The purpose of the survey, which can be taken at www.presbyterianireland.org, is to hear the views from a range of people within the PCI family – children, young people and adults - to provide a baseline understanding of thinking, perceptions and positions within the all-Ireland denomination at the current time.
An initiative of PCI’s Council for Global Mission, Rev Dr Allen Sleith, Convener of its Stewardship of Creation Task Group, said that it is an important exercise. “The survey, along with other data, is just one part of the jigsaw, as we will also use the results from different focus groups to produce a report for our 2024 General Assembly. This will help shape how PCI can best engage with the issue of climate change and creation care. I would really encourage our members to take time to look at the survey and take part in this important initiative.”
Dr Sleith, who is minister of Hillsborough Presbyterian Church, continued, “While the conflicts raging in Ukraine and the Middle East dominate our current headlines, another crisis continues to loom large. This is the threat to our planet's wellbeing, particularly due to climate change, caused largely by human practices since the Industrial Revolution. The effects of this are increasingly evident here at home, but in other parts of the world the impact is truly devastating, not least for our global partner churches and the communities they serve.”
The survey, which closes in two weeks’ time on 31 October, looks at each respondent’s perception of, and attitude to, climate change across a range of 21 multiple choice questions. There are also opportunities for further comment. It asks, for instance, ‘How concerned are you’ and ‘what concerns you most about climate change?’
With nearly 800 responses in so far, from around a third of PCI’s congregations, the survey also asks if respondents have made changes in relation to their personal life when it comes climate change, buying locally sourced produce, for example, or made changes to the way they travel, or consume energy, and what would hold them back in making changes to their lifestyle. It also asks what their congregation is doing.
The survey follows a number of important recent initiatives that PCI has taken in relation to being encouraged and challenged to look at ways it can better look after the environment. In 2018, for example, the General Assembly passed a resolution commending the Council for Global Mission’s Stewardship of Creation Report on Climate Change.
The Report provided a biblical and theological foundation to guide PCI as it approaches issues relating to the care of God’s creation. It also set out seven principles of good stewardship of God’s creation and called all PCI members to be open to being challenged by climate change and view it as ‘an essential aspect of discipleship.’
Three years later, following a resolution to the 2021 General Assembly, PCI’s Trustees were instructed to divest from companies that derived more that 10% of their turnover from oil and gas extraction – they have since done so. The resolution also called for engagement with companies to invest in different types of renewable energy. Last year in the run up to the global Climate Change conference, COP26 in Glasgow, PCI also encouraged its 500-plus congregations to set aside one Sunday during that autumn, to focus on God’s creation and humanity’s responsibility to being good stewards of it.
PCI's annual World Development Appeal has also had a focus on the impact of climate change. Entitled Forecast: Hope! the 2015 Appeal highlighted some of the world’s poorest communities and the serious impact that climate change was already having on their lives and livelihoods. The main project that year focused on Bangladesh, with its tropical monsoon climate and low-lying coastal region on the Bay of Bengal.
Dr Sleith concluded by saying, “PCI serves the God of the gospel. A key aspect of our Christian mission is to gain informed knowledge from our membership on their attitude towards, and response to, climate change. I would, therefore really encourage our members to complete the survey as a means of helping our denomination care appropriately for the world that Christ came to redeem and transform.”