[ACNS, by Bellah Zulu] The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-16) has attempted to go paperless with the provision of iPads to all delegates at the on-going meeting in Lusaka, an initiative which has been described by many as a “great step in making the church more eco-friendly.”
It is a well-known fact that the Anglican Church the world over has long been concerned with issues of the environment but it’s only recently that the church has taken concrete steps to “encourage Anglicans and people of other faiths to support sustainable environmental practices as individuals and in the life of their communities.”
One such initiative is the creation of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) which aims to share information about resources and initiatives that may be of value to Anglicans everywhere, among other things.
“Caring for creation starts with small things that we can do ourselves,” said the Bishop of Edmonton in Canada, the Rt Revd Jane Alexander in an interview in Lusaka. “Having a generally paperless conference not only shows good stewardship of our resources, but makes it easy to quickly update and access information.”
She added: “I hope that this one act will help all of us even as we go back to our respective parishes and dioceses. Back in my diocese we are big on recycling but the issue of oil and gas production is still a challenge we have to confront especially that people are used to relatively cheap gas and oil.”
Another participant, the Revd Bartholomew Bol Deng, from the Diocese of Juba in the Province of Sudan and South Sudan, applauded the initiative to provide new technologies at the conference but bemoaned the poor access to technology in the rural parts of his diocese.
He said: “Going digital is always good because then you don’t have to carry huge chunks of paper wherever you go, but for people in the rural parts of our country, it’s still a challenge to access these technologies but we hope partners can help us invest in solar energy since it provides the greatest opportunities in terms of linking the world.”
Michael Ade, an IT and Website specialist from the Anglican Communion Office in London, was responsible for sourcing the loaned iPads. “We learnt a lot from ACC-15 in New Zealand in as far as the use of paper is concerned after realising that we had accumulated a lot of paper that had to be thrown away at the end of the conference,” he said.
He said that they were motivated to investigate whether they could use other means such as iPads which they successfully piloted during the Primates gathering and meeting England in January this year.
“Of course some delegates were surprised because they had never used iPads before but most of them were able to quickly catch up because everyone was willing to help each other,” he added.
One of the ecumenical guests at the conference and Bishop of Haarlem, Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, Dr Dirk Jan Schoon, commended the conference on their efforts to be more eco-friendly.
“A lot of paper is usually wasted at many conferences, and so though it may have some associated costs, the use of iPads is a good idea,” he told ACNS in an interview.
He explained how he has taken it upon himself back home to always cycle and use public transport as a contribution to protecting the environment. “Back home we try as much as possible to adopt socially and eco-friendly practices such as public transport and the use of fair-trade products,” he said.
Stephen Lyon is the co-ordinator of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting. “Though technologically things have not worked out exactly and hence not completely paperless as we had planned due to software issues, we’re glad that we’re not having to run hundreds of copies every time,” he said in an interview. “As organisers we try as much as possible to convince people to take practical steps to preserve the environment though it’s not always easy to convince others.”
He concluded: “It’s true that we’re learning especially that this is the first time we’re attempting to go paperless. But despite all the challenges, I don’t think it’s possible to go back to a paper conference.”