Just ahead of a large-scale climate march planned to take place in New York City on Sept. 21 and a one-day climate summit at UN headquarters on Sept. 23, leaders of Anglican, Episcopal and Lutheran churches in Canada and the U.S. have issued a joint pastoral message on climate change.
“We are united as Christian leaders in our concern for the well-being of our neighbours and of God’s good creation that provides life and livelihood for all God’s creatures. Daily we see and hear the evidence of a rapidly changing climate,” began the message signed by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; Archbishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church; Bishop Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; and Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The four leaders met in Toronto in July and planned at that time to issue their pastoral message to coincide with the UN summit.
The leaders observed that some people concerned for the well-being of the planet and humanity “have understandably focused on the neglect and carelessness, both in private industry and in government regulation, that have contributed to these changes.”
But they added that responsibility for the problem and for finding solutions must be taken on broadly. “…[A]n honest accounting requires a recognition that we all participate both as consumers and investors in economies that make intensive and insistent demands for energy,” they wrote. “In addition, as citizens we have chosen to support or acquiesce in policies that shift the burdens of climate change to communities that are most vulnerable to its effects. People who are already challenged by poverty and by dislocation resulting from civil war or famine have limited resources for adapting to climate change’s effects.”
The message encourages people to unite and work together. “…[We] need not surrender to political ideologies and other modern mythologies that would divide us into partisan factions—deserving and undeserving, powerless victims and godless oppressors…In Christ God sets us free from the captivity of blaming and shaming. God liberates us for shared endeavors where we find each other at our best.”
The leaders urged people to act “imaginatively and courageously” as individuals when making choices about energy use, carbon emissions, the consumption of water and other natural resources, educating children and being a voice for the just and responsible use of resources.
Collectively, people must work for the common good, they said, noting that world leaders will be meeting at the UN Climate Summit, and in December in Lima, Peru, to discuss global cooperation on climate change. “Working under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), participants in the UNFCCC’s negotiations hope for an agreement in 2015 that will move toward reduction of carbon emissions, development of low carbon technologies, and assistance to populations most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate.
“We encourage you to take the initiative to engage decision-makers in this godly work in all arenas of public life—in government and business, in schools and civic organizations, in social media and also in our church life,” the leaders wrote.
The People’s Climate March has been planned as a collective effort by about 1.400 organizations, including New York-area community groups, international NGO’s, grassroots networks, churches and faith organizations. Organizers hope to draw more than 100,000 people to the march that will begin in Central Park and end in lower Manhattan.