The Green Room ~ the Trinity and the Diesel engine


By the Revd Dr John Harrison  

Given my recent Green Room comments on divestment from fossil fuels, it was with mixed feelings that I read the press release from the church Commissioners dated 30th April announcing their £12 million divestment (further information from

Feeling that I should perhaps fall on my sword at this point for holding such heretical views, my argument remains that while there are strong ethical grounds for divestment I question whether now is the best time to do so. 

In the church year, we have now entered into the long season of trinity – the struggle with delivering a sermon on the doctrine of the Trinity has passed and we can put away those unintelligible notes that we took during our training all those years ago. As far as I am concerned the Trinity simply gives us three ways of knowing God, which I apply to my understanding of our human place within Creation. We are, first of all, subject to the awesome power of Creation – a power which can bring down the mightiest. The mass and energy exchanges involved are numerically several orders higher than any human endeavour, which brings a wry smile to my face when I hear church groups calling ‘put an end to climate change’.

Dr Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the Diesel engine
Dr Rudolf Diesel,      
inventor of the Diesel engine 











We are also subject to love in Creation. But the expression of our love for Creation is imperfect and fickle. What we engage with passionately today, we discard tomorrow. Some years ago I recall sitting in a garage showroom discussing the purchase of a new car and at the time it was common knowledge that a Diesel-fuelled model was the environmentally-friendly option as this would emit less of that naughty Carbon dioxide. So it was with another wry smile that I read the Guardian headline last December, “Paris mayor announces plans to ban Diesel cars from French capital by 2020”, a course of action which is also being considered for the streets of London. Diesels emit particles which are harmful to human health and oxides of nitrogen which are also greenhouse gases. Science and our priorities move on, as does our love affair with our environment. Where is the constancy in our love for Creation?

We are all part of Creation, engaged with its spirit. It is through such engagement that we feel its pain and sense its needs. It is no surprise to me that so many people today choose a more spiritual path towards understanding the world around us than is offered by either the institutional church or the scientific community. Towards the end of summer 2014 I led a day retreat at Shepherds Dene which explored the use of our senses to engage with Creation. The highlight of the day was a closing Eucharist in the open air with the intimate feeling of a presence among us. There is a constancy in that loving presence which gives me great hope for the day when Creation no longer groans (Romans 8:19-23).



  • Dr John Harrison FRMetS is the Bishop of Newcastle’s Environmental Adviser, and a former Vice-Dean of Natural Sciences and Senior Lecturer, Climate Laboratory, in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Stirling University.






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