Christians who are confirmed or baptized in the Diocese of Oxford will now be required to commit to environmental protection as part of the church’s official liturgy.
The addition to the festivities is supported by Reverend Stephen Croft, Bishop of Oxford, and asks that people who are baptized or confirmed “seek to preserve the integrity of creation, and to preserve and renew the life of the earth.”
The move, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, comes amid growing concern about the climate and environmental crisis among religious leaders. Earlier this year, more than 500 church leaders signed a letter to the government calling for it not to develop fossil fuels, and Christian activists have been at the forefront of many climate protests in recent years.
Stephen, who is a member of the Lords Committee on the Environment and Climate Change, said the church has a key moral and spiritual role to play in addressing the climate and environmental emergency.
“The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is already moving away from us,” he said. “Society only has a limited time to act but we should have no doubt whatsoever that there is a strong and profound potential for change if we act now.”
The addition to the liturgy comes as the Archdiocese of Oxford has also announced plans to spend £10m to improve energy efficiency in its offices in a bid to reach net zero emissions by 2035. It is one of 10 dioceses that have been excluded from fossil fuel companies, making them commitments not to invest in Coal, oil and gas in the future.
Nationally, the Church of England has been criticized for not acting fast enough to sever ties with fossil fuel companies. It began cutting ties with coal and other highly polluting industries in 2015, then pledged in 2018 to phase out by 2023 high-carbon companies “not in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement”. But as the deadline approaches, the organization said it is still “engaged” with key oil and gas interests, rather than canceling all of its holdings.
Chris Manctlow, of the Young Christian Climate Network, told the Guardian earlier this year that this wasn’t good enough. “The church must move quickly and show moral leadership, not go fast enough. We are not happy with this response [to the calls to divest]. “
Greenpeace on Wednesday welcomed Oxford’s decision.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Oxford said: “The Archdiocese of Oxford is moving away from fossil fuels, which is essential, but this liturgical change is going deeper.” “Today’s lesson is that in a climate and nature emergency, you need to make environmental considerations central to your project from the start and keep them in mind all the way through. This sounds very much like wisdom worth listening to.”