THIS September marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption by Britain of Churches Together in Britain: a season beginning at the start of the Orthodox Church year on 1 September, running through to the feast of St Francis on 4 October. It offers an excellent time for churches to link the popular tradition of harvest festival into a theology of creation and the care of our common home.
In parallel, it is also ten years since the UK passed the Climate Change Act, and 30 years since the first convening of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international body which assesses the science related to climate change. The latter will meet in Korea as Creationtide draws to a close to publish its sixth assessment report, which will be a key resource for world governments as they ponder on making good the momentous yet fragile commitments of the Paris Accord.
This year’s season of prayer for God’s creation has seldom seemed more timely.
Alongside Creationtide materials for worship and discussion, the Church of England has also published a series of Letters for Creation written by Anglican Primates around the globe (extracts below), highlighting the effects of climate change in different regions. The message running through the accounts is clear: climate change is here, it is current, and it is affecting the poorest and most disadvantaged communities first and most severely.
While the Government’s review of the goals of the Climate Change Act is likely to detail some significant achievements, we are only beginning the changes required over the next 30 years to move to a sustainable footing.
The current country commitments to the Paris Agreement will deliver temperature rises of well above the target of no more than 2°C global warming. The ambition of 1.5°C will be even harder to achieve. For some of the more vulnerable, such as the Pacific island states that pushed for this at Paris, it is the difference between life and death.
In Paris, governments committed to the regular review of targets. Five years on, 2020 will be an important staging post, and governments need to step up their climate action now. We can also do more as individuals and communities by slashing energy waste and increasing efficiency, as well as by encouraging the new technology that is beginning to deliver an industrial revolution.
The Church of England has made significant strides to support this, with recently reported success in helping parishes to move to green energy tariffs, and as a voice in the ear of energy companies through its investment portfolio, leading shareholder resolutions which put pressure on large companies to expedite their transition to greener impacts. But we cannot stop here; individually and collectively, we can do more, and must do more.
Given what we know, we have a choice: life or death; a short-sighted consumerism or a longer-term sustainable renewal of God’s earth. The choice is ours, and it has an impact now, and on our children’s children. My prayer this Creationtide is that we will take the only real option.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam is the Bishop of Salisbury and the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment.
The Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and Bishop of Polynesia, the Most Revd Dr Winston Halapua
I speak from the diocese of Polynesia — a part of the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Within the boundaries of this diocese, which includes large tracts of the Pacific Ocean, are clear testimonies to the reality of climate change which affects our global village.
Island nations are being impacted by sea levels rising owing to climate change. Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands are threatened with non-existence as the sea level rises and land becomes uninhabitable. In Fiji, many villages are having to be relocated. In the Tongan island Pangaimotu, where as a boy I used to fish with my father, coconut palms stand stripped of fronds as the salt water encroaches and eats at root systems below the earth, and cyclones ravage above.
We are in the cyclone season now. Many of us are deeply aware of the danger that another cyclone could bring our communities. Two years ago, Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest and most violent cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, devastated parts of Fiji. . .
We speak of the faith and resilience of our people. We cannot promise, however, that there will not be another cyclone of equal or greater intensity affecting vulnerable communities and destroying homes and crops, and sometimes lives. People in vulnerable communities need a voice.
Leaders from the Pacific today, from different levels of society, including Government and Church, are . . . being motivated to speak and act so that the world wakes up to the need to address the human greed and exploitation which contribute to climate change — to address the abuse of creation.
A conch in the Pacific Islands is blown to signal something of importance. We need to blow a conch to alert the world of danger not only to ourselves, but to the whole planet Earth.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael Curry
The Revd Dr Martin Luther King, Jr often said : “We shall either learn to live together as sisters and brothers, or we shall perish together as fools.” His words feel especially poignant today as we awaken to the chilling realities of global climate change. We are interconnected. We are tied into networks of mutuality as brothers and sisters on this fragile planet, and the truth is we need each other.
When it comes to climate change, what affects one part of the planet affects the whole planet, and what affects one part of the human family affects the whole family.
As members of the Anglican Communion, we share a commitment to face the imminent threats to our climate and to the biodiversity that sustains all life. These threats know no national or natural boundaries. . .
We today are presented with a simple choice: will we live as friends, as brothers and sisters, as Beloved Community, or will we be subsumed under the rising waters of chaos? If we choose community, we can move — and protect — mountains. . .
This Anglican Communion is the third-largest Christian body on the planet. Surely we can do it. I’ve seen us work together and with our friends of other faiths and no faith at all. I’ve seen us intervene and provide education, recovery, and healing following climate-based tragedies across this globe. We can maintain a vigorous and effective commitment, and empower Anglicans everywhere to undertake bold action to mitigate and reverse climate change.
The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Philip Frier
In Australia, as elsewhere, tackling environmental questions is complex, because issues such as loss of biodiversity, climate change, deforestation, and so on are not only political, scientific, or economic, but also cultural, philosophical, spiritual, and theological. These are fundamentally moral issues to which the Church is well positioned to respond. Changing our way of living entails changing our way of understanding ourselves and our world. The sustainable way of living exemplified by Australian Aboriginal people models a broader and deeper understanding of the relationship between the divine, the human, and the created, bio-physical world. . .
The Australian Anglican Church has taken a number of initiatives in response to environmental questions. Some dioceses and some parishes are more active than others, and some focus more on practical outcomes, others on worship.
• The Primate is supportive of Australia’s commitment to the Paris Accord to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, and this was further supported by a General Synod motion in 2017. The Primate was also one of 21 Australian religious leaders in 2016 who joined an international appeal for urgent action on climate change.
Nationally, the 2007 Canon on the Environment was passed by General Synod and has been adopted by a number of Australian dioceses:
• an increasing number of Australian dioceses, and individual parishes, are worshipping using the “Season of Creation” initiative in the period 1 September to 4 October;
• a number of synods have voted to divest diocesan funds away from non-renewable energy sources;
• parishes and dioceses have put into practice measures to reduce carbon footprint, such as using renewable energy, conserving water and other resources, and re-vegetating land;
• practical and symbolic actions have been adopted by many parishes and individual Anglicans, including fasting on the first day of the month, and “carbon fasting” during Lent.
Overall, the Province supports local, national, and global environmental initiatives in multiple aspects of the lives of Anglicans: praying, worshipping, living sustainably, and articulating publicly the need to protect and restore our world for future generations.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba
ALL six countries in our Province — Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland — have been impacted by climate change and environmental degradation. . .
On the eastern coast of southern Africa, Mozambique has been devastated by flooding. In contrast, in Namibia, Swaziland, and South Africa the greatest impact has been that of crippling drought. Schools in parts of Swaziland had to be closed when they ran out of water for school toilets. In northern Namibia and southern Angola, people have been forced to slaughter their cattle, destroying their future economic stability. And, in Cape Town, we are a few months away from reaching “Day Zero”, when a city of three million people might run out of water before next year’s winter rains come.
So how are we responding as a Province? Firstly, we are developing a theology of care for creation. . . We need to integrate care for creation into our preaching and our prayers. Around the world we are joining a movement of churches who celebrate a “Season of Creation” during the month of September. This is being included in our liturgical calendar, and during this month we pray, preach, and act to care for creation. . .
Secondly, we are beginning to act locally. . . In urban areas, the focus is on mitigation, with recycling, water-wise gardens, reducing electricity, paper, etc. In rural areas, the focus is on organic farming, preventing soil erosion, and tree planting. . .
Thirdly, we are involved in advocacy. . . Although we don’t have vast amounts invested, we are taking our money out of fossil fuels, believing this to be a symbolic action that puts pressure on investment companies to develop fossil-free portfolios and help speed the transition to green energy. We have taken a firm stand against nuclear energy for both environmental and anti-corruption reasons. We stand against fracking. . .
The Bible calls us to be stewards of the earth, but I think we have left it too late. God is now calling us to become healers of the earth.
Read all the letters in full at creationtide.com/letters-for-creation.
A special issue focusing on climate change will be published on 12 October.