Bishops and other delegates from the six countries in the Anglican Church of South America have met to discuss joint action on the “rapidly mounting issues of global climate change and environmental destruction.” The Bishop of Argentina Greg Venables, the Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of South America, called the meeting together with the support of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN). “The Church, for the most part, has been in denial about climate change,” he said. “And unless we respond quickly we face not just the tragic outcome, but God’s judgment, since Scripture makes our responsibility clear. We have among us key gifted people to help us, and we pray that this will provide a much-needed point of unity as we move forward.”
This week’s conference in Lima was organised and chaired by ACEN member Dr Andrew Leake of the Diocese of Northern Argentina. It was addressed by Dr Santiago Reyna, Professor in Environmental Engineering at the National University of Cordoba in Argentina, and Canon Jeff Golliher, Director for the Environment and Sustainable Communities at the Anglican Communion’s Office at the UN in New York.
Delegates heard reports of the ongoing effects of climate change from each diocese in the Province before “lively discussions” about how they can response to the challenges together, Bishop Nick Drayson of Northern Argentina said. Bishop Nick is one of a number of “eco-bishops” linked to ACEN. “The effects of climate change are plain for all to see, so it is good both to understand the causes, and to consider the church’s response to probable tragedies that will result from it,” he said. “It is also imperative that the Church acts and speaks from a clear biblical position on the care of Creation and our place within it.”
Canon Golliher welcomed the enthusiasm and commitment shown by those present. “They were coming together as the church – as brothers and sisters in Christ, women and men, indigenous peoples, lay and ordained, including the top leaders of the Province – sharing their thoughts respectfully and honestly, searching for effective ways to fulfill the mission of the church,” he said. “They gathered in the Spirit of Jesus’ teaching about friendship: ‘you are my friends if you do what I command you …’”.
Canon Golliher stressed the importance of people working together to tackle climate change across the Anglican Communion. “People want to organise and act,” he said. “That’s notg something that can be done alone, individually. We need each other in order to do what needs to be done.”
In his message to delegates, Canon Golliher suggested action around five themes, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals; liturgy and worship – including the Season of Creation and Lenten Fasts; the “pivotal” role of women; humanitarian and disaster relief, including support for climate refugees; and regional and provincial capacity-building.
The Bishops from the Province, which covers Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, are preparing a report following the Conference.