Bishops at Lambeth Conference, joined Christian Climate Action protestors outside the conference to urge the Anglican Church to take a stand against the climate crisis.
Today was designated as environment day at Lambeth Conference and bishops from across the globe met at Lambeth Palace to carry out a symbolic act to mark a collective commitment to act on climate change. However, as the conference proceeded, protestors, including a number of Anglican vicars, gathered outside. Many bishops chose to stand alongside the protestors. Many of the bishops in attendance at Lambeth Conference were from areas deeply affected by the climate crisis, such as Bangladesh and Sub-Saharan Africa. Bishops prayed with protestors outside the building and together they held banners that read ‘Climate Inaction = Racism’.
The protestors were calling upon the Anglican Church, especially those in the global north, to use its moral voice to speak out on the climate emergency as an issue of racial justice. They were also calling on the Church of England to divest the estimated £55 million pounds that it currently has invested in fossil fuels, and to sign up to the Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty.
Rev Vanessa Elson, an Anglican priest from London, who is a member of the protest group Christian Climate Action, explained why she was outside Lambeth Palace pushing the Anglican Church to do more: “Climate change is a crisis that will affect us all, but we have brothers and sisters around the world who are already suffering horrendously. Lambeth Conference is a perfect opportunity for the Anglican Communion to be heard as a whole – and for those of us causing climate change to listen to those who we are afflicting. We have such little time left to prevent climate collapse, and the Church needs to be a clear moral voice on this, urging the government to make the changes needed.”
Bishop Shourabh Pholia, Diocese of Barisal, Bangladesh: “I wish to raise our voice to care for the creation. I am here because, despite producing only 0.56% of the global emissions that are changing our climate, Bangladesh ranks seventh on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate devastation, according to Germanwatch’s 2021 Global Climate Risk Index.
“It has been estimated that by 2050, one in every seven people in Bangladesh will be displaced by climate change. Specifically, with a projected 20-inch rise in sea level, Bangladesh will lose approximately 11% of its land by then, and up to 18 million people may have to migrate because of sea-level rise alone. Therefore, on behalf of Bangladesh, I want to stand with protestors to do justice to the earth and save the whole of creation.”
The Rt. Revd Richard Jackson, Bishop of Hereford, UK: “It’s has been a joy to meet so many Bishops from around the Communion at the Lambeth Conference. However, it’s been striking that every conversation has mentioned the effects of climate change in their dioceses – from the Arctic to the Pacific. This is an emergency and time is running out.”
Dr Murray Harvey, Bishop of Grafton New South Wales, Australia: “This year catastrophic floods, which have reached unprecedented levels, have decimated communities on the East Coast of Australia. In Lismore, a city in Grafton Diocese New South Wales, 14.5 metres of water destroyed the central business district and many residential areas, destroying the homes of over 5000 families as well as businesses, churches, schools and essential infrastructure. In some cases, the same communities were flooded again a few weeks later and then again only a few weeks ago. While these communities have experienced flooding before, the amount of water is unprecedented and the frequency of flood events is on the increase, making vast areas of the region uninhabitable due to the likelihood of severe weather events in the future. The Anglican Diocese of Grafton is committed to addressing the issue of climate change to ensure the safety of individuals and the flourishing of communities.
Bishop Peter Garang Akuei, Diocese of Nyamlel South Sudan: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. God made the land for the benefit of humankind, therefore we must stop destroying the environment and be good stewards of the land God gave us.”
The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel, VIII Bishop of Olympia, Washington State, US: “Of all the various concerns being taken up at Lambeth Conference none is more crucial than this earth’s climate emergency. Every issue discussed, every person affected, every position, every angle, every despair, every hope, is contained within this one issue. As one of my favourite singers Keb Mo sings in his sing Victims of Comfort, “what do we have to gain, everything. And what do we have to lose, everything. So let’s try together before we have to cry together, it’s too late to die together”. If we cannot be united on this fight, we will through our neglect be united in our death and we are hurtling toward that now. We can’t just talk. We must act now”
Bishop Joseph Maker, Pacong, South Sudan: “The unsustainable use and degradation of the environment and ecosystems by present generations goes against God’s intentions and orders.”
Bishop Alan Smith, St Albans, UK: “During our conference we’ve heard from bishops in many parts of the world whose dioceses have been badly affected by climate change. In Melanesia and Bangladesh rising sea levels have already been devastating. The push to move to carbon neutral is overwhelming and we all need to take concerted effort now to avert an even deeper crisis.”
Matt Brain, Bishop, Diocese of Bendigo, Australia: “In Australia many of us live in great comfort. This makes it easy to dismiss the experience of others who see the ‘groans of creation’ and how it impacts the most marginalised. Recent unseasonal rain and flooding, devastating fires and uncertain seasons are opening our eyes to the reality of what our way of life has done. Now is the time to cherish that which God entrusted to us – a world that is very good – rather than continue to cause it pain.”
Rt Revd Martin Gorick, Bishop of Dudley, UK: “I love life and I love the diversity of life on earth. Climate change is real and it is accelerating. As I speak at the Lambeth Conference with colleagues I hear it from every part of God’s world. We need to accelerate our action now so we and future generations can live.”
The Bishop of California, Marc Andrus, US: “The Episcopal Church is a seventeen-country province of the Anglican Communion, including the United States. Seven years ago, our Presiding Bishop and the President of our House of Deputies set three priorities for our ministry in common: Care of Creation, Racial Reconciliation and Evangelism. Over the past seven years we have been living into what it means to be a Church that understands the family of God as the family of all life. Our approach to Creation Care is through the lens of eco-justice: we stand with all vulnerable life. We know that Black, brown and Indigenous people often suffer the effects of climate change and environmental degradation the most. We know that species are disappearing from the Earth at a rate not seen for many thousands of years. As Episcopal Christians we strive to be in solidarity with life experiencing eco-injustice.”
Rt Revd Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford, UK: “The Lambeth Conference is proving a powerful reminder of the devastating impact that climate change is already having around the world, with still more deadly consequences to come unless we step up our commitment to tackling it. Heat waves and droughts in this country are one thing – but some of the delegates here are facing the reality of losing whole island communities, or of starvation and miss migration on an unimaginable scale. How good then to have this as our major focus on Days 8 and 11 of the Conference, as we seek God’s help and wisdom in rescuing the world He loves so much.”
Archbishop Moses Deng, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan stood alongside protestors to raise awareness of the “Save the Sudd Wetlands” campaign, in his home country. The campaign pushes against a canal being constructed in the region. Previous research has shown that the canal would have serious repercussions on the delicate ecosystem of the Sudd region, including negative effects on the aquatic, wild and domestic plants and animals, as well as interfere with the farming activities of the people in the region, potentially displacing them. Protestors held signs such as ‘Save our Sudd’.
Archbishop Moses Deng said: “We care about the climate because that is the mandate God gave us as human beings. In fact, the very reason why God created human is was to take care of the environment. Care of environment is one of the Anglican Five Marks of Mission, so it is one of the reasons why we do mission as Anglicans. In other words, as Anglicans we do mission because we want people to know that God gave them responsibility to take care of the environment on his behalf. So our mandate as a church to care for the environment comes from God.
At the end of the day, youth from the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) will be carrying out a prayer vigil, in protest outside the conference. Last week, the group wrote a letter to bishops ahead of Lambeth Conference asking for four asks, including the request that they “sever all remaining financial ties with fossil fuel companies”.
Rev Lizzie Cambell is a young curate in London and a member of YCCN: “We at YCCN believe that climate change isn’t just a problem for future generations to deal with. People are already suffering the effects of climate disasters, particularly in the global south where people are disproportionately experiencing loss and damage to their ecosystems. Our generation must act if we are to prevent or reverse further damage to Creation”.