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UK News

Synod encourages consultation into human composting instead of graveyard burials

by Sophie Drew

Bishops in the Church of England have been discussing human composting, and any potential theological reasons against the process.

The alternative method of burial would save spaces in graveyards, but many are likely to be uncomfortable with the ritual for reasons pertaining to the Bible.

Currently, people living in the UK are not allowed to undergo the process – you may only be buried or cremated.

Currently, due to a lack of infrastructure in place, composted remains are likely to end up in the sewage or waterways.

However, if it were to be legalised and the correct means made available, it could put the Church of England one-step closer to its environmental targets.

In 2015, the denomination committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030.

Following a question from Rev Canon Andrew Dotchin to the General Synod – which meets in London this week – bishops are considering opening the issue up to a consultation group.

The Bishop of Lichfield responded to the question on behalf of the House of Bishops, confirming that no plans were currently in place.

However, he encouraged Rev Canon Dotchin to look further into the issue via a consultation, as part of his work with the Churches’ Funerals Group.

Last month, the alternative burial method became legal in New York, largely because of its ability to save space.

Instead of caskets and coffins, the process sees bodies initially placed in a steel container where the humidity and natural gases are carefully monitored to speed up the natural process of decay.

Within six weeks, a human body could become soil – enough to fill two wheelbarrows, on average.

It uses eight times less energy than cremation, but still means loved ones can scatter the deceased in a similar way.

Alternatively, the remains can be used to fertilise green spaces in their memory.

However, some Christians believe that both cremation and composting would make it more difficult for the soul to be called back to it’s previous body.

The General Synod continues in London, with a number of contentious topics on the table over the upcoming days, including same-sex blessing proposals and safeguarding.

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