Climate Change, COP26, and Limits of Episcopal Authority
In February of 2021, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, was appointed to additional duties within the Church of England. At the invitation of both archbishops, Bishop Usher took on the responsibility of becoming the Bishop for Climate Change. Technically, it is not an additional See but rather to become the episcopal point man to lead the Church of England’s Environment Programme. The appointment came with “a charge to lead bold, deliberate, collaborative action across the Church to tackle the grave existential crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.”
Talk about having blank canvas on which to paint—Usher was commissioned to save the planet! Will he have a special uniform? Is he now the Coped Crusader?
Who is up to such a task? St Greta the Secular Prophetess, preserve us!
One hopes that the bishop has since re-read the account of King Canute’s demonstration to his nobles regarding the limits of royal authority and comprehends that it applies to ecclesiastical purple as well. Apostolic authority goes only as far as its fidelity to the One who set its limits.
We have a biblical account (Mark 4:35-41) of Jesus’ control over inclement weather. He calmed the storm in the Sea of Galilee, with the command, “Peace! Be still.” How and ever, we do not have any account of the Apostles, nor his successors having such power. It is quite probable that St Paul would have found it pragmatically helpful on his sea journeys. By his own admission, in 2 Corinthians 11:25, he was shipwrecked three times. Luke, that first church historian, describes a fourth in Acts 27.
So, why bring up the Bishop of Climate Change now?
In a few weeks’ time, Glasgow will be the site of the UN Climate Change Conference. Most will know it as COP26. COP is short for Conference of the Parties. The number designates the number of times the members will have met.
In preparation, the Glasgow Council has promised to plant 18,000,000 trees. The trees are being planted to “off-set” the carbon emissions from all the private jets ferrying the conference delegates that comprise the great, the good, and the environmentally aware to and fro.
The goal of the conference is to keep the planet from over-heating and being overtaken by Japanese knotweed. Doomsayers are ratcheting up the line that global warming will soon bring death and destruction to the earth.
If they were really serious, it would seem that one of the best ways to stop the warming of the climate would be to eliminate all the hot air to be expended in front of the world media at COP26. Cancel the meeting.
In recent decades, the doomsayers have told us that we were about to have a new ice age, that acid rain was going to destroy the ability to grow crops, and that the polar ice caps were going to melt and flood the earth. That earlier prophet of climate change alarmism, the Secular St Albert of Gore even predicted in 2006 that the world had only ten years to avoid catastrophic consequences. Five years after his prophecy expired—life still goes on.
One has to feel a degree of sympathy for Bishop Usher. He was sent out to do the impossible and accepted the role with good intentions, even without being divinely deputised with the ability.
It would now be appropriate to call to mind the promise that God made to Noah and in Genesis 8:22.
“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Enough said.
Why? Because God always keeps his promises. He made the earth and will be the One to destroy it. (2 Peter 3:7)
Oh, and Bishop Usher, try making disciples of Jesus; after all, that is part of the apostolical remit.