Church leaders, lay people, activists, scientists and politicians gathered in Mangere on Saturday, 20 August for a Church Climate Workshop to explore what churches can do to address climate change. The workshop was an ecumenical event co-hosted by the Methodist Public Issues network, Sinoti Samoa and the Anglican Diocesan Climate Change Action Group.
Over 120 people were in attendance with Methodists, Anglicans, Catholics, Presbyterians and Quakers coming from across the country to discuss what their congregations could do.
Keynote speakers were scientist Professor James Renwick, former climate negotiator Dr Adrian Macey, Mangere MP Su’a William Sio and Pacific Climate Warriors spokesperson Koreti Tiumalu.
Matheson Russell, convenor of the Diocesan Climate Change Action Group highlighted what already has been done in some churches including divesting from fossil fuel companies, statements by the Anglican bishops, and local initiatives to make church buildings energy efficient.
But the emphasis of the workshop was on the need for more action, urgently required to limit the worst effects of climate change, especially for our Pacific neighbours.
Koreti Tiumalu, leader of the Pacific Climate Warriors inspired everyone with the prayerful, culturally based and courageous actions of her group. She detailed their venturing to sea in vaka near Newcastle, Australia to protest against coal mining expansion, and a prayer vigil at the Vatican during the COP21 proceedings, where the group of Pacific youth were able to give a fine mat woven in Tonga to Pope Francis.
University of Victoria Wellington environmental scientist James Renwick showed graphs that detailed the dramatic increase in global temperatures over the last 150 years. 2015 temperatures were the highest on record, and 2016 looks set to be even hotter. He says the time for action is now, rather than waiting a decade or more to implement real change. “If we continue at this rate, we could be facing an ice free Arctic in a few decades.”
President elect of the Methodist Church Revd. Prince Devanandan proposed that clergy start preaching on climate change, and emphasized the major need to re-orient the education programmes of the church – theological education, and parish level adult and children’s education.
He also interviewed Cardinal John Dew as a special discussion for the workshop, reflecting on the papal encyclical on climate change ‘Laudato Si’. They explored questions of dominion and stewardship, and the links between poverty and the environment. Cardinal Dew emphasized the gift of ‘Laudato Si’ for all churches, indeed for all peoples.
Cardinal Dew suggested it is time for advocacy from churches. While working in our own organizations and institutions, we can bring an ethical approach to press for action from business leaders and government.
The workshop gave opportunities for attendees to find out and partner with the practical work and advocacy of climate organizations Generation Zero, 350 Aotearoa, Christian World Service, Coal Action Network, and A Rocha, as well as our own Diocesan Climate Change Action Group.
Churches were also encouraged to sign up for the ‘Pray for the Pacific’ campaign, where participating churches will hold a special service either on September 4th or 11th to pray for the Pacific and start a conversation about rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and changing weather patterns.
Ms Tiumalu said: “We cannot build a Pacific Climate Movement without engaging our faith communities. Faith is pivotal to our people, and like the ocean, it connects us. In the face of the climate crisis, we need prayer to carry our people and faith to build resilience.”