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African bishops call for ecological justice to top agenda at 2020 Lambeth Conference

Posted on: September 28, 2018 5:25 PM
The Chair of ACEN, Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, with some of the Green Anglicans participants at the conference, including the Province’s environmental coordinator, the Revd Canon Rachel Mash.
Photo Credit: ACEN

A number of African Anglican bishops have said that “Good News for creation and ecological justice” should be placed at the top of the agenda for the Lambeth Conference in 2020. The bishops also say that it should be addressed by dioceses, provinces, and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA). The “urgent cry” was contained in a statement issued by bishops, women leaders and young leaders, “united by a passion for climate justice” who gathered at the Good Shepherd Retreat Centre in Hartebeespoort, South Africa, for a meeting of the “eco-bishops”. The event, organised by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, brought together participants from 17 dioceses in 14 African countries, who released “An Urgent Cry for Ecological Justice: Reclaiming the Gospel Imperative for All Creation” at th end of their meeting.

In a part of their statement addressed “to the Anglican Communion”, the participants say that their “urgent cry” to “our Dioceses, Provinces, CAPA, and Lambeth 2020 [is] that Good News for creation and ecological justice be placed at the top of the agenda. All of us are invested in this and all are part of the problem, whether in the north, south, east or west. Our Communion provides opportunity for global witness and resources to tackle this global challenge together.”

The call echoes discussions at the first two of several regional Primates’ Meetings that are being held to help shape the agenda of the Lambeth Conference, a gathering in Summer 2020, to which all Anglican bishops will be invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The environment and Climate Change was raised by Primates in Oceania and Africa when they met earlier this year.

In their statement, the participants begin by affirming and celebrating their heritage, including “Scripture, which beckons us to bear witness, with words and works, to the Good News of the redemption and restoration of all creation according to God’s purpose and will – Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.”

They go on to “acknowledge and lament . . . our failure to live true to the Gospel imperative to steward creation for the glory of God and for the flourishing of humankind and creation” and “our gravitation to the greed systems of the world that have resulted in gross inequalities and poverty, and continue to rape the earth, erode the dignity of humanity, and break genuine communion.”

They make a number of commitments, including “holding eco-theology trainings at all levels”, to include clergy, laity, guilds, and youth; and to popularize available ecological resources. They also say that they will make “budget provision for ecological activities in our Dioceses and encouraging such provision in our Provinces.”

They say that they will plant “indigenous and environmentally friendly species” and remove “alien vegetation which degrades the environment.” They also commit to “using church land productively, for example, for solar energy, and increasing green cover and bio-diversity.”

In her concluding remarks, the Bishop of Swaziland, Ellinah Wamukoya, the Chair of ACEN, said that the participants had reflected on “how the Church can adapt, mitigate and witness in the era of climate change . . . in the context of listening to some theological insights addressing what the Old Testament has to say on eco-justice; the connection between the Eucharist and the environment; and salvation and reconciliation with the environment as contained in the New Testament.”

She said that with the commitments made by the participants, “we will actively work against injustice to the environment. We will not take part in anything that harms the environment. Wherever the honesty of unity with the environment is in question, Jesus commands us to leave religious exercises that encourage disunity with the environment.

“I therefore commission you my brothers and sisters in the words of Erhard Arnold, to adhere to Jesus Justice that is better than that of all moralists and theologians, better than that of all socialists, communists and pacifists. For in it flows the sap of a living plant, the peace of the future, the strength of salt. Let us go and embrace the light from God’s heart that shines out as a beacon from the city on the hill, whose towers proclaim freedom, unity and surrender.

“Let’s go and do to the environment as we would like done unto us. Amen.”

The participants were drawn from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the Church of Uganda, the Province of Central Africa, the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Anglican Church of Tanzania, and the Anglican Church of Congo. In addition to bishops, a number of participants came from the Green Anglicans youth movement of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

  • Click here to read the full "Urgent Call from the conference participants.