A dozen Christian climate protesters interrupted an Evensong service at Chichester Cathedral on Wednesday, which was being broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
The protesters, who are mostly members of Christian Climate Action, stood up in the service, holding signs reading 'Chichester Diocese funds climate chaos’. The group sang a plainsong penitential chant. A statement was then read out and the group prayed.
The group said the stunt was their response to the Chichester Diocesan Synod recently voting to keep investing in fossil fuels.
Mary Smail, a member of the group who gave the statement said: “Eleven days ago, the Chichester Diocesan Synod voted to retain the Diocese's investments in fossil fuels, despite the Church of England National Investment Bodies having decided to divest - because ‘engagement has failed’. It is astonishing that Chichester has chosen this path, described by the UN Secretary General as ‘a highway to climate hell’. We protest at this wanton irresponsibility and call upon the Diocese to reverse its decision.”
In June, the Church Commissioners for England, which handles the Church of England’s £10.3bn endowment fund, decided to divest from oil and gas companies.
According to Christian Climate Action, most Church of England dioceses either do not have investments in fossil fuels or have voted to divest. However, the Southwell and Nottingham, Chichester and Peterborough dioceses still do.
Rev Hilary Bond, one of those who interrupted the service, said: “As Christians we follow a God who is all about justice, especially for the poor. Many of the poorer parts of the world are already enduring great suffering because of the effects of climate change, brought about by the continued use of fossil fuels by the richer parts of the world. In continuing to invest in fossil fuels, the Diocese of Chichester are ignoring the cry of the poor when they could so easily invest more ethically and be part of bringing climate justice to the whole of God’s world. “
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Chichester told Premier Christian News in a statement:
“We share the concern of the protestors. The recent Diocesan Synod reaffirmed that care for God’s creation is foundational to the Christian gospel and central to the church’s mission.
"Synod also engaged with the many complexities this contentious issue raises, which are often overlooked. We recognised that it is possible for people to hold different views on the best way to achieve the shared goal of freedom from fossil fuels.
"We remain committed to working towards a future which does not depend on fossil fuels. We acknowledge that achieving freedom from fossil fuels depends on the urgent need to develop alternative energy supplies and reduce the demand for energy.
"The Synod also debated the central role that large energy companies have to play in developing alternative energy supplies. We agreed by a significant majority to continue to invest in Shell and BP only while those companies have a clear strategy aligned with the Paris Agreement goal.
"In a separate motion, Synod endorsed a Diocesan Net Zero Carbon Action Plan as a positive direction of travel."