Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: carbon emissions, religious freedom, strategic development funding, church planting, green investments, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, the Primates’ Meeting, new technologies, marriage and family life

On 13th February 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered written questions from Jim Shannon MP, on carbon emissions, religious freedom, strategic development funding, church planting, green investments, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, the Primates’ Meeting, new technologies, marriage and family life.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) 504:  To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what support the Church of England is receiving from (a) local authorities and (b central government to help reduce their carbon footprint.
Andrew Selous: The National Church Institutions of the Church of England are not receiving support from central government or local authorities to help reduce their carbon footprint. While there may be instances of local parishes being given one-off small grants, records of these are not held centrally.
The Church of England’s General Synod met in February 2020 to discuss reducing the carbon footprint of the Church. The Synod voted to call upon all parts of the Church of England to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. More information about the vote at the Synod can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/general-synod-sets-2030-net-zero-carbon-target

 Jim Shannon (Strangford) 14664:  To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent discussions the Church of England has had with (a) officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and (b) the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Freedom of Religion and Belief on the volume of attacks on the Christian communities throughout the world.

Andrew Selous: The Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Archbishop’s Council is in regular contact with the Freedom of Religion or Belief Team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and has engaged on this issue with relevant embassy staff when travelling overseas. They have also had a series of meetings with the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Freedom of Religion or Belief since his appointment. Senior Church leaders have also had meetings with the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy in recent weeks.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 14665 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the effect of the Strategic Development Fund on local (a) churches and (b) communities.

Andrew Selous: All projects supported by the Strategic Development Funding are subject to monitoring and evaluation. The majority of projects are ongoing and it is too early to assess the full impact of the overall programme, but generally projects have already reported nearly 9,000 new disciples, increased activity on discipleship, and a wide range of projects engaging with local communities. Examples of projects that the Strategic Development Fund is enabling include food banks, help for new mothers, outreach to homeless people, engagement with those in prison, and hospitality and other forms of support for those living in deprived communities.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 14666 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to monitor the effect of renewal and reform programme church planting on planting on local (a) churches and (b) communities.
Andrew Selous: Church planting is an excellent way for local churches to develop their mission and ministry, especially into communities where the church presence may be limited. Over 2,000 fresh expressions of church have been created since the Mission-Shaped Church report in 2004. These churches have proved effective at reaching people who do not normally engage with church, and at reaching young people especially.
Since 2016 the Renewal and Reform programme and Strategic Development Funding have supported dioceses to develop church planting capacity in major population areas. These churches have shown significant growth and are also reaching de-churched, non-churched and young people.

We specifically monitor and evaluate all projects funded by Strategic Development Funding, including their impact numerically, spiritually and in term of community impact. The Church of England also collects statistics annually from every church, including church plants and fresh expressions of church, as well as commissioning additional research on the wider impact of church planting.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 14667 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church Commissioners are taking to help ensure that companies they invest in and comply with the Paris climate agreement.
Andrew Selous: The Church Commissioners have continued to pursue action on climate change as their overwhelming ethical investment priority.

The Commissioners have helped grow the number of companies involved in the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), which is now backed by investors representing over $18 trillion of assets under management and advice. TPI scores companies according to the quality of their management of climate change issues and indicates whether their carbon emissions are aligned with the pathways required to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In addition, the Commissioners have signed up to the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, requiring them to transition their portfolio to net zero emissions by 2050. The Alliance emphasises a change in the real economy and focuses on continued engagement with policymakers, companies and asset managers alongside low carbon investments, to create the conditions required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Commissioners are part of Climate Action 100+ and through their own programmes encourage as many high-emitting companies as possible to meet their climate expectations. Whilst the Church can divest from companies not taking climate change seriously, they are expecting to implement their next round of climate-related restrictions by the end of 2020. In 2023 a further systematic round of restrictions is expected if companies still do not change after engagement efforts, with tougher thresholds focusing on alignment of the fossil fuel sector and electric utilities with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Following sustained engagement from the Church and other investors BP have recently announced their ambition to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050.

The Church of England Pensions Board have also recently launched a Paris-aligned passive investment index with FTSE Russell and announced a commitment of £600m to the new Index.


Jim Shannon (Strangford):  14668 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the outcomes were of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent visits to the (a) Democratic Republic of the Congo and (b) South Sudan.

Andrew Selous:  A) The Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo in November 2019 when he spent four days travelling to see Ebola treatment centres and meet doctors, patients and survivors. The Archbishop’s Office has been working with aid agencies to promote resources and best practice for clergy who are working in areas of outbreak. On 4th February 2020 the Archbishop released a statement of concern following a new wave of violence leading to the death of 70 civilians in Deni. Among those killed was the Reverend Yese Ngulongo and others within the local Christian community. The Archbishop called on local and international leaders to pursue a comprehensive strategy to bring lasting peace and reconciliation to the country.

B) The Archbishop and His Holiness Pope Francis remain committed to finding a peaceful way forward in South Sudan, and the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches have been jointly at the forefront of efforts to bring peace to the country. The Church is encouraged that some progress appears to be being made and the ceasefire is holding. However concerns remain that the South Sudanese Principals have not yet been able to find ways to resolve outstanding pre-transitional issues. While this situation continues it will be very difficult for His Holiness and the Archbishop to visit the country, which they have committed to doing together. Conversations are ongoing at an international level to encourage those in Government to use their power to find solutions that would enable all South Sudanese peoples to return home.


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 14669 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the outcomes were of the recent Anglican Primates meeting in Jordan.
Andrew Selous: The Anglican Primates Meeting took place in Jordan in January 2020. The Primates of the Anglican Communion are Archbishops, Presiding Bishops, Moderators and chief pastors of the 40 provinces. Their Churches are autonomous yet inter-dependent in their relationships with each other.

The 33 Primates who attended the meeting discussed preparations for the Lambeth Conference 2020 and also approved the formation of the new province of Alexandria, which covers Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. They also discussed the proposal for the creation of the new province of the Church of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The full communique can be read here: https://aco.org/media/355576/primates-meeting-2020-communique.pdf


Jim Shannon (Strangford): 14670 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to inform and educate its clergy on (a) scientific advances and (b) new technologies.
Andrew Selous: The Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Division has partnered with the Universities of Durham and York to address gaps in understanding between science and religion. Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science has been running for four years and has just been awarded £3.4m by the Templeton Religion Trust for its next phases. The team has organised 11 conferences enabling bishops and senior church leaders to engage with the latest developments in topics ranging from neuroscience to cosmology.
The Church of England is also a partner in the Centre for Doctoral Training in AI Ethics at the University of Bath, along with numerous other industry partners, gaining understanding which will be shared within the Church. The Bishop of Oxford is a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on AI and is a board member of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. The Church also made a submission to the recently-published consultation by the Committee for Standards in Public Life on the impact of AI on public life.

All this work on new technologies will feed into the Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science project and the wider engagement of the Church on public affairs. In March 2020 three new pieces of research will begin. These are designed to deepen understanding of science and to resource and expand the reach of Church engagement. This research will take place at Durham University, York University and within the Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Archbishops’ Council.


Jim Shannon (Strangford):  14671 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to strengthen and marriage and family life.
Andrew Selous: At parish level clergy and parishioners often work with couples to prepare them ahead of their wedding for life together, support them afterwards, and through voluntary activities offer groups and facilities for families and children, which help sustain community.
Marriage preparation work will often include church-led marriage enrichment workshops and other courses and support for couples at every stage of their marriage. Through the Life Events programme the Church is working with clergy and other church leaders to enhance the depth of engagement with couples through wedding planning.
The Church, including through the Bishops in the House of Lords, continues to highlight and address the social and economic issues that place strain on married relationships, including the Bishop of St Albans’s work on the impact of gambling and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community. The Church of England also made a submission to the Government’s consultation on no-fault divorce and the Lords Spiritual have engaged with the legislation in Parliament.