ACEN participants hear about the effects of mining at La Oroya, Peru, on the high plateau of the Andes. THE REV. KEN GRAY

Creation is in crisis. Anglicans must act.

This report from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) was issued after their meeting Aug. 4 to 10 in Lima, Peru. The Rev. Ken Gray, ACEN secretary, is rector of Church of the Advent Anglican Church in Victoria, B.C., and chair of the Greening Anglican Spaces Task Group for the Anglican Church of Canada.

ACEN participants hear about the effects of mining at La Oroya, Peru, on the high plateau of the Andes. THE REV. KEN GRAY
ACEN participants hear about the effects of mining at La Oroya, Peru, on the high plateau of the Andes. THE REV. KEN GRAY

The effects of climate change and human-induced environmental degradation continue to accelerate in all regions of the Anglican Communion. This became starkly clear as participants in the Anglican Communion Environmental Network’s meeting in Chaclacayo (Lima), Peru, shared reports from their Provinces and met with Anglicans in the Diocese of Peru and other Peruvians engaged locally with severe environmental challenges and community initiatives.

“What emerged were stories of widespread exploitation of resources with little regard to the needs of existing communities and of generations to come”, said ACEN convener Bishop George Browning of the Anglican Church of Australia. “A lack of awareness and in many cases unwillingness among corporations, governments and consumers to take action were also evident. We concluded that more than ever before, the churches of the Anglican Communion must respond urgently and creatively to the effects of climate change. We must also challenge polluters and state authorities to clean up and stop things getting worse. And we must scrutinize and transform our own relationship with God’s creation.”

ACEN representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Madagascar and Peru described how deforestation and associated environmental degradation continue at a frightening and devastating rate, often at the expense of indigenous communities who have undertaken subsistence farming for centuries. Participants looked at mapping exercises and satellite pictures of forest areas in the Gran Chaco region of northern Argentina, which show vast tracts of land that have been bulldozed and are used for the grazing of beef cattle and the growing of soya beans, and then abandoned as worthless.

“We journeyed into the high plateau of the Andes,” said Bishop Browning, “and our conversations with local residents and workers revealed how decades of mining and smelting without due regard to human and non-human health and well-being have polluted air, earth and water and left children with levels of lead in their blood that far exceed acceptable levels set by the World Health Organization. We learned how families are obliged to hold their need to work and earn a living alongside their deep health concerns and how many wish mining and smelting operations to continue in the area but with increased investment in mitigation, safer practices and processes, and training in alternative income-generating activities.”

Other major issues that emerged during provincial reporting and local engagement in Peru included water, food security, corporate responsibility, the plight of the world´s oceans, and the increasing reality of environmental refugees. ACEN representatives from Bangladesh and Polynesia reminded participants of the immediate danger of rising sea-levels which will lead to the displacement of millions of people in the years to come. “Will the countries who are neglecting to take critical action in preventing climate change be willing to give sanctuary to the millions who will become its refugees?” reflected Bishop Browning.

Participants shared information about provincial and diocesan initiatives in the Communion responding to many aspects of the worsening environmental crisis, often alongside ecumenical partners and in interfaith settings. The meeting recognised these to be a faithful and hopeful working out of integrated mission in the world and its communities, and developed an Action Plan to extend and build on what is already happening and urge the Communion and its churches into action and prayer, identifying appropriate funding and staff time wherever possible.

ACEN will also ask all Anglican churches to engage in advocacy. Bishop Browning explained: “We looked at the message from African faith leaders gathered in Nairobi in June this year to the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and found it to be both inspirational and challenging. In our Action Plan we are commending it to the Provinces of the Anglican Communion and all faith communities as a model for similar statements supporting a fair, binding and ambitious outcome from COP 17.”

ACEN’s meeting was held at the Franciscan Inmaculada Concepción retreat centre in Chaclacayo to the east of Peru’s capital city Lima. “We are tremendously grateful to the Bishop of Peru, the Rt Revd Bill Godfrey and to the Diocese of Peru, its Dean, staff, priests and ministers who so generously welcomed and hosted us”, said Bishop Browning. “Each day of our meeting began with Bible study and prayer prefaced by personal accounts from priests and lay ministers faithfully engaged in holistic mission in the cities, suburbs, shanty towns and villages of Peru. In a very real way they reminded us that as Anglican Christians we have inherited a story which speaks Good News to all of creation and that what we discover in Jesus Christ draws us together, moving from a world that divides us to a Gospel that gathers us. As Bishop Bill Godfrey has reflected to us, the healing and care of creation constitute a moral imperative and are our common calling by God.”

A full report of ACEN’s meeting including a detailed Action Plan will be available by the end of September 2011.

The Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) was formally recognised as a Network of the Communion by the Anglican Consultative Council in 2002. ACEN aims to give greater visibility to, and serve the co-ordination of, Anglican advocacy for responsible environmental stewardship; promote local initiatives to protect the environment; and educate Anglicans as individuals and as communities to become better stewards of creation. The Network has a membership of provincial representatives, each nominated by their governing structures, and a broader membership of Anglican individuals and bodies and ecumenical partners with ministries or interests in environmental issues.

For more information email the Rev. Ken Gray, ACEN secretary, or call him at (250) 474-3031.

To read more about the ACEN, visit their website.

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