Anglicans should fast once a month for climate justice, says Bishop of Salisbury

The Bishop of Salisbury has put forward a number of proposals to help the Church of England be more pro-active about the environment.Diocese of Salisbury

The Bishop of Salisbury will propose that members of the Church of England fast and pray for "climate justice" on the first day of every month when he addresses the Church's General Synod in July.

The Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam will also suggest that clergy receive training on on "eco-theology", according to a background paper released ahead of next month's meeting in York, where members of the Synod will vote on whether to support his recommendations.

The proposals have been issued in the same week as Pope Francis' much-nticipated encyclical on the environment was published, in which he argued that climate change was man-made and that we have a moral duty to do something about it.

Bishop Holtam, who chairs the Church of England's Environment Working Group, wrote in the background paper that clergy were "strongly placed to lead debate and action on environmental issues" but many didn't feel qualified to speak on it.

However, he argued that the Church has an important role to play "in exploring the theological and ethical, rather than the technical, issues and these are often forgotten in public debate."

He added: "Creating options and pathways for including environmental ethics and 'eco-theology' in the training curriculum could encourage and support the church leaders of the future (especially younger candidates) to be enablers for others in seeking change and a sustainable future."

An initiative to pray and fast for the climate was launched by the 'Faith for the Climate' network in November 2014, a year ahead of the of the UN's Climate Summit in Paris. The intention was to pray for a just and meaningful international climate agreement to be reached at the talks, and Bishop Holtam has suggested that the initiative could be promoted across the Church.

"This is one way in which every member of the church can play a constructive role in movement for change and for the safeguarding of God's creation – our habitat, the planet," he wrote.

According to the Independent, William Fittall, Secretary of the Archbishops' Council told reporters that church members would not be forced to join in the fast but "I think the Church has been, and will continue to be, prominent in campaigning for measures to combat climate change.

"Fasting is a way of giving intensity to prayer and in this case it's also a symbolic act because part of the problem with the threat to the planet is over-exploitation and pursuing lifestyles that are not sustainable long term. Particularly for the richer nations [like ours] signalling the giving up of something is part of that process," he said.

Ahead of the publication of the Pope's encyclical, Church leaders joined with British Muslim, Sikh and Jewish leaders on Wednesday to issue the 2015 Lambeth Declaration on Climate Change, which called on world leaders to commit to reducing gas emissions at the climate talks in Paris. It built upon the original declaration issued under the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in 2009 before the climate summit in Copenhagen.