015 at St Mary-le-Strand Church. Over 200 people attended, which was a fantastic achievement. Scott Albrech, peace activist from Catholic Worker Farm, spoke and several others contributed to the service.
- After much debate and discussion led by Kate Allardyce and Jean Leston, the role of Ambassadors has been replaced by Climate Advocates. With support from Jean and Isabel, Kate wrote a funding application to Polden-Puckham for the Christian Climate Advocates project. Unfortunately this was not successful. However, a day-long training workshop on the spirituality of environmental activism was held on 14 March 2015 in London in partnership with Hope for the Future. It was entitled ‘Spirit in Action for the Climate’. There was a range of workshops and speakers, including Bishop Richard Cheetham, who gave an inspiring talk entitled ‘Your Gospel is Too Small’, drawing on the theological basis of the churches’ call to action on climate change, and Eilidh MacPherson from CAFOD, who spoke about CAFOD’s climate campaign activities and the international political context for the climate movement and the role of faith groups. There were exercises and workshops on exploring our Christian calling, mobilising churches on environmental issues, political lobbying and faith-based climate campaigns.
- Operation Noah has been involved in supporting the ‘Speak Up’ climate lobby of Parliament on 17 June as part of the Climate Coalition. We have promoted this to our supporters and will be hosting an information stand at the event.
- In response to Giles Goddard’s presentation to General Synod in February 2014, a Church of England working party on the environment was set up. ON board and supporters are well represented in the membership of the group, which comprises: Bishop Nicholas Holtam (Chair), Bishop Richard Cheetham, Bishop Graham Usher (Bishop of Dudley), Giles Goddard, Dave Bookless (A Rocha), Robyn Pender (English Heritage), Victoria Johnston, Martyn Goss (DEO Bath & Wells), Philip Fletcher (Chair of Mission and Public Affairs). The group reports to the Archbishop’s Council.
- In February 2015, soon after Bishop Nicholas Holtam’s appointment as lead bishop on the environment, four ON board members – Leonard Beighton, Darrell Hannah, Jean Leston and Nicky Bull – met with him to talk about the work of Operation Noah and to ask how we can support him. He urged us to continue to speak out on the issues around climate change and encouraged us to press the Church for disinvestment and to be more prophetic. We have been delighted to welcome the Church of England’s recent announcements and will continue to press for further steps to be taken.
- As a member of the Climate Coalition, Operation Noah has continued to be involved in the ‘For the Love of’ campaign launched in June 2014 and we have promoted the ongoing actions to our supporters. Board member Louisa Poole attended the launch event in June at the House of Commons.
- As we move through the remainder of 2015, a particular focus of the year will be a project arising out of a presentation given by Isabel Carter to the Diocese of Lichfield. Isabel was approached during 2014 by David Primrose of Lichfield Diocese, who asked if Operation Noah would be interested in developing the concept of a drama to focus on the environment, in liaison with the Midlands Christian Aid group. This eco-drama initiative has developed in a very exciting way and Riding Lights Theatre Company has since been appointed to take it forwards. We encourage supporters to see a performance when it goes on tour from mid-September.
- Alongside all this Operation Noah activity, our Bright Now fossil fuel disinvestment campaign has also been extremely busy. In summary, Bright Now delivered a Valentine’s Day card to the Church of England and the Methodist Church on Global Divestment Day, filled with messages from supporters about the things they love that are or will be affected by climate change and calling on the Churches to divest from fossil fuels. Postcards and letters have also been sent to the ethical investment advisory bodies for the CofE and the Methodist Church.
- In addition, our Campaigner Ellie Roberts has developed a number of campaign reports: exploring the financial case for divestment and the opportunities for reinvestment; reflections on divestment from a group of Christian theologians, scientists and environmentalists; and a new paper critically examining how the Churches seek to influence fossil fuel companies by engaging with them as shareholders.
- We have seen the movement grow among Christians in the UK over the last year, with Christians holding a divestment party outside St Paul’s Cathedral, performing a fossil-free nativity outside Methodist Central Hall, and dropping a banner calling on the CofE to divest during General Synod in February this year. A prayer vigil for the climate was also held outside General Synod.
- These actions have been against the background of international and UK successes, with the global divestment movement growing among faith communities; among many others the Church of Sweden, the World Council of Churches, the Uniting Church in Australia and Anglican dioceses in New Zealand and Australia have pledged to divest over last year.
- In April, an international group of Anglican bishops and archbishops called for Anglican churches to review their ethical investment policies, stating that such policies should ‘support sustainability and justice by disinvesting from institutions involved primarily in extracting and distributing fossil fuels’.
- Closer to home, the United Reformed Church (URC) of Scotland committed to divest in March this year, joining the Quakers in Britain who divested in 2013.
- In response to calls from local churches, the Church of England and Methodist Church have published revised policies on climate change and their investments in fossil fuels. The CofE divested £12 million from coal and tar sands, while the Methodist Church stated it may exclude coal and tar sands companies.
- The Dioceses of Oxford and Birmingham passed motions calling on CofE to divest and four Methodist Circuits and Districts have passed motions (or memorials) calling on the Methodist church to divest. The CofE General Synod and Methodist Conference will debate the issue this summer, and supporters of divestment will seek to strengthen their revised policies.