TEC Presiding Bishop endorses Pope’s climate change imperative
By Pat McCaughan for Episcopal News Service
In the wake of Pope Francis’ historic visit to Washington, D.C., The Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and other faith leaders on Sept. 24 committed to five initiatives to address global climate change.
“Coming Together in Faith,” a two-day live-streamed interreligious summit, brought together faith leaders to issue a call to environmental action.
“Faith can and does move mountains,” Jefferts Schori said in an address to cathedral and online audiences, after inviting them just “to breathe” a breath of life, and to hope and to feel the creative potential inward while breathing out “your willingness to change the world in word and action.”
She told the gathering that, “working together, faith can end mountaintop destruction and develop green jobs in place of squeezing the Earth’s limited resources for fuel.”
Pope Francis, during a White House South Lawn address to about 15,000 people, characterized urgent action on global warming as a moral imperative for all people “of goodwill in this great nation.
“Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies,” Pope Francis said, according to published reports. “To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”
The 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, meeting June 23-July 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah, in Resolution A171 approved endorsing the papal encyclical letter Laudato Si’ of Pope Francis, focusing on the reality of climate change and the interrelated nature of the world. The 78th General Convention also approved several other resolutions regarding the environment, including:
- A107 to develop and continue food system advocacy;
- C013 to facilitate a dialogue on climate change and divestment strategy;
- C047 to promote policies that combat adverse climate change;
Additionally, on Sept. 22, the presiding bishop endorsed an ecumenical agreement with Anglican and Lutheran leaders in the U.S. and Canada to take action to safeguard God’s creation.
At the Sept. 24 summit, well-known author and activist Brian McLaren, along with the Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, introduced the five initiatives and urged all people of faith to commit to: engage; energize; divest and invest; vote and educate.
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, welcomed faith leaders and activists representing the Islamic, Christian and Jewish traditions to network during the two-day summit, which continues today.
Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America, told the gathering that halting global climate warming “requires a change of behavior.”
Citing the Quran: “God does not change the condition of people unless they change the condition of themselves” he said Muslim communities around the United States have started a movement to work for “green” mosques.
McLaren said the summit hoped to “send a message to America and the world that, not only do we agree with Pope Francis and his historic message for care of creation, we’re going to the action that’s ours to take.”
He and Moss called upon the audience present and people of faith everywhere to commit to fight global warming and to:
- Engage – by going to leaders and members of faith communities and tell them how much you care personally about this issue and how much you hope your whole congregation will begin to care too. Speak from your heart;
- Energize – link with other people to form groups, get excited, bring people together around the issue of climate change, around the papal call to recognize the sacredness of ecology;
- Divest and Invest – asking denominations, congregations and religious institutions and individuals to move their investments from dirty energy to clean energy. “If it’s wrong for corporations to make a profit from destroying the earth, it’s also wrong for investors to share in the profits. Tonight we would like to be the beginning of a wave of change to clean investment,” he said.
- Vote – to challenge every politician and hold them accountable to take action on climate change, making it one of your top three issues in every election in which you vote; and
- Educate – using personal and social networks to overcome denial and ignorance about climate change.
- The event was a joint initiative of Washington National Cathedral, Auburn Seminary, Blessed Tomorrow, Faith in Public Life and Convergence.
Continuing her “breath” metaphor, the presiding bishop also told the gathering that “the world needs hope now.
“Offer your breath of hope in the face of what seems dead or dying. Use your breath constructively. Speak truth to your own communities to bring hope and possibility and new life … speak truth to leaders and governments. Use your breath to motivate changed hearts and changed behavior. Our creative breath can move this planet’s air toward more abundant possibilities. Faith does change the atmosphere. Faith does move mountains. Faith does change hearts. Keep breathing.
In one of her last public initiatives as Presiding Bishop of TEC (The Episcopal Church in the USA), Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori, whose term as TEC Primate is shortly to end, joined other Faith Leaders in the U.S. to address the urgent issue of Climate Change.
This was a felicitous time for the meeting, especially in the wake of Pope Francis’ historic visit to North America, in which he, too, stressed the need for richer nations – like the U.S. – to curb their insatiable consumption and environmental exploitation of fossil fuels, amongst other natural resources, in order to preserve the sustainability of the earth for all of its inhabitants – including the poorest and most deprived of its citizens.
As a trained scientist (in marine biology), Bishop Katharine has some idea of what she is talking about on environmental issues, and it is good to see someone of her calibre helping people of the U.S. and other Western nations to better understand where unbridled use of the earth’s precious resources is liable to take us. Her paradigm of ‘breath’ as a medium of giving and sharing life is a most useful one for all of us to contemplate.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand