Leaders of some of the Anglican Communion’s 39 provinces have responded to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to write Letters for Creation. To help promote the Season of Creation, which runs from 1 September to 4 October, Archbishop Justin asked his fellow Primates to set out what “the care for God’s creation” means in their Province; and what they wanted to say to the wider Anglican Communion about “the care for our common home”. The responses have now been published by the Church of England’s environment programme.
The Diocese of Polynesia in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ANZP) is part of the world which is one of the most badly affected by climate change. “Island nations are being impacted by sea level rising due to Climate Change,” the former Bishop of Polynesia, Winston Halapua, who was one of the Primates of ANZP before his retirement this year, said. “Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands are threatened with non-existence as the sea level rises and land becomes uninhabitable.
“In Fiji, many villages are having to be relocated. In the Tongan island Pangaimotu, where as a boy I used to fish with my father, coconut palms stand stripped of fronds as the salt water encroaches and eats at root systems below the earth and cyclones ravage above.”
He added: “Leaders from the Pacific today from different levels of society, including Government and Church, are reading the signs of the times. They are being motivated to speak and act so that world wakes up to the need to address the human greed and exploitation which contribute to Climate Change – to address abuse of Creation.”
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, said: “In Southern Africa we are dependent on water for life – and climate change is changing rain patterns. On the eastern coast of southern Africa, Mozambique has been devastated by flooding. In contrast, in Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa the greatest impact has been that of crippling drought.
“Schools in parts of Swaziland had to be closed when they ran out of water for school toilets. In northern Namibia and southern Angola, people have been forced to slaughter their cattle, destroying their future economic stability.”
He added: “The actions that we take in the next five years are crucial to stop us from reaching the tipping point where climate change becomes unstoppable. Look into the eyes of your children and grandchildren and do what you need to do to preserve the world for their future.”
The Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, Archbishop Paul Kwong, Bishop of Hong Kong Island and Primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – the Anglican Church in Hong Kong – said that the City “faces enormous challenges to do with housing, clean water, environmental protection, ecological and bio-diversity, and climatic pollution,” adding: “In these respects Hong Kong is particularly vexed by its situation: not only as part of the most populous nation on earth – China – in the most economically diverse continent – Asia – but also as a port on the shores of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
“These are realities that must be faced and addressed as constructively as possible, something that the Anglican Church of Hong Kong seeks to do by always engaging with civil and political society. In a city like Hong Kong there is no future in being outside of these discussions: truly caring for our city and our part of creation means being part of the way forward and part of its future.
“Our mission is to God’s Kingdom in the midst of this world: being God’s companions means walking these same streets and living in these endlessly crowded communities, with and for one another.”
The Bishop of Kindu, Archbishop Zacharie Masimango Katanda, Primate of the Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo – the Anglican Church of Congo – said: “”A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
He added: “The environment is God’s gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. . . Changes in lifestyle based on traditional moral virtues can ease the way to a sustainable and equitable world economy in which sacrifice will no longer be an unpopular concept.
“For many of us, a life-less focused on material gain may remind us that we are more than what we have. Rejecting the false promises of excessive or conspicuous consumption can even allow more time for family, friends, and civic responsibilities. A renewed sense of sacrifice and restraint could make an essential contribution to addressing global climate change. . .
“The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to ‘use and misuse’, or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to ‘eat of the fruit of the tree’ (Gen 2:16-17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.”
The Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, described his country as the fourth largest coal producer in the world; and said that coal is Australia’s second largest export commodity.
“The mining industry has formed a significant part (though in an ecological era not an uncontested one) of white Australian cultural identity, and despite the global turn to renewable sources, a considerable temptation and quandary is posed for politicians and the business sector by the global demand for Australian coal. . .
“The unique ecological tapestry of Australia relates not only to the sustainable way of living of its First People and to the contentious question of coal. It is also a country whose features make it particularly vulnerable to climate change.”
He added: “Because of Australia’s unique position and geography (as the driest inhabited continent in the world) it is likely to be more severely impacted than many other wealthy and developed countries. The naturally occurring El Niño/La Niña cycle has traditionally subjected Australia to extreme weather events such as drought, floods, and serious bush/wild fires, but this situation has been dangerously exacerbated by human-induced climate change with an increase in the number and seriousness of events in recent years.”
The Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, said that the world faced one of two choices: “will we live as friends, as brothers and sisters, as Beloved Community, or will we be subsumed under the rising waters of chaos?”.
He said: “This Anglican Communion is the third-largest Christian body on the planet. Surely we can do it. I’ve seen us work together and with our friends of other faiths and no faith at all. I’ve seen us intervene and provide education, recovery and healing following climate-based tragedies across this globe. We can maintain a vigorous and effective commitment, and empower Anglicans everywhere to undertake bold action to mitigate and reverse climate change. . .
“We can do this. I know because I saw people of every nation, faith, age and race move to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux as they struggled to turn back a pipeline that threatened their sacred lands and their water supply. And I saw the Episcopal Church flag at the front of that procession. When crowds chanted ‘Mni Wiconi’ (water is life), Episcopalians chanted with full voice because we have been given new life in Jesus Christ through the waters of baptism.”
The letters can be read in full on the Church of England’s creationtide website: creationtide.com.
Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), September 18, 2018