Climate Change: a central concern in contemporary ministry

This year, I am sharing in ministry with a colleague who has a brief for fostering discipleship amongst young people, with adults open to fresh expressions of being church, and for strengthening community connections in our local area. She is my guest blogger for this post.

Thanks to Pastor Amy Junor for thoughtful words about the impact of climate change and centrality of this issue in ministry today.

The morning of Climate Change Pastoral Care training, we stood in a circle, acknowledging the traditional owners of the country on which me met. Smoke swirled up from the ceremony we had just shared. I stood with my hands being squeezed by two strangers, and I squeezed back my acknowledgement of their presence. We were outside, under beautiful trees – preparing, to ask together how we care for ourselves and others in a world where climate change is an encroaching issue.

Later in the morning, I was text-messaging members of my faith community about the statistics we were reminded on in the morning session. I told them I was feeling emotional, grieving again at the grim picture before us. I entered a session afterwards where we were given 10 things that ministry agents can do to help care for people experiencing climate distress. Number 8 was to live in a well-functioning and connected community where the burden can be shared. I told my people that I am grateful that we can speak about these things together.

In the afternoon, we listed to voices from our nearest neighbours in the pacific islands and what climate change means for them. We heard from indigenous voices. We spoke together about how we hold the information about our situation and respond helpfully and practically. I drove home that evening in the middle of an enormous rainstorm – the wild world we are called to care for refusing to be ignored. The first line of Psalm 19 played on repeat in my mind.

Fast forward a month, I am in a Generation Next conference in Canberra where attendees consider the health and wellbeing of young people. I ponder the anxiety about climate change that is clearly being announced to us via the actions of our young people (e.g. climate strikes). I wonder how we nurture the generations we are yet to see in a way that equips them to deal with the stress and pressures they will experience in a changing climate.

Two weeks later I am completing a sacraments course in Canberra Region Presbytery. I think about how the natural world plays such a central role in how we worship God. I wonder what it would sound like for our churches to share sacraments specifically acknowledging and committing to our shared stewardship of the planet.

Fast forward to Synod 2019 at Knox Grammar School in Sydney. As the Synod considers a proposal for action on climate change, one of the speakers asks all the people at Synod who are under 40 to stand. He gestures around the room and says ‘all these people are…’ – well, I won’t repeat here what he said exactly because it is an expletive. I wished strongly that this was news, but those exact words are frequently used in self-reference by my peer group (20-40-year olds) when they speak about their future considering climate change. I message my faith community and tell them about the proposal. We celebrate that a body of the wider church recognises the issues and corporately chooses to act.

I text messaged my youth group, asking what they know and think about the issue. Two girls respond; ‘VERY concerned about our climate + the environment in general’ (yes, one of them capitalized the ‘very’).

I have a friend who has been part of our congregation and is one of the most environmentally responsible people I know. She lives in a way that means her footprint on the planet is minimal, with very little waste and very much recycling. She said to me at one point as we spoke about climate action; ‘we don’t need one person to do this perfectly, we need everybody to be doing this imperfectly”. This has stayed with me as I have processed these stories.

In fact, another of the best ways we can care for people (and young people especially) is to be actively modelling proactive (if imperfect) care for the creation around us.

Maybe for you the first step is changing an aspect of your lifestyle to be more sustainable. Maybe for you it is working with your congregation to minimize the waste generated by your Sunday morning service. (There are resources relating to local congregations at http://ecofaith.org/ and https://sa.uca.org.au/justice-advocacy/environmental-advocacy/ea-resources)

Perhaps you want to start by contacting Common Grace to learn more about what you can do. (https://www.commongrace.org.au/climate_change)

You may even write a letter to your local MP informing them of changes that could be made in your neighbourhood to combat climate change.

These stories and others like it are far from over. I hope that we as followers of Jesus can step forward gently, squeezing hands as we acknowledge and grieve the reality and commit to hopeful action together.

Amy Junor, July 2019

See also https://johntsquires.com/2019/07/09/advocacy-and-climate-change-growth-and-formation-treaty-with-first-peoples-synod-2019/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/06/18/the-dna-of-the-uca-part-ii/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/05/05/to-care-for-honour-and-respect-the-creation-we-need-to-stopadani/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-1/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-2/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-3/

https://johntsquires.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-4/

Australian Religious Leaders support renewable energy

I have joined more than one hundred and fifty religious leaders across Australia as a signatory to an open letter to the Prime Minister about the climate crisis. The letter has been released today, 25 June 2019.

We are writing because we have #NoFaithInCoal and we need to grow our use of renewable energy sources. We asking Mr Morrison to show real moral leadership by taking bold action along the lines that the school strikers have demanded:

Stopping the proposed Adani coal mine

Committing to no new coal or gas projects in Australia

Moving to 100% renewable energy by the year 2030.

You can read the letter at https://www.arrcc.org.au/no_faith_in_coal?utm_campaign=no_faith_in_coal&utm_medium=email&utm_source=arrcc

To care for, honour, and respect the creation, we need to #StopAdani

Elizabeth and I attended the #StopAdani climate crisis rally outside the Federal Parliament this morning. The crowd present was estimated at around 5,000 people. There were people from churches, schoolchildren, union members, as well as members of many community organisations and climate change action groups participating.

Author Richard Flanagan addressed the crowd in his inimitable poetic manner, marking the issues and telling the truth:

“Jabbering ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ in a hi-vis shirt does not make you a leader”

“The Franklin was more than a river. Adani is more than a mine.”

“Was there hope with the Franklin!? Yes, there was. Is there hope with Adani? Yes, there is!”

Two young female school-age climate strikers stirred the crowd with pointed rhetoric and a call to action. “Change is never implemented by the oppressors. Change must always be demanded by the oppressed.”

Other speakers from various organisations urged the large crowd to hold fast, stand firm, and work for change. “We are on the right side of history. We will Stop Adani.”

Adrian Burragubba, an elder of the Wangan and Jagalingou people of the Galilee Basin in central western Queensland, reminded the crowd that Adani does not have the consent of the First People of the area, whose ancestral lands, waters and culture would be destroyed by the mime if it went ahead.

Paul Kelly sang two song, including “My island home”, and then Bob Brown brought the rally to a climax with his clarion call: “There will be no divine intervention. The onus is on us. And we will take it.” He noted that there was “a bigger crowd here today, than Bill Shorten will have in Brisbane, than Scott Morrison will have, whenever he has his campaign launch.” Popular opinion is clearly against the development of this mine.

Why is it important to protest against this mine, and to petition our leaders to ensure that the Adani mine and associated works do not go ahead?

The Great Barrier Reef. The mine will see ships travelling through this unique World Heritage Area each year, risking ship groundings, coal and oil spills; and it requires further dredging within the World Heritage Area causing water contamination, destruction of dugong habitat, impacts on Green and Flatback turtle nests, and more.

The Great Artesian Basin is our greatest inland water resource, covering 22% of the Australian continent. Putting control of all that land, and water, into the hands of a foreign commercial enterprise, is foolhardy. The mine will take at least 270 billion litres of groundwater over the life of the mine; put aquifers of the Basin at risk; and dump mine polluted wastewater into the Carmichael River.

It will threaten ancient springs and 160 wetlands that provide permanent water during drought, and leave behind 6 unfilled coal pits that will drain millions of litres of groundwater, forever. Adani’s associated water licence allows unlimited access to groundwater for 60 years for free. Putting control of all that land, and water, into the hands of a foreign commercial enterprise, is foolhardy.

The Great Coal Swindle. Pollution from burning coal is the single biggest contributor to dangerous global warming, threatening our way of life. In Australia, ‘black lung’ disease has recently re-emerged among coal miners, with at least 19 workers in Qld identified with the disease. The coal from the Carmichael mine will be burnt in India where 115,000 people die from coal pollution every year. Developing renewable energy is more responsible for the environment and more energising for the economy.

The Great Employment Myth. There are 69,000 tourism jobs related to the Great Barrier Reef, which rely on a healthy Reef. There are thousands of farming jobs in the inland areas under threat. The Adani mine and associated works will pollute, despoil, and degrade both the land area and the associated offshore seas, impacting hugely on the Reef. Adani claims the mine will bring employment opportunities to the region, but in reality there will be far fewer jobs if the mine goes ahead. The mine will decimate local employment opportunities.

The Great Commercial Swindle. Adani companies are under investigation for tax evasion, corruption, fraud, and money laundering. Nine of the 20 Adani subsidiaries registered in Australia are ultimately owned by an entity registered in the infamous Cayman Islands tax haven. That is beyond the regulatory reach of the Australian Government.

Adani Group companies have an appalling environmental track record with a documented history of destroying the environments and livelihoods of traditional communities in India, and failure to comply with regulations. They will do the same in Australia if the mine goes ahead.

There are other reasons—environmental, economic, political—that mean we should not go ahead with the mine.

And, for me, there is a fundamental theological principle undergirding this issue: God’s good creation is in our hands; we are called to act responsibly, to care for, honour, and respect that creation. That means that we act to lessen our carbon footprint, restructure our energy infrastructure to grow renewable sources, and refresh our national policies so that we prioritise the planet over personal preferences.

The Uniting Church has affirmed, “We seek the flourishing of the whole of God’s Creation and all its creatures. We act to renew the earth from the damage done and stand in solidarity with people most impacted by human induced climate change. Government, churches, businesses and the wider community work together for a sustainable future.” (See https://uniting.church/visionstatement2019/)

The Church has issued a Vision Statement which sets out the following desired Key Actions:

1. A national climate policy that drives down greenhouse gas pollution, including no new coal or gas mining in Australia and investment in renewable energy.

2. Just and sustainable transition for communities currently dependent on fossil fuel industries for employment, towards more environmentally sustainable sources of income.

3. Equitable access to renewables for all Australians.

4. Policies which support people and nations that are most vulnerable to climate change.

There is No Planet B. We have no choice but to #StopAdani.

See also https://wanganjagalingou.com.au/our-fight/

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/stopadani/pages/1816/attachments/original/1497939723/factsheet20.06.17.pdf?1497939723

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/lockthegate/pages/5429/attachments/original/1521596433/Adani_Water_Factsheet.pdf?1521596433

https://www.unitingjustice.org.au/environment

“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (4)

Fr Glen Loughrey, an Anglican priest from Melbourne, led the afternoon panel discussion at the seminar giving consideration to the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’. He spoke an acknowledgement of country and lamented that this had not been done earlier in the seminar. In Australia, he maintains, the underlying issue for caring for the environment, is caring for and respecting the people who have long cared for the land.

Until we deal with the question of the land—whose land it is, how we go about retuning it to the original owners—Mother Earth will not enable us to deal with the problematic situation we are in. Respect the land on which we live and show our deep care for the land and its people; once we demonstrate this, it will be possible to move ahead.

The programme for the seminar includes a prayer from Aboriginal tradition, attributed to Burnum Burnum, whichncan be read at https://theviolethourmuse.wordpress.com/tag/burnum-down-the-house/

Dr Cristina Lledo Gomez, who teaches at Charles Sturt University, affirmed this approach of prioritising the place of indigenous people. As a migrant, she resonates with the experience of displacement and cross-societal existence. Within the church, there is a sense that we have been traumatised by the increasing environmental damage that we are learning about. Harnessing the resources to move beyond this trauma is an important learning we can undertake, learning from the way that indigenous and migrant peoples have done this.

The encyclical moves people of faith beyond a consideration, solely of their spiritual dimensions; the notion of integral ecology presses for an integrated human development in spiritual, social, sexual, psychological and environmental dimensions, as we work together for the common good. A fine model to use in doing this is See—Judge—Act. Look at your experience; analyse and explore what this means, and draw in the Christian tradition, the resources of scripture and work of subsequent centuries; before moving to undertake specific actions.

David Marsh is a farmer who has delved deep into the ethics of land care, and whose work in developing an ecologically sustainable farm has recently been recognised with a national award. He describes what he has done, as “not intervening and let the world get on with doing what it does”. He spoke of his appreciation of those who had already presented and urged us to press on with “more moral thinking about irrigation” and the consequences of how it is structured.

Then Philippa Rowland, from Catholic Earthcare, spoke about the importance of the dialogue between science and faith. They are “the two wings of one bird”. She has a sense that we are currently in the narrowest part of the hourglass; there is much that is being squeezed into the one space. We humans have become clever at a rate much faster than the rate of development of our wisdom. We need to allow the knowledge of where we are, connect more fully with our discernment of what is needed.

The growing sense of urgency goes alongside a patient working at what is essential. Technology and vision need to work hand-in-hand. Food, clothing and water are critical. Policy change needs to be encouraged and driven further. A federal parliamentary group focussed on climate change is now more active, driven by a group of independents. That is cause for hope.

See also

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-1/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-2/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-3/

“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (3)

In the afternoon session of a seminar today, we are continuing consideration of the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’. Fr Bruce Duncan explicates the theology of the document: the glory of God is human beings, fully alive, in accord with the famous parable of Matthew 25. Is this Vatican 2, part two? … or, Reformation, part two?? An intriguing suggestion …

Certainly, this document challenges the long tradition within Christian theology, to place human beings at the centre of our world, to regard humanity as the crowing pinnacle of creation, and to foster the sense that “we need to take care” of the creation. On the contrary, we are a part–an integral part–of that creation, interconnected, no less and no more important than the other creatures and ecosystems of this world. This, to me, is the big change–and big challenge–that this encyclical provides.

Bruce explained that groups of eminent scientists and social scientists have worked with the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace in the preparation of the document, which is thus grounded in the very best of current scientific understanding. At its launching, a group of Muslim scholars published their parallel statement in accord with Laudato si’. The orientation is to foster human wellbeing across, not just denominations, but other world religions. It is about what we all have in common.

Dialogue with indigenous peoples, right around the world, is also integral to the approach taken in the document. This is a highly important matter in South America, in particular in relation to the region of the Amazon—the area of the world from where Pope Francis comes. The indigenous contact with nature is vitally important if we are to shape a sustainable future.

Emily Evans (who works with the National Council of Churches in Australia) then offered an ecumenical perspective. Churches have been working towards justice, peace, and the integrity of creation for four decades. These are three aspects of the one reality; three perspectives on the one unified matter.

Numerous meetings of the full World Council of Churches and its justice commission have reaffirmed and developed this commitment from all the member churches. Ongoing actions and statements have furthered the work of seeking conversion about how we relate to, and live within, the created world. The WCC is now calling people across the world to join in a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, to engage in transformative actions together.

There are three intersecting and overlapping journeys involved: via positiva, celebrating the gifts; via negativa, visiting the wounds; and via transformata, transforming the injustices. These are particularly in view each year during the Season of Creation, which runs from 1 September to 4 October (the Feast of St Francis).

Of particular relevance to the theology of the document are these sections:

68. This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world, for “he commanded and they were created; and he established them for ever and ever; he fixed their bounds and he set a law which cannot pass away” (Ps 148:5b-6). The laws found in the Bible dwell on relationships, not only among individuals but also with other living beings. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and withhold your help… If you chance to come upon a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting upon the young or upon the eggs; you shall not take the mother with the young” (Dt 22:4, 6). Along these same lines, rest on the seventh day is meant not only for human beings, but also so “that your ox and your donkey may have rest” (Ex 23:12). Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

69. Together with our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly, we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes: “by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory”, and indeed, “the Lord rejoices in all his works” (Ps 104:31). By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for “the Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Prov 3:19). In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish. The German bishops have taught that, where other creatures are concerned, “we can speak of the priority of being over that of being useful”. The Catechism clearly and forcefully criticizes a distorted anthropocentrism: “Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man [sic] must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things”.

See also

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-1/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-2

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-4/

“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (2)

Continuing the sessions at a seminar where we are considering how Christians across various denominations might respond to the encyclical of Pope Francis

Professor Quentin Grafton, from the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy at the ANU, spoke about water: the need to provide water and to ensure the sustainable management of water resources and sanitation services, for all human beings.

Currently there are 2.1 billion people without access to safely managed drinking water and 4.5 billion people without access to safely managed sanitation services. Well over 4 billion people experience lack of access to a safe water supply on a periodic basis. We westerners take for granted our continuing supply of clean water and flushing toilets; we are in a highly privileged situation.

Around 700 children are dying EVERY DAY from diarrhoea, linked to unsafe drinking water. That’s already an unacceptable situation—an immediate challenge to the way that we manage water supply and sanitation services.

Yet, our future food production is imperilled by the steady reduction in water in underground aquifers in so many places around the world. We are making the problem worse, not addressing the underlying issue.

Prof. Grafton said that the claim, “it’s just the drought”, totally misrepresents the situation that we are facing in Australia. Irrigation takes a steady supply,of water, but as there is a steady decline in input, so the residual water available to “the environment” (and our consummated usage) declines—at an alarming rate. Our federal policy makers appear to be resolutely deaf to these facts.

Water Justice is what is needed. This entails the fair and just distribution of water; a recognition of multiple values, not just market values; full participation by all people in decision-making relating to water; and the development of long-term sustainability.

Laudato si’ paragraphs 30 and 31 affirm that access to safe drinking water is a basic human right, and this right will be crucial in securing the future of humanity.

30. Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.

31. Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century

Prof. Grafton said that our commitment to one another means that we need to choose to stand in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable in the present, and to ensure a future for generations to come. This entails truth—humility—respect—wisdom—honesty—love—bravery (these are “the seven grandfathers, as articulated by an indigenous group in North America; see https://www.nhbpi.org/seven-grandfather-teachings/)

He ended by quoting St Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Then, Prof. John Williams of the ANU (and the Uniting Church) spoke about food and clothing. He began by declaring: “What you eat and what you wear, has more impact on the creation than anything else you do.” We can see the impact on our current lifestyle in this diagram:

Agriculture has a huge impact on our biodiversity; it changes land use and impacts the supply of fresh water; it disturbs the valuable nitrogen and phosphorous cycles of the planet. We. Are choices about our agricultural practices; those choices are based on our values. Our faith feeds into the development of those values.

The projected increase in demand for all foods is 102%; that will require changes to our current practices. Achieving real sustainability in food production means going beyond an approach that simply minimises environmental impacts. That means a global transition, with significant social and ecological changes. There are powerful forces opposing the changes required. There is also indifference amongst far too many policy makers.

The vision that Prof. Williams presented, is for sustainable governance and management of ecosystems, natural resources and earth system processes, to ensure we are operating within a safe place globally.

His closing words were: “The creation, as a whole, is indifferent to the wellbeing of any particular individual person living within that creation. God, however, is a creative, loving God, who has joined with us within the creation and has an intimate interest, with us, in solving these issues.”

See also

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-1/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-3/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-4/

 

“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (1)

“Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

Elizabeth and I are participating in a seminar today considering how Christians across various denominations might respond to the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato si’.

The full encyclical can be read at http://m.vatican.va/content/francescomobile/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

A summary of its contents is provided at https://www.catholic.org.au/commission-documents/bishops-commission-for-justice-ecology-and-development/laudato-si/1711-encyclical-summary/file

The day opened with words from Aunty Dianne Torrens from the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, who shared something about her faith and how the land is so important for First Peoples.She brought words from her husband, Tim, and reflected on the changes that are noticeable in our environment today.

Professor Tony Kelly then spoke about developing “an integral ecology”, the focus of the day. Fr Kelly offered this striking observation: “No one has all the answers—that is part of the grace of today.” Searching for those answers, talking together and learning together, is the way that we experience the grace of God and, through that, develop a helpful response to the changes that are occurring.

He read from his work, An Expanding Theology: Faith in a world of connections. He observed that our very existence itself is a gift; we all share in the communion of life, and so “this new sense of the mystery of the cosmos is often accompanied by a stirring of ecological conscience as we wonder at the universe has brought forth life in all its precious variety. With such an expansion of consciousness in science and moral concern, faith is temporarily tongue-tied.”

Fr Kelly posed some critical questions: “How can our Christian vision encompass the wonder and responsibility that a new sense of reality inspires? How can faith make, and live, these new connections?” Our response to the environmental changes draws people together, bridging ecumenical and interfaith, cultural and national boundaries.

As human beings, we are all called to work together in addressing this situation. In this regard, he acknowledged that the First Peoples of Australia had long lived with this awareness, with regular connections and co-operation across the lands of the various nations that have existed here for millennia.

The full text of An Expanding Theology is accessible at

https://resource.acu.edu.au/ankelly/preface.htm

The day is continuing with further speakers, panel discussions, dialogue moments, and informal fellowship.

See my further blogs at

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-2/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-3/

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/laudato-si-mi-signore-4/