Bishop Steven shares an overview of the key thread of Science and Faith at the Lambeth Conference held in Canterbury from 26th July to 7th August.
Bishop Steven’s address to Diocesan Synod in June 2022, calling on every household to respond to the climate crisis.
A few weeks ago, Archbishop Justin, Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued a powerful and historic joint statement on the environment as part of the preparations for COP 26.
Their joint statement was followed on 4 October by a gathering of faith leaders from across the world in the Vatican and the issuing of a new joint statement by all the world’s religions: Faith and Science: an appeal for COP 26. The appeal was presented to COP26 President-Designate, the Rt Hon Alok Sharma, and the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Luigi Di Maio
Again this is a remarkable common statement issued at a critical time. Leaders from the great faith traditions have recognised the crisis which faces our common home. Together, the faith leaders have spoken to the whole world appealing for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; improve financial support for fighting climate change and preserving biodiversity.
The wisdom of the faiths is combined with the insights of the sciences. They call for great ambition at the COP 26 gathering, which is now just days away.
But the faith leaders are not simply asking governments to do something. They recognise that the followers of religious traditions have a crucial part to play in addressing the crisis of our common home. So they commit to much more serious action and to recognising our obligation to future generations, to the poorest who are suffering most, and to young people: exactly the course we have set as a diocese.
These are some of the final, powerful paragraphs:
We are currently at a moment of opportunity and truth. We pray that our human family may unite to save our common home before it is too late. Future generations will never forgive us if we squander this precious opportunity. We have inherited a garden: we must not leave a desert to our children.
Scientists have warned us that there might be only one decade left to restore the planet.
We plead with the international community, gathered at COP26, to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship.
We appeal to everyone on this planet to join us on this common journey, knowing well that what we can achieve depends not only on opportunities and resources, but also on hope, courage, solidarity and good will.
Please take a moment to read the statement in full, and please continue to pray for COP 26 that it may truly be a turning point for the world.
Creator of our common home
Hear the cry of the earth
Our world stands in great peril
Many are suffering
We have put at risk our present and our future
through the rapid warming of the earth and the careless destruction of its beauty
Give to the leaders of the world fresh hope and courage
As they gather for COP 26
Unite us all in a common mission to heal and cherish our environment
And steward the resources of our world for future generations
May this conference be a turning point in human history
For the sake of all the peoples of the earth.
Britain’s COP26 President Alok Sharma speaks during the “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” meeting with Pope Francis and other religious leaders ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November in Britain, at the Vatican, October 4, 2021. – Vatican Media Handout
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus sets a child in the midst of his disciples and invites them to reshape their priorities. What would happen if we did that today in the public square?
It was good to be at St. Michael at the Northgate on Sunday for the Patronal Festival and to mark 50 years since St. Michael’s became the civic Church of the City of Oxford. The service was attended by the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Mayor of Oxford and members of the Council. The Bible Readings for Michaelmas were Revelation 12.7-12 and Matthew 18.1-11.
A sermon given by the Bishop of Oxford on Sunday 26 September 2021:
It’s very good to mark today the 50 years in which St. Michael at the Northgate has been the civic Church of the city of Oxford. It is good to express thanks and appreciation to those who have served as City Rectors in that time, including Anthony, and to all those who have served and serve as Mayors, Councillors and officers. Thank you for your leadership and care and especially in the challenges of the last twenty months.
St Michael’s became the City Church in 1971. We are looking back today over fifty years. By coincidence the new ITV series of Endeavour, the Inspector Morse prequel, is also set in 1971: a good reminder of some of the changes over the last two generations. The line that stays with me from last Sunday’s episode is the taxi driver charging 75 new pence for a ride from the station to Summertown.
There have been many changes over that time. Our first reading from Revelation uses the language of war in heaven and describes the conflict between good and evil as a battle.
As we look back we can see that battles have indeed been fought and won. Our city is more inclusive. Town and gown are better integrated, each more appreciative of the other.
Oxford is described by its poorest residents as a compassionate city; a place of safety for the most vulnerable. Women are better represented in our leadership. The church and faith communities work well together. The city has been able to welcome and to integrate into its life migrants from all over the world and to celebrate diverse cultures.
Year by year we welcome students, academics and scientists and help equip them for global leadership in the arts, the sciences and the social sciences. The influence of our city extends across the world.
St. Michael and all Angels is part of this social fabric in its role as a city church: as a place of prayer and worship; in the role of the City Rector as chaplain to the Mayor and Council; as a symbol of our City’s deep Christian heritage; as a witness to the Christian values of integrity, service, humility and safeguarding the vulnerable which flow through our gospel reading.
The Church, of course, makes no claim to perfection: we are often slow to change ourselves; we continually fall far short of our ideals; we are sometimes on the wrong side in these great battles. We are called continually to repentance and to renew our commitment to Jesus Christ ourselves as the only safe foundation of our message to those around us.
Greatness in the kingdom of heaven does not lie, Jesus reminds us, with politicians or religious leaders but with little children. Both politicians and religious leaders will be judged by the ways in which the interests of those children have first place in our decision making and in our actions.
Anniversaries are a good moment to look back and measure the journey we have travelled together. But they are also a moment to look forward. What are our hopes for this city as we look ahead now to another fifty years: to the year 2071. What battles lie ahead in the great war being fought in heaven and on earth? What will the Church dare say to the City in this next, uncertain chapter of our life together?
To put the question a different way: if Jesus were to place a child in our midst this morning here in Oxford in 2021, what battles would be uppermost in our minds as we look to safeguard the well-being of that child through the next generation? What needs to change?
Three are uppermost in my mind. I will be interested to know if they match your own.
The first is undoubtedly the battle being fought over the earth’s climate. The world faces twin emergencies of climate change and biodiversity loss. Science tells us clearly that the next ten years will be decisive in that battle and will determine the future of life on earth. Will the child Jesus sets in our midst inherit a world in which all can flourish?
For Christians, we are stewards of God’s good creation. How can our city make a significant, world changing contribution to this great challenge of our age through our policies and example and convening power and the priorities we set? How can this City Church lift up and support the green agenda as part of our God given mission to the city?
The second challenge faced by the child Jesus sets in our midst is one of health and safety and especially mental, emotional and spiritual health. A child or young person growing up today will face immense pressures, many arising from the misuse and exploitation of technology.
COVID has revealed a tidal wave of mental health pressures on the young which has been building for decades. How can our city increase resources directed to the mental, emotional and spiritual health of the young through harnessing the churches and faith communities, the third sector and the health and social services? There is a battle here for investment and of priorities. How can this City Church be an advocate for children and young people as we imagine the child Jesus sets in our midst?
My third challenge for the next generation is the challenge of rising inequality: the gap between rich and poor which again has been revealed and has increased through COVID. Oxford as a city is a tremendous generator of wealth and innovation. The City anchors and will help drive the Oxford-Cambridge arc which will be an engine of the UK economy in the coming decades.
But we are also in danger of becoming a segmented city in which the gap between rich and poor grows wider to the detriment of all. How is it possible for us to become a fairer city in terms of access, health, transport, work and housing? Is it time for a fairness commission which can look at the future of our city through the lens of inequality? How can this City Church continue to set out a vision for justice and fairness for all as a core part of its role as the civic church of Oxford?
There was a war in heaven, says Revelation. As we look back over fifty years we give thanks for battles fought and won and for the role this Church has played in the civic life of this great city. We give thanks for all those who contribute to that civic life today.
But as we look forward we know that there are battles still to come and great resources to meet them both seen and unseen. Christ sets in our midst a little child and challenges our priorities for the future. Together as a city we are called to have a vision for a greener, more sustainable world; for a healthier world; for a fairer world.
We commit ourselves, imperfect as we are, to these great challenges. In this Church dedicated to St. Michael, we too, every single one of us, are called to fight on the side of the angels.
The entire future of life on the earth may be determined by what is agreed, or not agreed, in the autumn of 2021.
As the Environment Bill is read in the House of Lords, Bishop Steven urges the government to set an example on climate change policy.
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the House of Lords during today’s Lords debate on the technological and lifestyle efforts to address climate change, and to meet the 2050 net-zero carbon emissions target
My Lords, I welcome this report and this vital debate. Never before in the scale of human history has there been such a wide and deep threat to our ecosystem or to human flourishing. Technology alone is not enough.
In his letter to the whole world in 2016, Pope Francis notes how “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor”.
Our response must be nothing less than an ecological conversion of every person and every part of society. Responding to the current emergency is the responsibility of every family, every workplace, every village, town and city, every company, and every public institution.
The earth is God’s gift as well as God’s creation. Human beings are far more than consumers: we are called to be just stewards of creation, to care for the poorest and the weakest. Human fulfilment lies not in escalating consumption but in meaningful rest and labour and learning to be content.
The Churches and faith communities must play our part and are beginning to do so. The Church of England’s General Synod is to debate the climate emergency next week. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book this year, Saying Yes to Life, focusses on the environmental crisis. It is supported by an extensive digital campaign – Live Lent – asking every Christian to review their lifestyle choices.
Many dioceses, including Oxford, are placing care for the earth at the top of our agenda for the coming years, recognising the distance we still have to travel. This means measuring and restricting our own carbon emissions, commending lifestyle changes, undertaking energy audits and campaigning for wider change. It means identifying challenging but achievable targets and the practical path to reach them. We need to hear the voice of government in policy detail and not just principle.
The Church Commissioners have led the Transition Pathway Initiative backed by investors representing over $16 trillion in assets under management and advice, increasingly drawing companies into line with net-zero targets. Our sister churches and faith communities are each taking similar initiatives. This summer, hundreds of bishops from across the world will gather for the Lambeth Conference, many from regions already deeply affected by ecological disasters: low rainfall, rising sea levels, fire, flood and hunger. A major theme of our gathering will be the global climate emergency and the response needed by every section of society.
I invite the government to provide clear and ambitious policy signals, as it has just done with petrol and diesel vehicles, and to invite every institution and organisation to engage in this great question of our day so that the leadership we offer to the COP summit is demonstrably grounded in the trinity of policy intervention, technology solutions and the changing lives of our entire population.
Bishop Steven references the UK FIRES report ‘Absolute Zero’. UK Fires is a collaboration between the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath and Imperial College London that is funded by EPSRC: The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. By investing and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation.
Watch Bishop Steven speaking in the debate and follow Bishop Steven on Facebook
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the House of Lords during today’s question for short debate to ask, ‘what consideration the government has given to the linkage between our leadership of the COP 26 Conference and the pledges we will make at the Tokyo Summit in December.’
My Lords, I welcome this timely debate and the opportunity offered by the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit.
It is moving to note that from 2015 onwards, the number of people suffering from hunger has been increasing, albeit slowly. Behind the statistics lie terrible and moving stories of human suffering, of disease and death across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It is sobering to ponder, on the one hand, the challenge of providing a sustainable diet and preventing the lifelong consequences of malnutrition, and on the other, the striking rise in obesity across the world and the consequent health problems.
Seven years ago, the UK Government exercised global leadership through the first Nutrition for Growth conference and has delivered on many of the pledges made there. I support the calls made by other noble Lords in this debate for a renewal of that leadership at the Tokyo summit, for a strong United Kingdom delegation, and for generous pledges of £800 million per year for nutrition between 2021 and 2025.
The Tokyo summit will take place just a few weeks after the key COP 26 conference in Glasgow, which the UK Government will host and chair.
Short term interventions to combat malnutrition are vital, but the world must also engage with the long term multiple linkages between poor nutrition and climate change.
Climate change is already having a negative impact on the four pillars of food security: availability, access, usage and stability. The climate emergency means that the world needs to increase spending on nutrition adaption and mitigation just to stand still.
We see across the world the impact of extreme weather-related disasters which have more than doubled since 1990. More than 70 per cent of agriculture is rain-fed. This directly affects the ability of drought-affected countries to grow their own food, as we see currently in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. Agricultural land will be lost to rising sea levels, fires and flooding.
Two years ago I was privileged to visit our link Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman in South Africa. It was excellent to hear reports of local feeding programmes to combat malnutrition, some supported by parishes in the Oxford Diocese. Those signs of hope were set against a background of growing concern about the climate and poor harvests.
There is increasing evidence that high ambient carbon dioxide in the atmosphere decreases the nutritional quality of important food crops affecting the entire world, including wheat, rice and maize. The science suggests lower yields of micronutrients: protein, iron and zinc decrease as CO2 in the atmosphere increases.
Changes in the climate affect agriculture. This, in turn, affects livelihoods and the economy of the affected regions, all too commonly leading both to malnutrition and mass migration in search of a more sustainable future. There is a vicious circle here which can only be broken through a sustained global determination and action to address the climate emergency.
We have a moral imperative to love our neighbour as ourselves, to feed the hungry. We own now a moral imperative as the pioneers of the industrial revolution, and those who have gained most from fossil fuels, to lead on the fight against climate change.
In this context, what consideration has the government given to the linkage between our leadership of the COP 26 Conference and the pledges we will make at the Tokyo Summit in December? Will the government continue to focus our own interventions in the areas of most extreme poverty and climate change?
Watch Bishop Steven speaking in the debate and follow Bishop Steven on Facebook
Nutrition for Growth (N4G) is a global pledging moment to drive greater action toward ending malnutrition and helping ensure everyone, everywhere can reach their full potential.
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in today’s debate on the Address in the House of Lords.
“My Lords, I rise to speak about the climate emergency and declare an interest as a member of the Advisory Board of the Environmental Change Institute in the University of Oxford.
The minister said in his opening address that Climate Change will test us all. And it will. David Wallace Wells book, The Uninhabitable Earth, should in my view be required reading for every member of this House. Wells begins his graphic description of the future of the Earth with the unforgettable words: It is much, much, much worse than you think. He goes on to describe the effects and the economic costs of bush fires, drought, mass migration, sea and air pollution, flooding and extreme weather. I read Wells early last year and have watched his words become the lived reality of people in California and Australia, across Southern Africa and Indonesia, and closer to home in the floods in South Yorkshire.
We are living through an environmental catastrophe, and that catastrophe will increasingly shape our foreign and domestic policy, our economic life and our politics over the next decade. The science is clear. The needs are urgent. How will we respond?
I welcome all that the minister said. The government are to be congratulated on embracing the target of net zero by 2050. The government are to be congratulated on their ambition to lead the COP talks in November. The talks have the potential to change the world.
The challenge now is to fill out this vision with specific planned action. First we need a detailed accountable plan of how our economy will reach net zero by 2050 or earlier. If we’re serious, we must have a year by year accountable strategy.
Second, governments and responsible investors, including the churches, need to stop investing in and subsidising fossil fuels and invest in renewables here and across the world. As Mark Carney has argued recently very powerfully.
Third bring forward some bold, eye-catching initiatives to show the world that Britain means business and that we can reach these targets: have the courage to bring forward the ban on petrol and diesel vehicles to 2030. Fund an ambitious new energy efficiency programme. Give more detail on the projected investment and mitigation in flood defences here and overseas.
There is a moral imperative to act for the sake of the earth and for the sake of the poorest. Those who have contributed least to climate change are suffering the most and will suffer most in the future. But this is one of those very rare moments when to do the right thing ethically is also to do the right thing for the economic prosperity of the country and our place in the world. The cost of acting slowly is increasing.
The 2018 forest fires in California cost $400 billion, the equivalent of the entire US Defence budget. Every year now counts.
Your Lordships will remember the story in the Book of Genesis of Pharoah’s dream, interpreted by Joseph. Seven fat cows consumed by seven thin cows. Seven years of plenty eaten by seven years of famine. We have no need of Joseph to interpret the impending disaster. We have the IPCC and the global scientific community. But we need a Government with the wisdom of Joseph to use these next seven years well and to put us on the pathway to recovery and set out a new agenda for the next decade for the world.
My Lords we must not fail.”
Watch Bishop Steven speaking in the debate and follow Bishop Steven on Facebook
The Oxford English Dictionary have declared climate emergency to be the word of the year in 2019. According to the dictionary’s own data, usage of the term soared by over 10,000%.
I attempt to write at least one new hymn a year as the verse for my official Christmas card. This year I’ve revisited something I wrote in 2015. In that year, Pope Francis produced his great encyclical on the climate crisis, Laudato Si’: on care for our common home.
The encyclical certainly stands the test of time, but my earlier hymn lacked a sense of urgency and crisis which has become apparent this year in the campaigns around the world and in the escalating effects of climate change. I’ve tried to craft two new verses and reshaped the rest. The verses fit to the tune of the well-known hymn, The King of Love my shepherd is.
The Church is called to the worship of God the creator who loved this world so much he sends Jesus his Son to be part of creation and to redeem us. This must mean we are called to lead the world, not follow, in responding to the climate emergency.
Creator of our common home
And Maker of such wonder
You crafted stars and sky and stone
Dividing seas asunder
But now our waste despoils the Earth
Polluting all you gave us
The world heats up, the seas will rise
From fire and flood come save us
In Bethlehem you gave your Son
Creator in creation
Reason and love came to transform
God’s gift for our conversion
Forgive us our neglect and waste
Bring wisdom to the nations
Make us good stewards of the earth
For future generations
Creator of our common home
Redeemer of such mercy
Sustainer of all life on earth
To you always be glory.
Steven Croft, 2015 and 2019
After Laudato Si’
Suggested tune: The King of Love my Shepherd is