Today we have a special deal for you – two topics in one blog! That’s right, folks; two for the price of one! Well, maybe there really isn’t a financial cost but, as followers of Jesus, we know that there is a “cost” for faithfulness and commitment.
First up in our special deal: Happy Earth Day!! Today, Earth Day Celebrates its 46th birthday! Will it give away my age too much if I say that I remember the first Earth Day event in 1970? That celebration brought out more than 20 million people to show support for environmental justice. According to Wikipedia, currently more than 192 countries around the world participate in some sort of celebration designed to raise environmental awareness and foster both personal and policy change. Many good things have come of this annual reminder to care for our beautiful planet but, clearly, we are nowhere near done with the task.
When we consider whether or not we need to get involved in Earth Day activities, we need to remember the call to live into the 5 Marks of Mission and the promises we make when we reaffirm our Baptismal Covenant:
The Mission of the Church Is the Mission of Christ:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
From the Baptismal Covenant…
Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People I will, with God’s help.
When we care for our earthly home, we are also demonstrating our care and respect for those whose lives are impacted by our use of the planet’s land and resources. Many climate and resource policies directly affect the lives of individuals: shrinking land mass from rising ocean waters, water contamination from fracking and other pollutants, industrial corporate farming challenging the small, family farms with patented seeds, etc. Concerns for the Earth truly impact all of us.
The Episcopal Church has provided resources for you and your congregation to make your observance of Earth Day more effective.
- For bulletin inserts – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/04/04/bulletin-insert-fourth-sunday-of-easter/
- Creation Justice Ministries, centering on Care for God’s Creatures, and includes ideas for hosting an Earth Day Sunday. – http://www.creationjustice.org/creatures.html
- Earth Day Sunday with information about biodiversity and faith through Creation Justice Ministry’s #EarthDaySunday Resource: http://www.creationjustice.org/earth-day-sunday.html
- Earth our Garden Home: Creation Care Lessons for Children and Wild Faith: A Creation Care Curriculum for Youth, a curricula ideal for summer and fall, are available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Coe/e/B01CDBNEQA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1460475435&sr=8-1 Developed by Cynthia Coe of the Diocese of East Tennessee, an Episcopal Church Mark V fellow, the curricula are ideal for Sunday school and teen discussion groups.
- Remain informed about The Episcopal Church’s environmental advocacy efforts through the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN): http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/
- For more information, contact Jayce Hafner, Episcopal Church Domestic Policy Analyst, at email@example.com
Finally, take a few minutes to watch this video about Environmental issues and the Anglican Communion from Episcopal News Service: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/04/13/video-environmental-issues-and-the-anglican-communion/
Now, on to the next topic: the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, Zambia. After the initially-troubling news from January’s meeting of the Primates in Canterbury, we’ve all been waiting to learn what would come of this meeting. So many misleading headlines and misinformation spread like wildfire from that first meeting that many voices expressed their less-than-optimistic expectations of this meeting. First of all, I think it’s very important to acknowledge that the relationship between The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion was not the primary topic of conversation. Isn’t it good to remember that it’s not just all about us! Many significant resolutions were passed during the members’ meetings. Here’s the link to the article from Episcopal News Service (ENS) listing them all – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/04/18/a-summary-of-anglican-consultative-council-resolutions/
In recognition of Earth Day, let me refer you to three resolutions from the ACC for environmental stewardship:
Resolution 16.xx: Response to Global Climate Change receives and commends for study The World Is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice statement from 17 Anglican archbishops and bishops meeting in Volmoed, South Africa, February 2015; notes dire consequences of climate change for future generations and for all of God’s creation; recognizes global urgency of the crisis of climate change and its impact on the wellbeing of all people, especially the most vulnerable in societies; encourages Anglicans to join in pastoral, priestly and prophetic action, praying and fasting, including special fasts on the first day of each month and a Lenten “carbon fast”; designing and taking strategic actions toward sustainability and resilience in dioceses, communities and congregations; making changes to church investments to ensure visible support of a move towards a low-carbon economy; making energy efficiency and access to renewable energy a priority in all church operations; teaching the Fifth Mark of Mission in theological and church-sponsored educational bodies; urging political, economic, social and religious leaders to address climate change crisis as the most pressing moral issue of our day consistent with the United Nations’ 21st Climate Change Conference, Paris 2015; recognizing and supporting indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent in decisions concerning the environment and the wellbeing of communities; advocating for sustainable water, food and agricultural practices; requests provinces to consider appointing a contact person to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network to report to the network so that a full report may be made to the next ACC meeting.
Resolution 16.xx: Reducing ACC Carbon Footprint notes high carbon footprint occasioned by travel related to meetings of the Anglican Communion; appreciates current use of electronic meetings and commits itself to reducing its carbon footprint by further utilizing electronic meetings whenever possible; urges Finance Committee to direct monies saved by such meetings to the Anglican Alliance in their efforts address the world refugee crisis and human suffering as a result of conflict and drought.
Resolution 16.xx: Intentional Discipleship acknowledges with gratitude the work of the Anglican Witness Core Group accomplished in the last six years and particularly the work of advancing discipleship; asks all Anglican communities to adopt a clear focus on discipleship and produce resources for the work; commends report Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-Making: An Anglican Guide for Christian Life and Formation; requests Standing Committee to work with the Secretary General and Mission Department to effect a Season of Intentional Discipleship for a period covering ACCs 16, 17 and 18; and report to ACC-17 on progress.
Resolution 16.xx: Anglican Alliance affirms the work of the Anglican Alliance in promoting a Christian paradigm of relief and development that responds to God’s holistic mission in the world and upholds a vision of human dignity, flourishing, interdependence and self-reliance, strengthening the connectivity and sharing of prayer, capacity, skills and resources for development, relief and advocacy through the Anglican/Episcopal family of churches, agencies and networks as part of their intentional discipleship; encourages participation of all provinces (and ACC members acting as a link, focal point and ambassador) in the activities of the Anglican Alliance, reaching the most remote and marginalized, by promoting two-way communication (through a variety of media and technology) of good news stories and models of good practice from around the communion.
So, what did they decide about “us?” An article from ENS on April 18th reported:
And the council declined to endorse or take any action similar to the primates’ call in January for three years of so-called “consequences” for the Episcopal Church….The ACC did pass a resolution (dubbed C34) that received the Archbishop of Canterbury’s formal report to it on the primates’ gathering and affirmed the primates’ commitment to walk together. The resolution also committed the council “to continue to seek appropriate ways for the provinces of the Anglican Communion to walk together with each other and with the primates and other Instruments of Communion.”
While the Archbishop admitted that the majority opinion has not changed, he acknowledged “the unanimous opinion of the primates’ meeting was that the criminalization of LGBTIQ people is entirely wrong.” Here’s the link to Archbishop Welby’s report from the meeting – http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2016/04/archbishop-welby-briefs-acc-members-on-the-primates-gathering-and-meeting.aspx
Before the ACC meeting concluded, our members wrote of their experience:
April 19, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ in The Episcopal Church:
The 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council concluded today at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia, and tonight and tomorrow, we are saying farewell to our fellow ACC members from across the Anglican Communion and making our way home.
ACC16 was filled with joy, grace and love as close to seventy Anglican sisters and brothers in Christ, laypeople, priests and bishops, came together in prayer, Bible study, and worship. Our time together over the last thirteen days has visibly demonstrated, once again, our unity in diversity as the provinces of the Anglican Communion. Meeting fellow Anglicans from around the world in discussions, around the altar, in tea breaks, and at meals, we learned from each other what intentional discipleship across our differences means as the Body of Christ in the world today. We are thankful to God and to The Episcopal Church for this privilege of representing our church on the Anglican Consultative Council.
Because this ACC meeting was held in the shadow of the January Primates Gathering and Meeting that sought to restrict our participation as members from The Episcopal Church, we want to assure you that we participated fully in this meeting and that we were warmly welcomed and included by other ACC members. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby did report to the ACC on the Primates Gathering and Meeting on the first day of the meeting. Beyond that report, ACC members seemed to have little energy for answering the primates’ call for consequences, for discussing disagreements over human sexuality, or for taking up the call of Anglican Communion Secretary-General Josiah Idowu-Fearon to pursue the Anglican Covenant. Yesterday, in fact, a resolution that sought to pursue further consequences against The Episcopal Church was withdrawn just before it was scheduled for debate.
Instead our fellow ACC members and we were enlivened by our shared concerns about intentional discipleship, gender-based violence, climate change, religiously motivated violence, food security and other issues that affect all of us across the Anglican Communion. Morning prayer, bible study on the book of Ruth, and daily Eucharist shaped our days, and our opening Eucharist on April 10 with 5000 Anglicans from across the Province of Central Africa served as a joyful reminder that our identity as Anglicans is not primarily to be found in governing structures or documents but in our unity as the body of Christ gathered around one table. Our hosts in the Province of Central Africa had been planning for this meeting for two years and extended to us and to all of the ACC members and guests extraordinary hospitality, including organizing visits to local congregations on April 17 where we sang, danced and prayed for hours and were treated as honored guests.
On April 15, the three of us had the opportunity to meet informally with Archbishop Justin, Caroline his wife and members of his staff at Lambeth Palace. Our conversation was easy, open and honest, and we came away from the conversation with the conviction that while the Archbishop does not agree with the actions of our General Convention regarding marriage equality, he is firmly committed to our unity as the Anglican Communion and the autonomy of Anglican provinces. He expressed fervent hope that The Episcopal Church will continue to be committed to and involved in the life of the Anglican Communion. We are grateful to Archbishop Justin for taking the time to meet with us, for his candor, and for assuring us of his respect for us and for the Episcopal Church.
This was the first ACC meeting that both Archbishop Justin or Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Josiah Idowu-Fearon had attended—as both are relatively new in their posts. We found the process and program of the meeting, especially the opening days, to have been largely made up of reports by the staff of the Anglican Communion Office. We would have preferred more interactive time with our fellow ACC members as experienced at previous ACC meetings.
The work of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Communion Office is overseen by a Standing Committee, with a Chair and Vice-Chair, elected by the ACC members at each meeting. ACC16 elected a strong slate of two lay people, a priest, and two bishops to the Standing Committee who are broadly inclusive of gender, age and geography. Canon Margaret Swinson, a laywoman from the Church of England, was elected our Vice-Chair and Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Chair. We do note that the election of an archbishop as Chair of the ACC means that all four Instruments of Communion are now headed by a primate, perhaps illustrating a drift towards increased primatial authority in the Anglican Communion. In addition, despite previous ACC resolutions endorsing gender parity on Anglican leadership bodies, this meeting included 50 men and only 20 women members. The ACC as a whole, however, remains committed to the full participation of all of God’s people, especially women, youth and lay people in the life and work of the Anglican Communion. We thus are heartened by the ACC’s overwhelming support for exploring the possibility of an Anglican Congress by 2025 (Resolution D9) and for expanding youth representation on the ACC (Resolution D4).
We leave Lusaka with enormous gratitude for the Anglican Consultative Council, for our fellow ACC members from around the world, and for the generosity of our hosts here in Zambia. In our time together as sister and brothers in Christ we have once again witnessed the breadth and diversity of our global family of churches known as the Anglican Communion. We thank God for the many and different ways that Anglicans around the world are participating in God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation and for our unity as disciples of Jesus. As members of ACC we are firmly committed to the Episcopal Church’s full participation in the Anglican Communion.
Thank you for your prayers and your support while we have represented The Episcopal Church at ACC16. Please join us in continuing to pray for all the members of ACC as they travel home to share our unity as Anglicans participating in the mission of God.
Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine
Ian T. Douglas
Gay Clark Jennings
Episcopal Church members of the 16th Anglican Consultative Council,
Our members made a video expressing some of their thoughts about the meeting which you can watch here – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/04/21/video-episcopal-churchs-acc-members-reflect-on-positive-meeting/
Walking together as part of the Jesus Movement means building bridges and focusing on the issues that unite us – and there are many to embrace. We are reminded of this in the sermon by Bishop James Tengatenga at the closing Eucharist of the ACC meeting: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/04/19/bishop-james-tengatengas-sermon-at-acc-16-closing-eucharist/
For more information from the ACC meeting, see – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/tag/acc16/
I guess this week I am determined to show my age after all. Folk music and the work of singer-songwriters has been my genre-of-choice for many years. One of my favorite songs came to mind as I was writing this today, the song “Bridges” by singer-songwriter Bill Staines:
There are bridges, bridges in the sky,
They are shining in the sun,
They are stone and steel and wood and wire,
They can change two things to one.
They are languages and letters,
They are poetry and awe,
They are love and understanding,
And they’re better than a wall.
There are canyons, there are canyons,
They are yawning in the night,
They are rank and bitter anger,
And they are all devoid of light.
They are fear and blind suspicion,
They are apathy and pride,
They are dark and so foreboding,
And they’re oh, so very wide.
Let us build a bridge of music,
Let us cross it with a song,
Let us span another canyon,
Let us right another wrong.
Oh, and if someone should ask us,
Where we’re off and bound today,
We will tell them, “Building Bridges”,
And be off and on our way.
Let us be the “engineers” of the Gospel and let us go out and build bridges with the songs of our faith and commitment to our Master Engineer. Let us pray:
O Gracious Lord, you have called each of us into fellowship with you and each other. Help us to put aside our pride and arrogance, our agendas, our need for control to allow you to work in and through us for all of your people. May we be the bridge builders of your kingdom that we can be strengthened by our unity to face the challenges of reconciliation for ourselves and our planet. Keep us faithful, Lord, to the promises we have made to you in the presence of one another. We ask all this, in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Deacon Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee