Dr Cathy Rhodes Submits Synod Motion to Strengthen Church of England’s Divestment Pledge

Dr Cathy Rhodes (far right) at the ‘No Faith In Fossil Fuels’ service with Operation Noah trustees (left to right) Nicky Bull, Mick Oliver and Revd Dr Darrell Hannah.

By Dr Cathy Rhodes, Diocesan Environmental Officer, Sheffield

Private Members’ Motions (PMMs) are one way that debates can be brought to General Synod (the national assembly of the Church of England). To decide whether a PMM goes on Synod’s agenda for debate, 100 signatures of members are needed. There is more information here.

In my capacity as a lay member of General Synod for Sheffield Diocese, I’ve submitted a PMM as follows:

‘That this Synod, recognising our responsibility to care for God’s creation, the urgency of the climate crisis and the International Energy Agency (IEA) statements that (i) there can be no new fossil fuel developments if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5°C and (ii) investment in renewable energy needs to more than treble by 2030:

(a) acknowledge the important work of the Transition Pathway Initiative;

(b) note that the Archbishop of Cape Town and over 20 Southern African Anglican bishops have called for the immediate cessation of fossil fuel exploration across Africa, and 500+ UK Church leaders including 49 Church of England bishops have called for no new fossil fuel developments;

(c) therefore call on the National Investing Bodies to:

   (i) disinvest by the end of 2023 from any oil and gas companies that are planning to explore for and/or develop new fossil fuel resources and/or reserves; and;

   (ii) scale up investment in renewable energy and other climate solutions year-on-year to at least 10% of assets under management by 2030.’

In July 2018 the Church of England’s General Synod voted for the three National Investing Bodies (NIBs) – the Church Commissioners for England, the Church of England Pensions Board, and CBF Church of England Funds – to adopt a policy of Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) assessments.

At the General Synod in July 2023, the investors will report back, at which time the 2018 Motion requires that the NIBs divest from any companies that are not on track to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement.

However, following the IEA statements and calls outlined in the PMM, I believe our Christian calling is to divest now from all companies who are undertaking fossil fuel exploration and development. We are rapidly running out of time. This PMM is designed to give the NIBs a simple directive from Synod: move money out of all companies planning fossil fuel exploration and development and increase investment in climate solutions.

This would send a clear message: there is no future in fossil fuels, we have no faith in fossil fuels, and the Church of England is leading by example. We owe this to our neighbours suffering across the world, to our rapidly heating planet home and to all living things. If you are part of the Church of England and wish to support this, please contact your General Synod members and ask them if they will sign this motion.

At a recent meeting to discuss the topic of divestment in my own Diocese, I quoted these powerful words from Revd Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa: ‘Faced with environmental devastation, pollution of precious water sources and abuse of land rights caused by fossil fuel companies, it is easy for those on the frontline of climate change to feel overwhelmed by the power of these corporations. When we hear that faith communities are taking their money out of these companies, it rekindles hope that we are not alone.’

Let’s listen to the cry of those on the frontline and do the right thing.

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