Thursday, August 20, 2015

Anglicans tell Eco-bishops: “Be prophetic, encourage ecological witness”

“What sort of leadership in response to global climate change would you hope to receive from a group of Anglican bishops and archbishops?”

This question garnered over 120 responses from Anglicans Communion-wide when posed early in July by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN).

“I was surprised by the number of responses we received and by the obvious effort respondents put into their submissions. The question obviously struck a chord with many who engage in advocacy around environmental justice throughout the communion” ACEN’s secretary Canon Ken Gray said.

The survey was part of the Eco-Bishops’ Initative (EBI) which draws together fifteen bishops from many regions of the Communion into dialogue on the issue of the environment. Bishops have already participated in a series of conference calls and two more sets are planned before the group meets in Cape Town South Africa in February of 2015. They will be hosted in Cape Town by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, ACEN Chairperson.

“While the fruit of the EBI will emerge from the bishops’ continuing conversation, we felt that some research around context was important. The bishops will appreciate knowing what folks are doing right now in their local settings. I think they will be encouraged, even inspired by what respondents have told us” said Canon Gray. “Their thoughts echo their stories, their experience, and their commitment.”

So what do respondents name as priorities? They certainly want the bishops to be bold, vocal and to speak with a sense of urgency. The word “prophetic” appears again and again. Otherwise the bishops should be “visionary, courageous, strong, uncompromising, wise, discerning, proactive and humble.”

To whom should they speak? Both to the Church but also to civil society, governments, industry and policy makers. Many respondents cited visible and consistent dialogue with other Churches and like-minded organisations as essential.

Respondents want bishops to do their homework and become fluent with the science of climate change and work very much in public with national and international bodies. One respondent urged the bishops to “use the bully pulpit to galvanize folks in the pew and others to realise this is a real disaster in the making.” Others want bishops to join marches and go public with their personal commitments. Many want the bishops, all bishops, clergy and lay leaders to live in a different and noticeable way.

Gray notes, “The bishops will likely have opinions on these calls but the expectation, realistic or not is certainly there. There is no time to waste, urgency requires strong and immediate leadership. Leadership which makes a difference requires a different sort of leader.”

Concerning practical issues, 15 respondents cited a need to support global and local divestment initiatives. As expected, comments came from provinces which have recently agreed to divest or move towards divestment. That said, support came from provinces which have not had this particular conversation yet.

More than lip-service

Some respondents are frustrated with a perceived lack of “practical” measures. One writer asked the bishops to “lead a church which puts words into action at every level.” Another asked for “practical ways that we can live a life in harmony with God’s creation.” Some seek “real action” and “more than lip-service” and in one instance “to go beyond planting trees.”

Concern was expressed for those churches and communities specially affected by climate change. One writer seeks “a firm commitment to reducing the suffering of people and animals because of climate change seeing the gospel in all its fullness, including care for the poor and for the creation.”

Finally, many respondents seek a close integration between theological, biblical, ethical, social and ecological themes. Many plead with the bishops to encourage the church to raise the priority of ecological witness.

“Essentially the Anglican Church needs to move environment and climate change much further up to Church agenda” says a respondent from the United Kingdom. “Encourage churches to place concern for creation high on their list of priorities for prayer and action” writes another.

One particularly beautiful summary hopes for “a vision of the Kingdom of God with all of us joined together to sustain our beautiful world.”

“There were some obvious gaps in our coverage” said Canon Gray. “We did not connect with indigenous persons or communities, or with youth in a significant way.” This deficit will be addressed in due course.

Anyone can still submit a response which will be sent to the Eco-Bishops by visiting the ACEN webpage at and click on the link provided.

Source: Anglican Communion News Service

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