Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, has invited 20 bishops from the Anglican Communion to join him in a “process of discussion and discernment” about what churches can do in the face of climate change and ecological degradation.
Bishops who have been invited to a dialogue that will culminate in a face-to-face meeting in South Africa in February 2015 come from dioceses that are “already experiencing the impacts of climate change,” said Makgoba. “Our goal will be to develop a Communion-wide strategic plan that meets the challenges ahead and builds confidence in God’s future.”
National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and diocese of Edmonton Bishop Jane Alexander have been invited to represent the Anglican Church of Canada.
In a letter, Makgoba said the impact of climate change is already being felt in some Anglican provinces and dioceses. These include “rising sea levels, stronger storms in some areas, longer droughts in others, shortages of food and clean water, waves of refugees.” Climate change could lead to social and political upheaval, noted Makgoba. “Unless more direct and faithful action, in addition to the reduction of greenhouse gases, is taken soon, the consequences for the church and all of humanity will be even more profound.”
Canon Ken Gray, secretary to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN), said this is the first time that bishops are gathering to specifically discuss environmental issues, “with the intention of speaking collectively to the Communion worldwide.” In an interview with the Anglican Journal via email, Gray expressed the hope that “the process will better equip participating bishops to make the [Anglican Communion’s] fifth mark of mission [To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth] top priority in their provinces and dioceses.” He described the initiative as “exciting,” adding that the leadership of bishops in the area of stewardship of creation and climate justice “is already making a big difference” and that this dialogue “will only increase that influence, both in our church and in our home communities.”
The Rev. Dr. Rachel Marsh, lead staff support for the project, said that in Southern Africa churches are aware that climate change, which has led to more flooding and harsher droughts, “threatens those most vulnerable.” Marsh told the Journal she is “excited to see that the global church as a family is responding to the call of Jesus, not only to feed the hungry but to take action to stop more people from becoming hungry.”
Bishops will initially communicate by email and other electronic media before they meet in Cape Town. Participants “will use an indaba [purposeful communication process] style process of dialogue [to] lead to strategic planning,” said Gray. “This will not be a conference where ‘experts’ provide information to participants, but where participants will share at a deep level their experiences, hopes and concerns…” ACEN steering committee members have been helping Makgoba identify participants to the dialogue, including those who are already involved in environmental advocacy and in the “greening” of their communities, said Gray.
Also invited to the dialogue are Anglican bishops from the United States, West Indies, Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Burundi, Harare, Swaziland, Namibia, Cape Town, South India, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, the Philippines, West Malaysia, Perth, KiraKira, and Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. -With files from ACNS