Reverend Mark Coleman, the vicar at an inner-city church, had a close working relationship the police.
He would host discos at his church to help local children who are at risk of being dragged to gangs. He would also run gun and knife amnesties to allow people to turn in illegal weapons.
Rev Coleman is now on the wrong side.
The quietly spoken vicar, who retired from the Church in February 2020 due to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, has been arrested multiple times for Blockade of roads He began graffitiing windows in protest of the climate crisis.
“I’m really very fond of the police,” he told i. “I’m really a great believer in what the police do, in keeping public order.”
But now he believes the police are “missing the point” when they arrest climate protestors.
“I feel now, ironically, that my role is to say that in terms of public order, I’m speaking up for the protection of society, civilization, the things that we hold dear,” he said.
“Arresting climate activists for trying to save humanity and civilization is a bit absurd.”
Rev Coleman is one among a growing number clergy and former clergy who are willing to take a chance on arrest for the climate cause.
Christian Climate Action claims it has approximately 1,000 members with about 150 taking direct action. Insiders claim that there is a fringe of 20-30 vicars in the country who are taking part in climate protests.
Last November the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby even likened those ignoring the climate crisis to politicians who turned a blind eye to the Nazis in the 1930s – A comment he later apologized for.
It is not just Christian faith leaders – groups such as Extinction Rebellion have recruited Catholic priests, Muslim imams and Jewish rabbis to their radical cause.
Rev Coleman, a Rochdale resident, is one the most radical Christian protestors. Regular participant in Insulate BritainAnd Extinction Rebellion protestsHe was arrested earlier this month at a Just Stop Oil protest in Staffordshire. There, activists had been blocking the Kingsbury oil terminal to prevent it from being opened. disrupt fuel supplies.
Protesters from Just Stop Oil say they will continue to block oil refineries and disrupt fuel forecourts, until the Government promises to end all licensing and consent for fossil fuel exploration and production.
Extinction Rebellion often gets criticized for being white middle class and privileged. It’s true, but I acknowledge I have that privilege and I have to use it. Young black men could be in a very different place if they do the same thing as I do.
Rev Hilary Bond
They point out research that suggests that net-zero emissions are possible by mid-century if we continue to follow the course of previous years. All investment in new fossil fuel supplies must be stopped..
“When the Government gives in to the simple demand, which are very reasonable, then I shall stop most certainly blocking oil tankers,” said Rev Coleman.
He is also due to appear at Manchester Magistrates Court later this week, charged with criminal damage after scrawling the words “I Mark Coleman and fed up with empty words and demand action on the climate. Do Justice, Love Mercy, Tell the Truth” on Conservative MP Chris Clarkson’s constituency office in March 2021.
He stated that he has come to terms with his rule-breaking behaviour after feeling that more law-abiding methods of agitating were not working.
“I’ve lobbied many MPs, I’ve had cups of tea with my MP in the Houses of Parliament, I’ve been on coaches to marches in London – I’ve done all the things you are supposed to do, but still the emissions have gone up,” he told i. “And still the science gets worse.”
Rev Coleman believes his actions are in accordance with his Christian duty.
“The job of us in the Church is to offer care, pastoral care…but there’s also got to be an element of truth-telling,” he said.
“And if our way of life is destroying us, then sadly and regrettably I find myself involved in some sort of disruption. It’s non-violent, but it is disruptive because we need to wake up, we need to change the path we are on. True love is telling people the truth.”
“That’s my job as Christian, to be honest,” he added.
The image of a well-dressed middle-aged vicar wearing a dog collar is far from the image of the pierced, dreadlocked eco-warrior.
But for Reverend Hilary Bond, a “Pioneer Priest” for the parish of Wareham in Dorset, her position as a white, middle-class member of the clergy equips her with the power to force change.
“Very often Extinction Rebellion gets criticised for being white middle class and privileged. It’s true, but I acknowledge I have that privilege and I have to use it,” she told i.
“There are so many people who cannot do what I do. A young black man doing what I do could find themselves in a very different position.”
Rev Bond was arrested four times, including twice earlier in the month. Just stop using oil Protests near Purfleet. Her protest activities were met with mixed reactions from her parishioners, she admitted.
“I’ve had everything from people coming to give me a big hug and saying I’m amazing…to people who have totally torn me off a strip loudly and enthusiastically during coffee after a sermon,” she admitted.
Like Rev Coleman, she believes that her Christian faith motivates her to act.
“A Christian means being a follower of Jesus,” she said. “Being a follower of Jesus means trying to be as like him as possible. A lot of that has to do with compassion, love, kindness and care. Jesus was also a radical, who spoke truth to power, and was executed for it. And that’s as much part of the person who I follow as a Christian as the care and compassion is.”