Climate justice affects all of us, but it does not affect all equally. Socially and economically disadvantaged groups are more vulnerable – and in many parts of the world, these are largely communities of colour.

In light of the recent IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report warning us that people have caused unprecedented and irreversible change to the climate, coupled with the social outrage resulting from the death of George Floyd, the church is strongly urged to consider: What might God be saying to the UK church, in its breadth of diversity, about our involvement in bringing about climate justice?

To explore this question, the Evangelical Alliance’s One People Commission (OPC) partnered with Tearfund and Christian Aid to organise online event Christianity, climate and race, which took place on Thursday, 7 October 2021.

Attended by more than 200 people, and co-hosted by Sarah-Jane Nii-Adjei from Christian Aid and Seth Pinnock from Tearfund, the evening explored four crucial questions:

  • Is climate justice biblical or purely political? (Theological)
  • Is climate justice a part of God’s mission? (Missional)
  • How is it related to other social justice concerns such as racial justice? (Social Justice)
  • What can Churches do about this? (Action)

If you were not able to join us for this event, you can catch up here.

The evening opened with a prayer by Rev. Dr Israel Olofinjana, OPC director. This was followed by a series of four main speakers who were all able to offer valuable insight by answering one of the four main questions. 

What is God saying to the church?

To answer this, our first speaker of the evening, Dr R. David Muir, head of Whitelands College, University of Roehampton, highlighted the connection between the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of mankind, the true transformation required regarding how we interact with each other, and the planet God has given us responsibility for. 

He further challenged issues of Christian stewardship in relation to our environment as well as the responsibility of white Christians to pass on the metaphorical baton of leadership to both black and brown peoples, who currently do not hold the same positions of power due to racial inequalities. To conclude, Dr Muir simply stated: the issues of racism in our society and what we have and continue to witness to our climate is still a pandemic. Dr Muir left us with a personal reflective question: how can we live simply that others might simply live? 

Is climate justice biblical, political, missional or all three?

Our second speaker, Dr Ruth Valerio, Tearfund Global Advocacy and Influencing Director, helped to deconstruct the idea that these three avenues are mutually exclusive. Referencing Isaiah 58 and Psalms 113, she reminded us that humans have a responsibility to care and be actively involved in our response to injustice towards those who require it, purely because God demonstrates this through His Word. Dr Valerio informed us of the one billion marine creatures that died to a Canadian heat dome because of climate change. In summary: climate change is simply Christian. We need to wake up. 

How is it related to other social justice issues such as racial justice?

Our third speaker, Amanda K. Mukwashi, CEO Christian Aid, highlighted one major issue: climate change issues such as global emissions interact with and strengthens already-existing inequalities surrounding gender, vulnerable individuals, those in poverty and ethnic minority groups. A combination of these issues forms a pattern presenting a disadvantage of black and brown peoples. 

She concluded that it is not our job to fast-forward the process of bringing the world to an end however it is our job to tend to the earthly garden that God has provided for us. 

After the talks, the participants were split into smaller groups in breakout rooms where they were given the opportunity to reflect upon the themes presented. 

It’s time for the church to take action! 

The evening concluded with parting words from our last speaker of the evening, David Smyth, Head of Northern Ireland, Evangelical Alliance, where he provided several ways in which the body of Christ can join to create a more sustainable living situation for future generations. Together with explaining that our actions can begin with worship and praise, this, will fuel future our work, intercultural missions, environmental stewardship and prayer for justice. Change begins with the acknowledgment of our current actions and ends with action. 

Further resources and events

If you want to continue to engage in discussions around this important topic which is God’s heart, considering attending Tearfund and Christian Aid’s Day of Action’ on Saturday, 6 November 2021, which is a further response to the issues surrounding climate change in the UK. Meanwhile, the Evangelical Alliance’s Changing Church: Climate change resource includes helpful research, questions and tips to get you thinking about how you can take climate action.