At the close of last week's international climate consultation in Fiji, a worldwide group of Anglicans pledged to work harder for climate justice.
The consultation was hosted by the Diocese of Polynesia and organised by the Anglican mission agency United Society.
The society’s global relations director, Rachel Parry, said that “While affirming the current direction and areas of mission with which the United Society is engaging around the world, this consultation allowed us to focus more deeply on mission priorities in the different contexts from which delegates came, and highlighted some particular areas on which we will endeavour to focus in the coming three years.”
“The next few months will see these priorities sharpened and begin to be shaped into practical responses and shared areas of collaboration.”
Anglicans from 19 provinces were represented at the consultation, to “understood more about the need to redouble their efforts to engage with climate justice,” the United Society said. Fiji was chosen as the host venue because it is experiencing severe consequences of global warming – some 676 villages in the country are at risk of flooding due to rising sea levels.
The Church of England’s Bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, said that the consultation had taught him “the connection between man, God and the environment.”
“These are things that I knew with my head, but now I understand them more with my heart because of being in this context and meeting people from this part of the world,” he said. “[I’m] understanding for the first time the real implications of climate change upon real people’s lives.
“I’m clear that it’s something we have to address creatively and imaginatively. We’ve got to bend our backs to do something to meet our challenges. And I hope that people across the world within the Anglican Communion and in the Diocese of Lincoln can work hard to plan and work to try to play our part in reducing global warming.”
The Archbishop of the West Indies, Bishop of Barbados Dr John Holder, commented: “We realise that we are all connected in this world. We all face the same problems in terms of climate [and] in terms of human abuse. And I think what we’ve done in this gathering is to commit ourselves to make [the United Society] stronger and to make our world and our church far better.”
The host of the consultation, Dr Winston Halapua, the Bishop of Polynesia and one of three Archbishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia, described the consultation as “historic”, adding: “In the last few days, issues were brought forward from all the different contexts.
“We shared them, and in the midst of them we tried to find God’s will; where is Jesus in our whole engagement in God’s mission? It’s so wonderful as we are here as members of the Anglican Communion. . .
“We are no longer the same people as when we started. When we gather together in Christ, we move together. When leave this place, we are renewed people for the mission of God.”
Rachel Parry said that the consultation participants “all learned a great deal about the far-reaching and wide-ranging impacts of climate change. The church is ideally placed to help raise awareness because it is involved in education and community at all levels.
“The consultation emphasised sharing from different contexts, so during the week we heard about the huge challenges facing Christians in many regions. This developed our mutual understanding about a number of issues, which is vital if we are to work together more effectively as a global church in jointly tackling related issues of justice.
“Delegates agreed there was a particular need to encourage children to acquire an affinity with the environment, as well as an opportunity for the church to help communities learn about land management to mitigate against the destructive impact of climate change.”