Thursday, July 7, 2016

Anglican Leaders Offer Points of Reflection Relevant to General Synod's Ecological Motions

Anglican leaders have offered some prescient remarks that are relevant for the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada's climate focused motions (to see excerpts of some of these remarks read below). We have already seen Diocesan Synods pass fossil fuel divestment motions across Canada including motions that passed in both Montreal and Ottawa.  We will soon see if the call from Anglican leaders to address climate change resonates at General Synod.

The head of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz and the head of the Church of England Archbishop Justin Welby have both indicated that they see climate change as a pressing issue. The former said that "True prayer leads to action." He repeated what a number of Primates said with respect to the world's poor being most vulnerable to climate change. The latter called climate change, "potentially fatal" with, "effects that will kill hundreds of millions, if not billions."

Here is a short compilation of recent climate related remarks from these two Anglican leaders:

At the end of last summer, on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Archbishop Fred Hiltz released the following statement:
People everywhere are becoming more and more urgently aware of the perilous state of much of creation, and our responsibility as stewards of the earth which we inhabit.

Earlier this month Pope Francis called the 1.25-billion members of the Catholic Church to annually observe on September 1 annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. Since 1989 many Eastern Orthodox Christians have observed on that same date as a Day of Prayer for the Environment.

The worldwide Anglican Communion’s fifth Mark of Mission calls us “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” Canadian Anglicans are especially conscious of our obligations as caretakers of (in the words of one of our eucharistic prayers) “this fragile earth, our island home.” We are now reminded of it when we renew our baptismal vows. The recent meeting of the Sacred Circle further called to mind the special relationship Indigenous people have with the land, and the often damaging effect settlers continue to have.

I therefore invite all members of the Anglican Church of Canada to join with me on September 1 and pray in an especially intentional way for the integrity of God’s creation, and for the will and the means to confront and resolve the ecological crisis our planet is facing.

Your prayer that day can be as simple as confessing (as we do on Ash Wednesday) our waste and pollution of God’s creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us, then recommitting yourself to your baptismal vow to help safeguard the earth. You can also find prayer resources on the Creation Matters section of You may even want to join the many other people of faith who have committed to Fast for the Climate.

Our prayers for creation that day will be joined by those of hundreds of millions of other Christians across the planet we all share.

True prayer leads to action. So please join with me in prayer on September 1 for God’s good creation so that our prayers might lead us to act in ways that will help sustain and renew the life of the earth.
Archbishop Hiltz offered the following reflections excerpted from an article on the primates meeting published in The Anglican at the beginning of 2016:
"Half of our Churches in the Communion live with extreme poverty, in the turmoil of war, and with devastating effects of environmental degradation."
At this meeting the Anglican Alliance gave a presentation on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Primates issued a Communion wide call to get behind these goals through our work in advocacy.

In a session on Climate Change, it was fascinating to hear the range of voices speaking out of their own contexts. The Archbishop of Polynesia spoke of Pacific Islands drowning as sea levels continue to rise. The Archbishop of Kenya spoke about the impact of unbridled foresting. “As the forests disappear” he said, “the desert is expanding.” The Archbishop of the Democratic Republic of the Congo spoke of the hunger of many nations for the underground resources in the Congo and of the ruthless and reckless measures taken in extracting them. I spoke about the impact of the melting Ice Cap in the Arctic and the impact on peoples who live in Canada’s North. The Acting Archbishop of Melanesia spoke of eroded lands, sinking islands and polluted waterways. He made a passionate plea saying “What’s next?…Who causes it?…Who stops it?” He called for a robust theology of creation.

The Archbishop of Southern Africa spoke of the Climate Talks in Paris, the agreement struck with respect to lowering the pace of global warming, and the huge amount of unwavering political will required to make this agreement functional.

A number of other Primates from very diverse situations reminded us through story after story, of how the poor are the most vulnerable with respect to climate change. With no choice but to abandon home and livelihood they have to keep on the move with little more than what they can carry. As we have been often reminded, climate change is really about climate justice. It’s about our commitment to the fifth Mark of Mission – to safeguard the integrity of creation.
In April of this year Archbishop Justin Welby’s presidential address to ACC-16 included the following remarks:
Two actors dominate our world stage at present, I would argue. One is religiously motivated violence, and the other is climate change.

And wherever we go, the second actor comes up: the issues of climate change are being more and more clearly felt as we have discussed today. They have a huge impact on economies. They generate conflict, they increase inequality to destabilising levels. There are moments of hope such as at COP 21 in Paris last December, in which Anglicans led by Archbishop Thabo made a significant difference. Yet at the same time, as we have heard and remember day by day, the outlook of climate change is not potentially bad; it is potentially fatal, for the most fragile countries and regions on earth; and for the billions of people who live in them.

Both these characters – religiously motivated violence and climate change - are global. Both these issues are generational, they can’t be solved in two, three, four years; they will take a generation or more. And both – and this is where most of the world forgets this – both characters can only be confronted with a theological and ideological approach and with a story, with a narrative, that is sufficiently powerful to overcome the natural selfishness of one generation, or the selfishness of countries which are more secure.

At its heart, these challenges are theological and it requires a deepening of our theological resources. We can only confront them by bringing them face-to-face to the reality of a God we study, worship, engage with, theologically.

For all of us the crisis of climate change is both present but often unrecognised, but also distant in time in that its most profound effects, its most terrible effects, the effects that will kill hundreds of millions, if not billions, will not be felt for at least a generation, although the beginnings of the impact are with us very clearly today.

It is our call, I suggest, as Anglicans to be at the heart of those who re-write the play; who bring a new ending.

Those countries that confront climate change by seeking to make sure they have access to raw materials that others will not then have access to condemn the world to conflict. In a struggle which is deeply ideological and theological, our response must be based in a story of relationship, of mutual protection, of order and human flourishing which overwhelms the demonic narrative of disintegration and demonisation of the other which faces us.

The second challenge is that of climate change. I have come late to this, recognising for years that it was very important, but failing to grasp its significance especially among young people. Underlying the issue of climate change is the reality of global injustice and inequality. We are not all equally at risk, and those for whom the risk is less, forgetting solidarity, often will not see the problem.

At the same time there is a conscious rejection by some climate change sceptics of the nature of intergenerational equality. It is felt that the problems of 100 years away are too unpredictable to permit us to spend money and effort now.

Quite apart from the science, the theology of this is terrible. The church exists in space and time. We are joined by baptism to all past and all future Christians. Unless Christ first returns, the fate of those who belong to the church – let alone the rest of humanity – in 2116 matters deeply to us now.

But for human beings to make the decisions necessary, requires the overcoming of our natural selfishness with a greater force, and that force is the call of God to intentional discipleship across time as well as space.

So we need to begin by recognising our selfishness, our human fallenness; and secondly, we must reassert solidarity with one another – with all of one another – but also with generations not yet seen. Solidarity has been vastly expanded in its potential scope by the development of information networks...

The refugee crisis and social media bring presence without relationships, both in war and in the impact of climate. We see everything and know no-one. Threatened we retreat.

Our fallenness, our solidarity, and thirdly we must restore wisdom. Wisdom gives us back the subtleties of theology. A curse of our age is theology without subtlety; theology without nuance; theology as a club rather than a torch which illuminates. Subtle theology enables us to engage with the other across religions, across boundaries of continents and climate without hatred.

As Anglicans, we need to express these ideas, and we need to express them with a story that we can tell that is more beautiful than the self-interested stories of those who promote conflict or pillage our planet.

Heroes of peace become the victims of their own people. They shake hands with the enemy – whether a violent enemy, or the company that pollutes, or the nation that rejects climate science.

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