"Becoming church" on a London road: the faith leaders who get deeply involved in Extinction Rebellion


We continue our enthusiastic coverage of the active, radical and playful culture that Extinction Rebellion is drawing forth from everyday citizens, in the UK and around the world.

Another sign of its potential inclusiveness comes from this report in the US-based Sojourners magazine, talking about how one particular religious grouping - Christian Climate Action - have been heavily involved in the XR occupations of the last few weeks.

An extract:

Christian Climate Action is a rapidly growing network of dedicated Christians around the world who are banding together to teach and practice nonviolent direct action to push for urgent action on climate change. Since November 2018, chapters have sprung up in the U.K., Australia, and the Netherlands, and have inspired movement all over the world.

“We are all about following Jesus in serious, dedicated way, but also in a joyful way, in a practical way of helping brothers and sisters crushed by the system,” says Margriet Bos, a Christian in the Netherlands.

On Easter Sunday, after a full week of non-stop civil disobedience with XR, members of Christian Climate Action U.K. sat on London roads and “became church” — sharing bread and wine, readings from scripture, prayers, and songs as they celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. On Maundy Thursday, members imitated Jesus and brought soap, towels, and buckets to wash the feet of exhausted fellow protestors for five hours to demonstrate love and care.

Christian Climate Action played a key role in securing the protest site at Marble Arch as they arrived by a truck which was used to block traffic and was later transformed into a solar-powered stage. Rev. Sue Parfitt, along with two other Christians, ensured that the truck was not removed by police by locking themselves to the underside with metal chains. Richard Barnard, a member of the U.K. Catholic Worker Movement, then climbed on top of the truck and unfurled a banner reading “tell the truth.”

The group also played a core role in the maintenance of a site at Oxford Circus. When the police attempted to clear the site by asking individuals to leave, members of the group refused and chained themselves to each other, forming a human barricade — an action which resulted in the arrest of three of the groups’ members, including Rev. Sue Parfit.

Even as they work with the Extinction Rebellion movement, the group is unashamedly open about how their Christian faith is their primary animating force for action. One of their purposes is also to “challenge all Christians to question their cooperation with the system in which we live – and to suggest to them that to be a Christian might mean non-compliance with ruling authorities.”

This report on the UK’s Christian faithful taking up climate protest notes that the Church of England have committed to “disinvesting in fossil fuel companies that fail to meet the aims of the Paris climate agreement” - so CCA aren’t entirely at odds with the wider church. But one of their members, Holly-Anna Petersen, draws the obvious scriptural inspiration - Jesus in the temple of the moneylenders:

I remember thinking Jesus isn’t some push over, that is integrity and that is bravery. How many people here would be okay with doing the modern-day equivalent of that? Going into the building of the people who are the powerhouses of today, the oil companies or the banks that are funding them and turning over the tables, addressing the crowds and telling them about the corruption that they are causing? It’s a pretty scary thing to even imagine doing.

More on Christian Climate Action here.