Anglican Observer at the UN - Environment and Sustainable Development

On the Centrality and Urgency of the Environment and Sustainable Development in our Common Mission: An Appeal to the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Consultative Council

The Anglican Communion's Office at the United Nations gives Anglicans in every part of the world a unique and crucial opportunity. We can make our presence, our experience, and our concerns known to the only secular, international decision-making body that we have -- in fact, the United Nations is the ONLY substantial organization we have in the realm of government, politics, human rights, and economic development.

We should not let what we sometimes hear in the media about the UN mislead us. The UN has no other agenda than the goals and mission that member States bring to it. The UN is us. It is not separate from us. It is our voice, and the voice of every other church, every NGO, and every country that it represents. But this is true only if we make ourselves known. At our UN Office, this is our job and our ministry, but doing it requires more than me. It requires all of us.

We make the world that God has given us with what we bring to it -- our hopes and dreams, our concerns, sometimes our anger at the injustice we experience, and mainly, ourselves. The world is facing some very difficult problems now -- as large and difficult as humankind has ever known, and we are all in this together. If we don't remember this -- that we are all in this together -- then we will be in even greater trouble than we are now. It will get worse, not better. Let's make it better.

It is abundantly clear that of all the issues we face, those issues involving the environment and sustainable development are the most pressing, the most urgent for the world as a whole. I'm talking about climate change, water and food security, the deteriorating web of life, deforestation and desertification, to name a few, as well as issues of corporate responsibility and the nurturance of sustainable communities in every part of our Anglican Communion. Some parts of the Communion have taken up the vital mission of reducing our carbon footprint -- to reduce atmospheric gases leading to global warming. This should be our common goal. As I speak, the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development is meeting to discuss the possibility of a "Green Revolution" in Africa. I am here, but my staff and volunteers are there. Terribly issues are at stake: not only the need to have enough food, but how to grow it sustainably, and how to make decisions about
this that will be equitable for all people, for women, for the environment, and for communities. And food is inseparable from water.

If current trends continue, the dwindling supply of freshwater that we now have, will be privately owned -- corporately owned -- in the not too distant future. Is this what we want? Is that what the Kingdom of God looks like? Buying the water for our baptismal fonts from corporate owners? I'm not talking about water services -- filtration and so on -- but the water itself.

These issues are at the very center of our mission as Anglicans. Why am I saying this? Why is this the case? Why have we, at the UN Office, given these issues our highest priority? Because we -- people made in God's image -- have been changing the chemistry of the planet. We've been undermining, even destroying, the very fabric of God's creation. This is especially true in economically developed countries, but we're all involved. Slowly, without realizing the consequences of our actions, we have been creating our own world, a world that destroys the web of life that makes all life possible, including ours. We are consuming more and more without thinking about what we really want or need. We're taking without giving in return. We're creating poison, when we need food. And this has gone so far that it's making people sick. It's destroying our habitats and livelihoods. It's causing wars fought over water and food. It's making food harder to
find and water more scarce and increasingly undrinkable. It's morally wrong, unjust, and unhealthy. We are made in God's image, but the world we are creating is not.

We must change course. The church, all the churches, must play our part by showing a way out. We must exemplify it in our own lives. We must work together, listen to each other, help each other, and create what we, as Anglicans, have called "bonds of affection" like we've never known before.

All our work at the UN comes directly from this understanding and this faith. Women, families, and youth are at the center of what we must do -- what we must learn to do. And justice is at the heart of it all. We're not talking about one group or network being more important than another. We have more to do than we can even imagine. We need to strengthen our Environmental Network, and I'm hoping that every Province that has not yet chosen a representative will do so very soon. But we need to strengthen all our Networks too. We don't have much money -- this is true. Do we need more money? Of course we need it, but we need each other even more.

In all honesty, no one really knows what the future will bring. We don't know exactly how we are going to solve our economic problems, or climate change problems, or food and water problems. But we do know that at the United Nations, some of the best and most creative minds, and the most committed, thoughtful, ethical, and faithful people are coming together to help us through this difficult time. When I say "people," I mean "us" -- people like "us" who need "us."

Our UN Office is one, hugely important tool that we have to make our experience and concerns known in the world. I am appealing to you -- to every representative of every Anglican Province gathered here -- to take advantage of this opportunity, to learn to use our Office, so we can all work together for the values and vision that we all believe in as Christians. If we do this, then we can and will make a difference.

We've been hearing about the "environmental crisis" for a long time. It's upon us. We're in it already. This crisis was never only about "the environment," if by that we mean that God's creation is somehow completely separate from us, but not part of us. This crisis has always been about how we must live together -- all of us -- as faithful stewards -- as people who strive to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. As a sacred, beloved institution, the church exists not only in relationship to God, but also in relation to God's creation. It's not one or the other, but both. We simply cannot ignore this -- not any longer. Remember St. Paul writing to the Romans: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit."

As your faithful sister in Christ, I am making this appeal to you now. Help us do what needs to be done at the United Nations. In the past, we have made a difference at the UN. But now, the need is even greater. There is no other time than now.

Resolution 14.15: Anglican Communion Environmental Network

Resolved, 11.05.09

The Anglican Consultative Council supports the Archbishop of Canterbury in his thoughtful reflection and witness in the areas of the environment, the global economy and our support of vulnerable people and communities, and encourages Provinces:

  1. to weigh the environmental as well as the financial costs of all church activities;
  2. to assist transition to a carbon-neutral world by accepting, year on year, a five percent reduction in the carbon footprint of the Churches;
  3. to celebrate a liturgical “Season of Creation” as an integral part of the church’s yearly pattern of worship and teaching;
  4. to advocate access to drinkable water as an inviolable human right;
  5. to encourage faith communities to understand that energy is part of God’s provision, and that renewable energy should become the standard and fossil fuels be used only when renewable energy is temporarily unavailable;
  6. to provide means for Anglicans to develop competencies in environmental stewardship and theological reflection on the sustainability of creation and the appropriate use of science and technology;
  7. to advocate sustainable restorative economies with national governments, the United Nations through the Anglican Observers Office, and local constituencies.