The heads of three religious denominations - The Episcopal Church, the Church of Sweden, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) - signed a joint statement "to celebrate our commitment to hope in the face of climate change."
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Church of Sweden Archbishop Anders Wejryd and ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson presented the document at the close of the first of a two-day environmental event, "Sustaining hope in the face of climate change" in Washington DC on May 1 and 2.
In the statement the religious leaders vowed, "It is a challenge to commit ourselves to walk a different course and serve as the hands of God in working to heal the brokenness of our hurting world."
The statement follows in full:
A statement to our Churches and to people of faith around the world:
The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) meet in Washington, DC this Easter season to celebrate our commitment to hope in the face of climate change. As Christians, we do not live in the despair and melancholy of the tomb, but in the light of the Risen Christ. Our resurrection hope is grounded in the promise of renewal and restoration for all of God's Creation, which gives us energy, strength and perseverance in the face of overwhelming challenge. For us, this promise is more than an abstraction. It is a challenge to commit ourselves to walk a different course and serve as the hands of God in working to heal the brokenness of our hurting world.
We must be clear: the scientific data is stark, as even today we experience the effects of climate change with catastrophic floods, lengthy droughts and historic rainfalls. Scientific research shows that climate change affects nearly all aspects of life. This includes the world's food security and humanity's ability to grow crops to feed a growing world population. Likewise, biodiversity is being destroyed and ecosystems undermined in many parts of the world as species become extinct. Water will continue to become scarcer, causing regional conflicts. Indigenous people will be forced to leave their traditional lives, as the poorest among us will bear the greatest burdens of the changing climate.
Our goal as Christians is not to ascribe blame but rather to examine our own actions and how they relate to God's will for us and for the created order, and to challenge our communities to a new way of being. We are painfully aware that those of us living in the northern hemisphere are responsible historically for the majority of greenhouse-gas emissions, the major contributor to climate change. Accordingly, we hold a particular responsibility for the changes in practice that will reverse the trajectory of atmospheric warming and safeguard the sanctity of what our God calls "very good." (Genesis 1)
Accordingly, we confess our own role in the crisis facing our world:
We confess that, even as God has entrusted the care of the world to human hands, we have treated this sacred trust as a license to consume rather than build up, to reap rather than to sow.
We confess that we have placed the interests of our own comfort and lifestyle before the good of creation and the wellbeing of others, particularly the most vulnerable among us.
We confess our own indifference to the wellbeing of the countless future generations who will bear the brunt of the choices we make today.
For these things and all else we have done to contribute to the desecration of the world God so loves, we repent and ask forgiveness At the same time, we draw hope - and a grounding for amendment of our own lives - in the growing body of evidence that a transition to a low-carbon society is both feasible and economical, and may help foster a good life. We commit to being the voice that challenges our communities to action: in the global community, in our own political contexts, and in our daily lives.
We commit to being the voice and hands that will witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and build the moral and political will that prompts action from our elected leaders. As international churches with congregations in many nations, we can and will use our global networks to promote a political framework to limit climate change, while in a unified voice we speak to the world about the urgency of committed climate work. We commit to leading a conversion of epic scale, a metanoia, or communal spiritual movement away from sin and despair toward the renewal and healing of all creation.
Specifically, we commit to:
1) Advocate for national and international policies and regulations that enable a swift transition from dependence on fossil fuels to clean, safe, renewable energy, and for economic systems that are fair and just.
2) Sustain an interfaith, international conversation around climate change and social and economic justice while working to keep climate change in the public's attention.
3) Encourage our faith communities to deeper theological reflection on the moral and ethical response to climate change, and then to make public witness about climate change through advocacy at the local, national and international levels.
4) Invite our communities to prayerfully consider how their own actions, lifestyle choices - particularly our energy consumption -- affect the environment.
5) Offer our communities continued opportunities to learn about climate change and the universal church's response to this crisis.
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Church of Sweden Archbishop Anders Wejryd
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson