General Synod: Bishop Helen-Ann says rural communities must not be forgotten

First published on: 11th July 2023

The Bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley today called for our rural communities not to be ‘left to the side’ in debates and discussions about the environment.

Speaking at the Church of England General Synod and responding to a motion by the Diocese of Oxford on the climate emergency and an amendment commending the Church Commissioners for their recent announcement around divestment, Bishop Helen-Ann said our rural and farming communities often get side-lined or forgotten about. She called for a more wholistic conversation to be had about the environment, and pointed to the importance of farming on our national life.

You can read Bishop Helen-Ann’s speech here:

“Members of Synod, I support this amendment as I do the broad scope of the motion; when I returned from ministry in New Zealand in 2018 and with lived knowledge of the vulnerability of Pacific Island communities, I spoke to the then 1st estates commissioner and urged divestment but wish notwithstanding to make a point around the scope of our discussions. At the end of May I was invited to bless the Northumberland Show held near Hexham. On a baking hot day (it’s always like that in the North), thousands of people from across the region came together to celebrate our diverse rural heritage. Leaving aside the fact that I didn’t manage to see much livestock but did see a few camels (not usually what you see in Northumberland), rural crafts were widely on display as were many local organisations and charities that work hard to support our farming communities and economy.

“I urge us not to forget the realities of the rural landscapes and the vital importance of farming in our national life amidst the importance of debates and discussions about the environment. The North American farmer and poet Wendell Berry encourages us to ‘practice resurrection’ in the way we attend to our land, and members of Synod there are opportunities too for mission and ministry. I fear sometimes that rural gets side-lined or forgotten about in our discussions, and while I will do all I can to encourage us to safeguard the integrity of the environment I will also seek to be an advocate for our farming and rural communities, acknowledging all that our farmers themselves do to care for creation. 

“I support this amendment but ask that farming and rural communities not be left to the side in our discussions and debates and a more wholistic conversation sought.”

For the latest from General Synod, visit the Church of England website here.

You can read the motion on the Climate Emergency put forward by the Diocese of Oxford here.

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