Churches across Leicestershire are to take action to become an Eco Diocese

Churches across the Diocese of Leicester are to take action to reduce their environmental impact in order for us to become an Eco Diocese.

Following an impassioned Presidential Address from the Bishop of Leicester at Diocesan Synod, members unanimously voted to register the diocese to work towards achieving a bronze award in the Eco Diocese scheme within two years. The scheme is run by Christian mission organisation, Arocha.

The vote confirmed the motion proposed by Diocesan Environmental Officer, the Revd Andrew Quigley, to take these steps as “a response to the ecological crisis and to live out our faith in God as a loving creator ”.

You can read Bishop Martyn’s address in full below at the end of this article.

At Synod, Bishops Youth Council (BYC) not only led prayers for the Bishops and the Bishop’s Leadership Team, but also spoke about their conviction of the importance of climate action for their own futures, as well as their experience of insufficient focus on the topic in school curricula.

One of BYC, Nathan Booker, said: “As part of our discipleship we are stewards of God’s creation, the issue of climate change is an issue that the church can take a lead in. This gives us a great opportunity to reflect the message of God for everyone in the community.”

Bishop Martyn described Greta Thunberg’s anger, expressed in her address to the United Nations, as righteous anger - the righteous anger of a prophet, and he urged Synod to listen and take to heart what the young people at Synod were saying.

He also referred to the warnings made in a book called Enough is Enough, written by John Taylor in 1975, and what Leicester’s own David Attenborough has been saying for decades as well.

Bishop Martyn said: “If we are to truly practice the everyday faith which we say is at the heart of our diocese, then now is the time for action.”

Synod also heard how fresh expressions of Church were able to reach people with concern for the natural environment  and introduce them to the Gospel. They heard about recent growing interest in setting up Forest Churches as well as three well-established fresh expressions of Church in our dicoese: Greenlight; Watershed and Elderberries.

The diocese’s Environment Group is now hoping to recruit representatives from every deanery, and plans will be made to share wider communications about ideas for churches and updates on progress on environmental issues with the wider dicoese.

You can read Bishop Martyn's address below:

Leicester Diocesan Synod Presidential Address 23rd November 2019

I want to talk about three things this morning:

  1. Our diocesan narrative of Everyday Faith
  2. The forthcoming General Election
  3. The proposals before us today to become an ‘Eco-diocese’

But firstly, a word of what ties them together.

Those of you who know me well, will know that one of the authors I return to again and again is John V Taylor – former General Secretary of the Church Mission Society, who later became Bishop of Winchester. His global perspective, his attentiveness to mission and his emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, have all become central to me.

In 1975 he wrote a book which turned out to be extraordinarily prophetic – the title was Enough is Enough. It’s a commentary on what he calls ‘the excess which marks our Western way of life.’ We have become, he said ‘spoilt children’, ‘waste-mongers’ – yes, even as far back as 1975 he was talking about plastic waste and the throw-away mentality which is all pervasive in our society.

He goes on to explore ‘the theology of enough’. This involves ‘eucharistic living’ i.e. it starts with celebration and thankfulness for the goodness of creation and the abundance of God’s good gifts to us. He speaks of the need for a ‘cheerful revolution’ and a ‘joyful resistance movement’. And he reminds us that when the disciples were sent out by Jesus to continue his mission in the surrounding towns and villages, they were instructed to ‘travel light’.

He goes on to say:

I believe that what is wrong is not so much what we are doing as the frame of reference within which we are doing it, or, if you like, not so much our way of grabbing at things as our way of looking at things…

In the Bible the Hebrew dream is summed up in the word shalom, something much broader than ‘peace’: the harmony of a caring community informed at every point by its awareness of God. It speaks of a wholeness that is complete because every aspect of every corner of ordinary life is included… what the Hebrews seem to have perceived with particular vividness and to have articulated most clearly was the fact that this all-embracing inter-relatedness and answerability arose from one primary relationship which God had initiated…

The blessedness of this inter-related, God-related community might be thought of either as wholeness or as harmony. The wholeness was the all-inclusiveness of the framework of reference; the harmony was the reciprocity of all the parts… economically and socially this dream of shalom found expression in what I call the theology of enough.

So, I hope you will start to see how the proposal before us today to become an eco-diocese, is related to the theme of politics and to our diocesan narrative of everyday faith. They all speak of the inter-relatedness of our relationships with the created world, with one another in community and as a community of communities in society. And at the centre of it all stands “the one primary relationship which God has initiated.”

Our diocesan narrative of everyday faith is intended to enlarge our vision, to remind us that God is interested in “every aspect of every corner of ordinary life”. We’ve spoken about everyday prayer – praying at all times in all places, giving thanks for those willing to serve in Parliament, praying for the national debate about Brexit, praying for those we disagree with, living ‘eucharistically’ as we give thanks for the wonder of God’s creation. We’ve spoken about everyday witness – being ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, speaking confidently of Jesus Christ who often invited us to learn about God’s kingdom by looking at the natural world around us. And we’ve spoken about everyday action – the small ways in which we can live out a theology of enough, seeking to avoid waste, seeking to break free from the excess which has marked our Western way of life for so long. All these things are inter-related, and our narrative of everyday faith is intended to be a 21st century way of expressing the Hebrew concept of shalom.

Bishop Guli and I have recently written to clergy and lay leaders in the diocese to ask every church to be praying about the General Election, to encourage people to vote and to do so having scrutinised the policies of the different parties and the characters of those standing for election, and to consider hosting hustings – a good way of listening to candidates and fulfilling our calling to be a safe space for all people to disagree well.

As our Archbishops, and various other bishops have also written, we will want to ask particular questions of policies and candidates from our Christian perspective:

How are the poorest and most vulnerable being protected, cared for and lifted up?

Do these policies treat all people as truly valuable, made in God’s image and loved by him?

Are these policies caring for the environment and all of God’s creation?

Will these policies protect and promote people’s freedoms, especially freedom of worship?

Do these policies promote social cohesion, community, integration and regeneration?

Do the policies promote peace – shalom - in our world?

These are all valid concerns for Christians seeking to live out their everyday faith.

You might also want to take a look at a book published this week by Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington – it’s called Looking beyond Brexit – Bringing the Country Back Together. I will be enclosing a copy when I write to every MP in Leicester and Leicestershire after the General Election. The book provides an interesting perspective on our current situation by suggesting that we’ve been here before – when King Henry VIII broke from Europe, declaring himself, rather than the Pope, the Supreme Head of the English Church. The split did not end the story. In the turmoil that followed, ‘fake news’ spread, families were divided, and blood was shed. However, an attempt was made to find a peaceable solution – and Bishop Graham suggests we can learn from what did and didn’t work at that time.

And so back to the proposal before us today to become an eco-diocese. I hope by now it will be clear that I not only support the proposal but feel very strongly about it. So strongly, that I am clear we need to make it a priority within the life of the diocese. But the important thing today is that we both celebrate what is already happening – because I know there is a lot – and commit ourselves to real action in the coming weeks and months.

Interestingly, the concept of shalom is not just about relationships here and now. For the Hebrew mindset, as in many other cultures in the world today, the concept is inter-generational i.e. this is about our relationships with those who have gone before us and those who will come after us. Many previous generations had a much closer relationship with the natural world than we do today – think of the saints who first evangelised these islands, particular the Celtic saints – their spirituality was intimately connected with the sea, the earth, all living creatures. I’m hugely encouraged by the way their spirituality is being explored again today.

And today’s young people are reminding us that we face a very stark choice about the way that future generations will look back on our generation. It is very likely that we will be remembered as the generation which set in place irreversible changes to our climate, to biodiversity, to our natural resources. Greta Thunberg’s anger, expressed in her address to the United Nations, was righteous anger. And I sincerely hope that the younger people here with us today will speak out confidently about their views and the rest of us will listen and take to heart what they say.

Enough is Enough, said John Taylor in 1975. Leicester’s own David Attenborough has been saying something very similar for decades as well. If we are to truly practice the everyday faith which we say is at the heart of our diocese, then now is the time for action.


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