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Environment in the spotlight

The environment - and the responsibilities of Christians for its wellbeing - came into sharper focus at General Synod this morning.

Lloyd Ashton   |  11 May 2010

The environment had its turn in the General Synod spotlight this morning.

As it has done, in some shape or form, at each General Synod since 1994.

This year the gist of the successful resolution was: that from next year on, all Episcopal Units be encouraged to mark Earth Hour (which, this year, was on March 27.)

Furthermore, the synod will ask Common Life Liturgical Commission to consider the inclusion of an Earth Sunday in the lectionary of this church.

Introducing the motion, Archbishop David, reminded the synod of the theology: we are living on God’s earth, he said, we are stewards, gardeners, overseers and cultivators of creation.

“Because of who is in charge,” he said, “this is an opportunity to pause and think. It is a theological and spiritual opportunity.”

He went on: “God is speaking through climate change – and we are called to act.”

His motion was widely supported.

Sepi Hala’api’api, for example – Tongan born, and living in Fiji – said the Diocese of Polynesia was already trying to care for those who have been traumatized by environmental catastrophe.

Last year, Sepi reminded the synod, the church was promoting bell-ringing across the province to mark ‘350 Day’.

But she said such a promotion wouldn’t work in Samoa. Bell-ringing is a sign of an immediate civic emergency there – and in a country still reeling from the effects of the Pacific tsunami, that might spook people all over again.

It quickly became clear that the Synod was happy to pass the motion – and impatient to move beyond words to action.

Kas Young (Wellington) told the synod that the church had been “dragging its feet where it should be leading.’

The Rev Peter Beck, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, spoke of the pressures from commercial interests on Canterbury’s water resources – and suggested that delegates to future synods should come prepared “to report what they have done for the planet.

“Don’t stand back,” he urged the synod. “Urgent, ongoing action is required, as well as prayer.”

Don Shaw (Manawa o te Wheke) said that every General Synod since 1994 had passed at least one motion about the environment.

The delegates present had gone home, and recycled their good environmental intentions at the succeeding General Synod – but with little actually achieved.

Some speakers were happy to endorse the motion – but concerned about overloading the lectionary with another special day.

The Rev Brian Dawson (Waiapu) said the church had arrived at the point where “ordinary Sundays were becoming quite extraordinary.”

The Rev Dr Tim Harris (Nelson) said he welcomed the theological underpinnings of the motion – and he reflected on living in South Australia for many years, where the effects of climate change and environmental degradation were evident.

He told delegates how the once-mighty Murray River had to be dredged each year to prevent it from becoming completely blocked by sediment – and of 3-year-old children who had never seen rain, and would dance for glee if they saw a puddle.

“We have a significant voice on these issues,” said Dr Harris. “And we have a vital voice.”

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