The Council of Christian Churches in France (CÉCEF) is encouraging local churches to support a recently created Green Church environmental certification label, asking that offerings made at ecumenical services during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity go to help finance the initiative.
The ecumenical eco-certification label called Eglise verte (Green Church) was publically launched with a new website on 18 January, at the beginning of the Week of Prayer, to promote environmental awareness in local churches, following from the United Nations agreement on climate change Paris in 2015.
“A real environmental and ecumenical dynamic took root in French churches as a result of Paris hosting the UN climate talks in 2015,” said Martin Kopp, president of the Climate Commission of the Protestant Federation of France, and the Lutheran World Federation’s advocacy coordinator at the Paris climate talks, known as COP21.
“It was a kairos moment for all the people who had been working hard on the issues for such long time,” he said, using the Greek word that means challenge and opportunity.
The Eglise verte label certifies that local churches are organizing their activities and spiritual life as well as dealing with their buildings in an environmentally sustainable manner.
It is a result of ecumenical collaboration between Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches in France following their cooperation in the run up to and during the COP21 in December 2015.
“There was a real desire to take things from the international to the local level, so that our actions match our convictions,” said Kopp.
“Rather than each church or organization doing their own thing we wanted to build on our ecumenical cooperation and have a common label,” he added.
The eco-certification label has the support of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in France, the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Protestant Federation of France, as well as church-related non-governmental and advocacy groups.
The Eglise verte label was developed by an ecumenical task group that looked at church eco-certification in Germany, Britain and Switzerland and developed material for France that could be used across different denominations.
“In March 2017 we asked five quite different local churches to take part in a pilot project, their feedback helped improve the website which we have just re-launched,” said Laura Morosini, national coordinator for Eglise verte.
“Green church was the right thing at the right time. Local churches really wanted to find a way to respond following the publication of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato si and COP21,” she said.
Morosini described Eglise verte as having “a community-based and sustainable approach to ecological conversion.”
She said there was a good balance in the congregations taking part in the initiative, including Evangelical, mainstream Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. “There are no doctrinal disagreements, more differences of style. It has helped to use Bible texts as the focus for developing the online environmental diagnosis material.”
The five different levels of certification have names of biblical plants ranging from the mustard seed to the cedar of Lebanon.
The CECEF groups France’s main Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican churches; the Evangelical Alliance has observer status.
In a message decided at its May 2017 Assembly, it requested those holding ecumenical prayer services in France during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity to support Eglise verte with their common offering.
Green Church label: www.egliseverte.org
Council of Christian Churches in France: www.cecef.fr