As Bristol, the sixth largest city in England, became the 2015 European Green Capital, Christian Aid chair and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams marked the occasion with a stark warning about the spiritual imperative to show responsibility to others and the planet.

Williams delivered the keynote speech to 200 people inside Bristol’s packed Elim Church during a day conference titled “Climate Change: A Matter Of Faith.”

The conference combined theological context with challenges, ideas, inspiration and resources, including voices and reflections from Uganda and Bangladesh on the impacts of climate change. It was organized by Christian Aid, CAFOD, Tearfund and South West Fairtrade.

The day began with Williams addressing around 15 of the region’s church leaders at a cross-denominational breakfast, where representatives all signed a pledge to live more sustainably, pray for action on climate change and raise these issues at meetings of their governing bodies.

Representatives from Anglican, Baptist, Salvation Army, United Reformed Church and Quaker churches attended the breakfast.

Nigel Coles, regional minister team leader at the West of England Baptist Association, was among the signatories.

With tips and suggestions including reducing dependence on fossil fuels, installing solar panels, growing food, switching to green electricity suppliers and lobbying ministers of Parliament, the conference included practical ideas for both individuals and church communities.

Reflecting on the day, Williams said, “The world’s poorest people – those communities who have done the least to cause climate change – bear the brunt of its impact. By being part of Bristol 2015 and taking steps towards a safer and cleaner future, we can stand shoulder to shoulder with people around the world.”

He said, “I was delighted to see the strong level of support for the day and the palpable sense of urgency amongst Christians from across the region. Bristol 2015 offers churches and faith communities in the city an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to caring for people and planet.”

Lydia Nash, Christian Aid’s regional coordinator for Bristol, agreed.

“We have been delighted by the response to the conference, which indicates the level of commitment across church communities in Bristol to tackle issues of climate change and to care for the planet,” Nash said. “Bristol 2015 is a real opportunity to extend that commitment and to make this a year when lasting change takes root.”

“Our work with partners in 45 countries across the world shows us the vital importance of making changes here in Bristol to help improve not only our immediate environment but those of communities where global warming presents an immediate and growing threat,” she said.

Paul Hobson is the editor of The Baptist Times of Great Britain – the online newspaper of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. A version of this news article first appeared in The Baptist Times and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulHobson10, The Baptist Times @BaptistTimes and the Baptist Union @BaptistUnionGB.

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