General Assembly backs Faith Impact Forum's vision for a "just and green future"

The General Assembly has backed the Faith Impact Forum's vision for a "just and green future", which will see the Forum frame upcoming work around this theme.

Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Faith Impact Forum
Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Faith Impact Forum.

In a year when Scotland will host the COP26 UN Climate Conference, the Assembly passed ambitious deliverances including proposals for how the Church could work towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The Forum will work with the Assembly Trustees, the General Trustees, CrossReach and other groups, to develop plans for reducing carbon emissions across the Church, and will also report annually to the General Assembly on progress.

Congregations and Presbyteries will now be encouraged to consider the implications of this for their own buildings, activities, procurement and finances, and to start long-term planning for the changes that will be required.

In a pre-recorded speech, Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Faith Impact Forum stated that the Church's role to proactively campaign around these issues follows the path laid out by Jesus.

"Jesus did not come into this world for a few only, but that all might be saved - all know they are loved - and all might be set free," she said.

"That call has led to the Forum framing its work around the concept of a just and green future where everything is seen through the lens of God's love for the world in its entirety.

"The vision is of a society and world in which every person is valued and respected and where the planet too is seen as precious and to be protected."

The General Assembly also welcomed that the Church of Scotland no longer holds shares within the oil and gas industry and proposes that "as a matter of principle, the portfolios of investments managed should align with the UN Paris Agreement in pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels".

A special committee of five people will now be appointed to consult with the Faith Impact Forum, the Church of Scotland Investors Trust and the Assembly Trustees to consider the ethics of future investments and report back to the General Assembly in 2023.

Young people were recognised for their role in campaigning around disinvestment, and congregations have been encouraged to ensure their concerns are listened to.

Church of Scotland Mission partner Joel Hafvenstein of the United Mission to Nepal, spoke movingly in favour of backing a deliverance to "urge the UK Government to do all that it can to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are available throughout the world, particularly in resource-poor countries, on the basis of clinical need to preserve human life", which was then backed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly.

The Faith Impact Forum will also continue to call for "the development of safe and legal routes for people desperately seeking sanctuary so that they can travel, live, work and contribute to our society with respect and dignity".

In addition, they will "urge the UK Government to reverse its policies regarding migrants crossing the English Channel, the accommodation of asylum seekers in former army camps or other institutions rather than in the community, and the plans to increase the deportation of asylum seekers to other countries".

Their report noted that an estimated 25 million people are displaced each year around the globe due to climate disasters.

Many commissioners spoke passionately of the need for the Church of Scotland to continue providing guidance and training to combat violence against women and girls, as well as to support the work of the Church of Scotland's Violence Against Women Task Group, Integrity.

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