Environmental change not ‘a secular fuss imported into the church’ but a moral issue
Bishops fronting a public forum on environmental change during the 15th Anglican Consultation Council called on Anglicans everywhere to show moral courage in tackling its cause and impacts.
The 15th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-15) met in Auckland, New Zealand between October 27 and November 7. The ACC is an advisory body comprising lay and ordained delegates from all Provinces that consider the present and future life and work of the Anglican Communion.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Southern Africa, as well as Fiji’s Bishop Apimeleki Qiliho challenged listeners to consider addressing environmental damage as part of their Christian duty.
Following presentations from Bishop Qiliho and Anglican Alliance director Sally Keeble on the impact of environmental change and on some church-led projects to address it, Archbishop Makgoba said, “This is not a social problem, it is not an economic problem, it is not an environmental problem, it is a moral problem and it needs a moral response.”
Bishop Qiliho said God had given Christians a mandate to look after the earth and they needed to show moral courage by asking themselves how they and their communities could be better stewards of creation.
Speaking about the issue of stewardship and social justice, Sally Keeble told the forum that there was still massive inequity in terms of water and food consumption, and use of energy.
The Chair of the forum, Archbishop Rowan Williams, agreed saying that environmental issues were bound with issues of moral courage such as land ownership, empowerment of women and global industry.
He said that, considering the damage being done to our environment, “running out of a world to live in is a mark of our unfaithfulness,” adding that Christians should not consider environmental issues “a secular fuss imported into the church”. Followers of Christ should not “shrug our shoulders when we are asked why there is not sufficient food or safe, clean water…That is not what Christians should be. That is why this is a matter of faithfulness to our creator and redeemer.”
Archbishop Makgoba, who is the Chair of Anglican Communion Environmental Network, said “What might a world where Christians take their moral responsibilities seriously look like?
“Our network tries to link people from different Provinces to reflect on the environment. It is hoped that we will have representatives throughout the Communion. Even at this stage we are calling for those Provinces without an environmental network to appoint one.”
Referring to the nexus of water, food and energy, Archbishop Thabo asked the audience: “When you are receiving Communion, have you stopped to think about the water that we use to mix with the wine. Where has it come from? How clean is that water? Have you stopped to think about…those who do not have access to basic and of the resultant illnesses that go with poor sanitation and water? When you receive … wafers, have you spared a thought for those who do not have food?
“During the service, out of the small chalice, you are all able to share. Have you not thought that you could replicate that, that there is a plenty in the world and no need for others to suffer?”
In response to questions from the floor as to what Christians could do to begin changing their lifestyles, panel members said that, while the issue of environmental issue seemed overwhelming, individuals and parishes could at least make a start. Suggestions included eating less meat1, working to mitigate carbon footprints, and discussing energy use in the parish.
Archbishop Thabo concluded the evening with a challenge: “What this evening was all about was water, food supply and energy. What is your faith response?”
Experts estimate that animal food production requires 2-5 times the water needed to produce plant food of the same caloric value.