Project Details


Responding to the crisis of climate change is a 'big ask' for all sectors of society. Religious traditions are among the groups responding to the crisis: for example, by campaigning to draw governments' attention to the climate emergency and trying to put their own eco-house in order.

This research project will focus on Christianity in the UK to explore in detail the on-the-ground theological changes generated by this big ask. Specifically, it will consider how the need to respond to the climate emergency is both leading to theological innovation and shaping Christian climate responses in three contexts: Roman Catholic and Church of England denominations; a Christian international development agency, and Christian advocacy and activist groups.

There is widespread agreement that anthropogenic climate change raises moral concerns as well as scientific and political issues. Moral concerns, however, do not emerge in a vacuum but in a cultural milieu or ethos which depend on certain ethical concepts, commitments and dispositions. Responding to climate change is therefore not only a matter of science and politics but also of ideology and belief.

Whose ideology and which belief, however?

A central theological and moral tradition of the Christian Church that is challenged by the climate crisis is 'personalism'. Personalism identifies the situation and task of the human understood by reference to personal attributes (will, reason, dispositions, etc.). Personalism relates also to human exceptionalism: personalist categories disembed the human from its 'natural' environment and thereby render the human an exception. Personalism is central to Christian theological traditions and moral deliberations. Such centrality explains why some religion scholars argue that Christianity can never be a 'dark green' religion.

This project seeks to test the ways in which existing theologies are in fact being adapted or extended better to serve ethical enquiry and moral action in the crisis of climate change. It also seeks to explore how the emphasis upon the human person is used among different Christian constituencies and what difficulties it creates for audiences receiving information on climate change and responding to its challenges. It also proposes to provide in a monograph a theological reinterpretation that draws on the project data and moves beyond personalism.

The conclusions of the research project will be provided as feedback to partners. Through reports and briefings, partners and similar organisations will be advised of the research findings (both theological and qualitative) and enabled to contextualise these findings in their own work. The reports on the findings of the project will allow partners and others through a process of shared learning to understand more clearly the difficulties they are encountering in fundraising, creating and managing change, and understanding and responding creatively to 'personalist' cultures.

The briefings, together with other sources, will explore how to embed the findings in partners' contexts towards consciousness raising and culture change. Such feedback will make it easier for these denominations, agencies and activist groups to meet the demands of the big ask. This same feedback will be of wider interest to other groups as civil society gears up to respond to the adaptation and mitigation demands of climate change.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council: project AH/W004089/1
Effective start/end date1/10/2230/09/25

Collaborative partners

  • The University of Manchester (lead)
  • Christian Climate Action
  • The Church of England Diocese of Manchester
  • Operation Noah
  • Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD)
  • Diocese of Oxford
  • Diocese of Salford
  • Laudato Si' Research Institute, Campion Hall, Oxford University


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