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irish Churches Blog Post: The Arctic is on fire and it’s about to be hit by a heatwave.

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This blog post first appeared on the Irish Council of Churches blog on 20 August 2019
The Arctic is on fire and it’s about to be hit by a heatwave.  This is a headline as I write at the beginning of August 2019. The number of arctic fires in 2019 is ‘unprecedented’ according to the World Meteorological Organisation. Hundreds of fires burn in Alaska, Greenland and Siberia, some of them are 100,000 times larger than a football pitch. In July the average temperatures in Siberia were almost 6 degrees Celsius above average. That headline seems to foreshadow the Biblical passages that explain how the earth will be destroyed. For example, 2 Peter 3:10–11 ‘The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? ‘ The last line in that verse echoed in my mind, ‘What kind of people out you to be?’ In an age of climate breakdown, a…

Care for Creation - final version

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The editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette (paywall) asked me to write an article for the June edition on Care for Creation. I started an introductory article but I woke early one morning thinking it was just too bland. The Gazette needs to be a magazine of stimulating debate. So I started again. Here is the final version. If you'd like to read the first draft it's on the blog too it is Care for Creation draft 1,

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I’m sitting at my computer at 4 am. I had already drafted the article the Editor of the Gazette asked me to write to introduce Care for Creation. But I’ve just woken up in the middle of the night thinking ‘this has to change’, the Gazette needs to be a place of provocative debate and opinion.

Here is the one part of the original article I’m keeping:
Care for creation Why should we care for creation? As the Rev Dr Chris Wright puts it in his book, The Mission of God’s People,

"The Bible does not begin at Genesis 3 (or end at Revelation 20). You might thin…

Care for Creation - draft 1

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In an article in this week's Church of Ireland Gazette I refer to a first draft that I did not use. We'll, this is it.

Care for Creation Asuncion is a hot and steamy city, and January 2007 was no exception. Giant black thunder clouds towered above us, the warm large raindrops spotted the ground and moments later the torrential downpour began. The tropical storm was so intense the road between us and the school, where we worked as missionary teachers, was soon a fast-flowing torrent of dirty water.

The pools of water lay in hollows in the streets, in piles of sodden rubbish, and in the hollows of old tyres. In these humid pools mosquitoes bred. We had grown used to mosquitos, they had that high pitched buzz and irritating bite, but that April brought the ades aegypti mosquito and the epidemic of Dengue Fever, the first ever in Paraguay.

We tied up mosquito nets around our beds and made sure that each morning we sprayed ourselves and our children with repellant. Dengue Fever…

Speech on the Five Marks of Mission

Here is a short speech I gave at Church of Ireland General Synod 2019. I'll write up a longer blog post on my impressions of Synod and what happened at the Climate of Hope fringe event soon.

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I believe that the church needs to raise its voice in response to the climate crisis. 
You have seen the protests in the news – in March this year 1.5 million children took to the streets in the School Strike movement crying out for change.

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old leader of the climate movement, said last month in the House of Parliament, "We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back."

As a church, we need to Act Now and respond to this crisis.

We need to have a clear message and mission for the age of climate breakdown.

I am pleased to see the emphasis the Council of Mission has on the Five …

A fossil free Church of Ireland

Speech to General Synod on 17 May 2019,

I’d like to draw Synod’s attention to the investment performance in 2018 on pages 30 and 31. It was a difficult year but the RCB investment committee and staff must be thanked for their superb work on behalf of the church. The returns from invested funds help to support the mission and ministry of the church.

This reminds me that last year synod passed a motion to fully divest from all fossil fuels by 2022.

Actually, following that successful motion, a member of our Diocesan Council asked me how he could ethically invest his retirement lump sum. I told him that his investment manager could exclude unethical investments like fossil fuels. Six months later, he told me his investment manager had looked into it the options and was himself surprised to find out that green investment packages had performed better than traditional ones. He was going to recommend to other clients that they too should exclude fossil fuels.

New evidence produced by the …

Greta Thunberg should win the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019

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Today, hundreds of thousands of children are marching for a better future. They want immediate action on climate change and they understand how radical a change that needs to be.  The movement was started by a lone voice - Greta Thunberg - a sixteen-year-old from Sweden. She started the #Fridays4Future movement by leaving school each Friday to stand outside the parliament in Stockholm with a sign calling for climate action.

I proposed that she should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Price in February and just this week it was announced she was one of the nominees. If public pressure rises then she will win this prize - let's make it happen.


Dear Nobel Committee,

I’d like to nominate Greta Thurnberg for the Nobel Peace Prize 2019.

Her #schoolstrike4climate action will save millions of lives and reduce the suffering of millions more.@GretaThunberg@NobelPrize#Fridays4Future#climatestrikes#NobelPeacePrizepic.twitter.com/BiqtAf7cZS — Stephen Trew (@stephentrew) February 15, 2019

Caring for the Planet - a Mark of Mission

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This year, the Church of Ireland passed a motion at General Synod the effects of which have rippled across Ireland and beyond. It was a motion to divest from all fossil fuels.
Synod decided overwhelmingly that ending investments in fossil fuel extraction companies by 2022 was necessary because climate change is leading to disaster both for people and for investments. It is a significant change that affects €16m of funds.
Climate change, caused largely by pollution from burning fossil fuels, is beginning to impact at home. We had a very wet winter last year followed by a record-breaking summer heatwave. Furthermore, around the world, the poorest are suffering from storms, heat, drought, and floods that in some countries fuel conflict and refugee crises.
Air pollution from burning fossil fuels is also a serious problem. Thousands of people in the British Isles suffer from health issues and even early death from dirty air.
The RCB had already, wisely, excluded investments in coal and tar san…

Church of Ireland seminar on Climate Change and the Environment

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Yesterday was the seminar on 'Helping parishes respond to climate change' organised by the Church of Ireland. It was very good to see this happen in Belfast and the was a lot of interest from attendees on how churches can do more on climate.

I was one of the speakers and it was great to have a full room in the Council Chamber in Church House in Belfast, beside the beautiful cathedral.

I have reproduced the slides and the text of the talk below.


A Biblical Perspective on the Environment [Slide 1] I have been asked to set the scene and provide a Biblical Perspective on the environment. But to be honest, I do not know why I was asked, for I am not a theologian nor I am not a clergy person.

But I think the reason might be this - several years I was impacted by what the Bible has to say on about creation, how we treat it, and how the church has responded to the crisis unfolding before us.

And we are facing a crisis. Be it climate change, pollution, or loss of biodiversity. As the …

Archbishop Richard Clarke, 'We are guardians of the earth'

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During synod season I always read on the speeches of the various bishops in the diocesan synod presidential addresses. Today I was pleased to read that the Bishop of Armagh, The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, spoke about the health of the planet. It was a good speech that focused on various aspects of health – mental health, political health and the health of the environment.

Here are some of the best quotes,
"It will be our children and grandchildren who will pay a terrible price if we do not act as responsible guardians of the health of the earth on which we have been placed." This is one of the best quotes I have ever heard our archbishop on the state of the creation.

He goes on,
"We are nearing the point where the wasteful pollution and unnecessary heating of this planet is about to find a tipping point from which there can be no return. We have been placed on this earth by God to protect its health and wholeness. We are the guardians of its health, not the despoiler…