From February 23rd to 27th, BishopJane Alexander of the diocese of Edmonton and National Indigenous Anglican BishopMark MacDonald will join 15 other bishops from across the Anglican Communion inCape Town, South Africa, to discuss ways in which the Anglican Church canrespond concretely to the issue of climate change.
The “Eco-Bishopsconference” brings together bishops from countries affected by climate change,for the purpose of listening to each other’s challenges and sharing “actionsand theologies that have been helpful in moving forward,” said a press releaseissued by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. “Bishops have been chosenfrom countries reflecting the great challenges we face, from the sea level riseof Fiji, the deforestation of Argentina, the droughts of Namibia, the tsunamisof the Philippines and the storms of New York, and the warming of Alaska.”
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Anglican Church ofSouth Africa and Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN)is hosting the conference.
When the AnglicanJournal spoke with MacDonald shortly before his departure for South Africa,he was optimistic about what the conference could achieve.
“I think that all of us would like to see communion-wideeffective action on climate change and environmental issues,” MacDonald said,adding that he was particularly happy to see that attention was being paid aswell to how indigenous people relate to climate change.
“That is a huge issue,” he said, “but oftentimes hidden evenfrom environmentalists. I think that we will be able to articulate fairly wellin this context the unique threat to indigenous peoples of climate change, butalso how the perspective of indigenous peoples really points towards a morehopeful future.”
Canada has an important voice in the conference, both as acountry that is contributing to climate change, and as one of its greatestvictims, said MacDonald. “The place most dramatically and rapidly beingaffected by climate change is the Arctic,” he said, “and the people of the Arcticare not the people who are causing this.”
But for progress to be made, MacDonald said it is necessaryto move past simple victim/perpetrator categories. “I think that clearcutvillains, as satisfying as that might feel emotionally, is not the way to solvethis problem,” he said. “This is clearly a problem created not just by badparts of human nature, but by good parts of human nature.”
Extensive planning has gone into the meeting, includingadvance readings and pre-discussions over Skype. “I think that this group morethan others is careful about talking about this and then hopping in planes andcoming so far,” he said. “I think that there was a very strong attempt to dowhatever we could do apart from being together…I would say that this is as harda working conference as I’ve been involved with in the Anglican Communion.”
Also attending the conference are Bishops Andrew Dietsche(Episcopal diocese of New York), Nick Drayson (Diocese of Northern Argentina),Nicholas Holtam (Diocese of Salisbury, Church of England), David Chillingworth(Bishop of St. Andrews, Scottish Episcopal Church), Chad Gandiya (diocese ofHarare), William Mchombo (Diocese of Eastern Zambia), Ellinah Wamukoya (Dioceseof Swaziland), Stephen Moreo (diocese of Johannesburg), Nathaniel Nakwatumbah(Diocese of Namibia), Thomas Oommen (Diocese of Madhya Kerala, Church of SouthIndia), Andrew Chan (Diocese of West Kowloon, Hong Kong), Jonathan Casimina (Dioceseof Davao, Episcopal Church in the Philippines), Tom Wilmot (Diocese of Perth),and Apimeleki Qiliho (Diocese of Polynesia: Vanua Levu and Taveuni).