Jim Green and Chris Hull use cycling pilgrimage to call on Church of England dioceses to divest from fossil fuels

Posted in: Blog
Date posted: 28 April 2022

By Jim Green

I don’t know about you, but there is so much to shout about that it can do one’s head in. I wanted something to shout for – hope rather than fear.

So when my wife Sue and I attended an Operation Noah divestment webinar last autumn and heard, for instance, about the divestment movement going from almost nothing to $39 trillion in ten years, we were encouraged.

We were also struck by the story of the Swedish church divesting from fossil fuels and making money from fossil-free investments. And of course, we were moved by the stories of devastation to people and communities caused by fossil fuel exploration in Southern Africa.

I wanted to do something and thought of going to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), cycling from my home in Norwich.

I didn’t.

Then, months later, I had an idea: I could cycle to several Church of England dioceses with a letter from over 20 Anglican bishops in Africa, detailing the many ways that fossil fuel companies were harming people there.

This was not to protest. In 2017, Sue and I visited Uganda with Tearfund
and we remembered the dancing and celebration in churches. I began to picture churches in England and Africa collectively celebrating an end to fossil fuel investment. I could make a kind of pilgrimage to try and make that vision a reality. And I could make it by cycling – something I enjoy.

Earlier this month, my friend Chris Hull and I cycled from Norwich (our diocese, which has only recently divested from fossil fuels) to the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (a diocese which holds no fossil fuel investments, but has yet to publicly rule out future fossil fuel investment) to Chelmsford Diocese (which we learned had just divested, but had not yet announced that publicly and had not yet committed not to invest in fossil fuels in the future). Over the course of two days of cycling, Chris and I were warmly received by clergy or others from the diocese on each of our stops, including by the deans of Norwich and St Edmundsbury Cathedrals.

It might have been my idea, but we were a partnership. Chris is an
experienced Christian Aid campaigner and trained cycle ride leader. Chris was the cycling lead, planning the route, protecting me from headwinds and finding cafes. We shared in writing to the dioceses. Chris wrote the press release. And we shared stories along the way – and shared silence too.

We also raised money for Operation Noah and were supported by Operation Noah. And this was key: the opportunity to talk through our plan was such an important part of getting past that persistent feeling that this was a stupid idea. It was also key, I think, in communication with the dioceses, in that we had a suitable organisation behind us. Not all the ideas we discussed came to fruition, but that’s okay. What we ended up with was simple: Chris and Jim cycling with the support of Operation Noah.

Chis and I are committed to continuing our divestment cycling pilgrimage – Ely, Peterborough, and maybe Lincoln are next – and we can use the publicity we generated this time in making contact next time.

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