From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: New England bishops call church to action in environmental crisis
Thu, 27 Feb 2003 16:10:57 -0500
February 27, 2003
Episcopalians: New England bishops call church to action in
by Jan Nunley
(ENS) Eleven Episcopal bishops, representing six New England
states, have issued a Pastoral Letter on the Environment, "To
Serve Christ in All Creation," calling on more than 250,000
Episcopalians to protect, restore and repair creation.
The letter is being mailed to all Episcopalians in Connecticut,
Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Accompanied by a list of resources, suggested practical actions,
and a proposed curriculum for churches to use in raising
congregational awareness of environmental issues, the letter is
designed to educate Episcopalians to be proactive stewards of
The letter coincides with an announcement by the attorneys
general of the New England states that they intend to sue
Christie Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection
Agency, for its failure to regulate power plant emissions of
carbon dioxide, as required by the Clean Air Act.
Pressure to meet commitments
"Our national leadership, as we write in this letter, is
'failing to acknowledge the urgency of the planetary crisis in
which we now find ourselves,'" said Bishop Suffragan Bud
Cederholm of Massachusetts. "Our letter calls for us to repent
of our greed and waste and commit ourselves to energy
conservation and the use of clean, renewable sources of energy.
All around the country we are seeing religious leaders beginning
to talk about our environment and one of the results is that we
are putting more pressure on our governmental leaders to meet
their commitments to us and to the future."
The pastoral confessed "our past complacency, ignorance and
neglect" of environmental issues and expresses regret at
"Christian teachings that claim or imply that human beings have
divine sanction to destroy God's creation."
"New Englanders are acutely aware of the environmental
challenges we face in our own small corner of the world, from
the collapse of fisheries to the loss of farmlands and wetlands,
from smog to acid rain," the pastoral stated. "Airborne mercury
poisoning, suburban sprawl, the loss of wilderness, overuse of
pesticides and other toxins, extinction of species--these are
just a few of the environmental hazards with which we must
The threat of global climate change to the region is a
particular concern of the pastoral. "In New England, climate
change may cause flooding in coastal areas, reduce the quality
of our region's fresh water, imperil agriculture, and increase
the outbreaks of infectious disease," it said. "Within this
century, New England may lose its maple, birch, and beech trees.
We face the loss of our spectacular fall colors and the end of
fall-foliage tourism, as well as the destruction of our region's
maple sugar industry."
Not just political issues
"Environmental issues are not just scientific, political, or
economic issues, but ones that are profoundly moral and
spiritual as well," the pastoral declared. "As Christians we
cannot remain silent....Is it not possible to recognize all
creation as our 'neighbor'?"
The pastoral urged Episcopalians to prayer, repentance and
action and "to realize that, through participation in community,
public policy, and business decision-making, we have corporate
as well as individual opportunities to practice environmental
stewardship and justice." It ended by calling for a "Provincial
Convocation on the Environment" in 2003.
In Washington, the Episcopal Church's Office of Government
Relations asked Episcopalians to contact members of Congress to
support legislation to protect permanently the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge, land sacred to the indigenous Gwich'in nation
of Alaska, most of whom are Episcopalians. Acting on resolutions
passed by the General Convention, the office also supports
legislation to increase fuel efficiency standards substantially,
and opposes the inclusion of Arctic leasing revenues in any
budget reconciliation bill.
"Episcopalians recognize that the assault on the
environment--from legislation to regulations both state and
federal--is so great that, as a church, we must declare a crisis
and focus on systemic change at every level, personal,
congregational and national," said John Johnson of the Episcopal
Church's Office of Government Relations in Washington, DC.
"Through the motivation of faith and the example of our bishops,
Episcopalians everywhere are actively working in support of
sensible and just environmental policies."
For an examination of the effects of global warming in New
England, see New England Regional Assessment Group, 2001:
Preparing for Climate Change: The Potential Consequences of
Climate Variability and Change. New England Regional Overview,
U.S. Global Change Research Program, 96 pp., University of New
--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News
Browse month . . .
Browse month (sort by Source) . . .
Advanced Search & Browse . . .