Letter to the House of Bishops – December 15, 2006

To the House of Bishops, Anglican Church of Canada
December 15, 2006

Dear Rt Rev Bishops

We are writing with concern about the church’s response to the challenge of climate change and other serious problems of environmental deterioration. We take the warnings from scientific experts seriously. We believe that societies, especially fossil-fuel-guzzling industrial economies like our own, must change. We are aware that environmental damage is occurring from the load of greenhouse gases already produced. Undoubtedly those who work with aboriginal people in the Canadian north, and with Third World peoples especially in Africa, are even more aware of the harmful consequences of our lifestyles.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund supports international development work and partnerships. Fine. But so much of what we do in Canada, especially through our massive greenhouse gas emissions, causes the very problems that development projects can scarcely touch on.

Today’s Anglicans do not want to repeat the cultural genocide of our ancestors’ time in dealing with aboriginal peoples. But our use of fossil fuels and our industrial processes generally cause environmental damage in the north. The polar ice is melting, glaciers retreating and the very existence of such animals as polar bears at risk. Traditional hunters whose livelihood depends on them are in turn threatened. Those of us who are not First Nations ourselves would not want to cause such harm to traditional aboriginal life, but the way we live and work inevitably does. Should we change?

Moreover it is a simple fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource, and we (the industrialized countries) have almost entirely used it up. Canada has now turned to the extraction of oil from the tar sands, thus using up the last of the relatively accessible oil and gas to extract the less available, and causing massive pollution of water systems in the process. First Nations’ fisheries in the Athabaska are among the casualties. Canadians, as other people, will have to turn to renewable forms of energy at some point. Would it not be wiser to do so before even more pollution, and more radical climate change, have set in? People living in the Pacific Islands and Bangladesh are particularly at risk from the projected rise in the oceans from climate change. What responsibility do we as Christians have towards them? What can we learn from biblical teachings on stewardship and accountability? Clearly the harmful practices we engage in violate basic teachings that “the earth is the Lord’s.” Does God really care so much for us, of all His creatures, and so little for others? What right do we have to use up so much, and leave so much pollution, at the expense of the needs of future generations?

We believe that people can grow and change, even Anglicans! We recall the important role that our church played in such social reforms as the role of women. Evangelical Anglicans in England were leaders in the movement to abolish the slave trade and slavery in the nineteenth century. The Canadian church courageously, and at great cost, addressed its role in residential school abuses. In all those cases people went back to basics, identified what was wrong, ascertained what needed to be done, prayed and acted. They found great resources in the scriptures, the lives of the saints and the prayers of their fellow Christians in so doing.

We are pleased to see that the Church of England has taken a strong position on climate change (reported as “Climate chaos” in The Journal December 2006 p 18). We believe that it is urgent for our church to address the threat from our context. We ask you to consider how to initiate a process of rethinking. We will be happy to take part in it and have some ideas of how to start. Can we meet and talk?

Sincerely yours

 

Phyllis Creighton, Joy Kogawa, Diane Marshall and Lynn McDonald

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