The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

Environmental stewardship takes center stage at General Convention

by Sarah Braik
Eco-justice/Creation Care Team
Cathedral of St. Luke, Portland

In a 2012 TED talk, climate Scientist James Hansen stated that humanity’s current use of fossil fuel is equivalent “to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima bombs per day, 365 days per year” in terms of the energy the Earth is absorbing each day. I hope you find this analogy as frightening as I do.

Bernadette Demientieff, Alaska Native Gwich’in from Fort Yukon, Alaska, offers an emotional witness to the destruction of sacred lands and waters of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during the 79th General Convention, Austin, Texas. Photo: Sharon Tillman/Episcopal News Service

The Episcopal Church has long played an active role in addressing climate change and environmental degradation, including their impacts on poor and marginalized communities, but this year’s General Convention saw more passion around this issue than ever. Eighteen of 20 environmental resolutions passed.

The linchpin, A013 Facilitating the Development of the Church’s Ministry of the Care of Creation, affirms creation care as an integral part of The Jesus Movement and authorizes the continuation of the small grants program to support local/regional eco-ministry efforts and the further development of bioregional and/or affinity-based creation care networks.

A018 Episcopalians Participating in Paris Climate Agreement adopts the House of Bishops’ 2011 Pastoral Teaching on the Environment as the Church’s official position, acknowledging the urgency of this planetary crisis and the need to repent of our acts of greed, overconsumption, and waste that have contributed to it, to pray for environmental justice, to commit to energy conservation and renewable sources of energy, and to uproot the political, social, and economic causes of environmental destruction.

The Episcopal Church will continue to participate in the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A018 asks us to make “intentional decisions about living lightly and gently on God’s good earth…through energy conservation, renewable energy, sustainable food practices and gardening.”

A011 Oppose Environmental Racism illuminates the link between social and environmental justice, affirming that “no community…should bear a disproportionate risk of environmental pollution or degradation; and advocate[s] for and support[s] policies that protect these…communities and the livelihood of future generations from the disparate impact of climate change and environmental degradation,” and sets up a task force to suggests legislative and  judicial solutions.

C063 Advocate for Ocean Health, which was endorsed by deputies from the Diocese of Maine, asks us to respond to the needs, safety and well-being of refugees displaced due to sea level rise.

Resolutions on more specific issues include A014 The Use of Carbon Offsets, which recognizes that travel done on behalf of the Jesus Movement contributes to climate change and authorizes the development of a carbon offset program.

For an example, see the Nature Conservancy’s carbon offset program. C008 Advocacy for Creation Care authorizes a web-based personal carbon tracking tool to be introduced to congregations by spring, 2019. C020 Carbon Tax supports public policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as Citizens’ Climate Lobby‘s carbon fee and dividend, a national, revenue-neutral system that would place a predictable, steadily rising price on carbon, with all fees collected minus administrative costs returned to households as a monthly energy dividend.

B025 Water as a Human Right recognizes water as a public trust, asks congregations to learn about and protect regional watersheds and aquifers, and urges the ban by 2021 of the sale or distribution of bottled water in Church-related facilities.

Two resolutions support indigenous environmental campaigns: C064 Support of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Opposing Enbridge Line #3 and X023 Solidarity with the Gwich’in People.

X023 developed out of an impassioned address from Bernadette Demientieff on the struggle of the Gwich’in People against the threat of drilling in the “Sacred Place Where Life Begins,” the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The recording of the livestream of her talk begins at 23:40.

What you can do:

1 Comment

One response to “Environmental stewardship takes center stage at General Convention”

  1. Thanks for this excellent round up and action steps.

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