Committee 15: Environmental stewardship & care of creation

creation care

I believe climate change and environmental degradation constitute the greatest threat to human well-being, so environmental stewardship and care of creation is definitely something the church should be paying attention to! We should lead the way as a model of ethical behavior. We should speak in the public square. And yet, we have not yet made this a priority. The resolutions headed to committee 15 address these vital topics.

As I’ve said many times, I’m not enamored of resolutions that merely express wishes or hopes. Let’s do something, shall we? I’d like to see a firm, binding commitment for all church organizations to be carbon neutral by 2030 or sooner. This will need to be a canon. Anything else is just talk.

On to the resolutions.

 

A021 Create a Care of Creation Loan Program for Episcopal Dioceses. Full text. Likely vote: NO, unless amended — and if the referenced document is provided in a professional Spanish translation to Spanish-speaking deputies and bishops prior to a vote.

This resolution references a document for which no translation is provided in Spanish, and so it should probably be ruled out of order.

If passed, this resolution would set aside $3 million of Episcopal Church funds to create a “loan program for dioceses to utilize as a funding resource for primarily capital projects to advance the goal of bringing the Church into carbon net zero compliance by 2030.” This is a good use of funds, and if a low interest rate is charged, the money can support capital projects at the congregational and diocesan level, while diversifying Episcopal Church asset investments. My primary quibble with this resolution is that it asks a bunch of volunteers (Economic Justice Loan Committee) to oversee the loans. That’s unreasonable. Let’s give this work to an Episcopal Church staffer, and if we need to hire someone for the task, so be it. And before we vote on this, we need our Spanish-speaking siblings to have the same information as English speakers. It’s one thing when the explanation isn’t fully available in Spanish, but it is entirely unacceptable to not have a core document mentioned in a resolution available in Spanish.

 

A022 Support the Anglican Communion Forest Initiative. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution is out of order, because it refers to a document that is not provided.

This resolution says that we like a resolution passed at the Anglican Consultative Council. This would be hard to pull off, because the resolution is not provided. We simply can’t endorse a thing we haven’t seen. It seems that the resolution concerns something called the Anglican Communion Forest Initiative, about which no information is provided — and there is no explanation for this resolution. Even if we knew what this thing is, the resolution merely affirms and commends things.

 

A084 Join The Communion Forest Initiative. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution, like the previous one, asks the General Convention to endorse a resolution passed by the Anglican Consultative Council, but the resolution is not provided. So this resolution is also out of order. Even if the resolution were provided and it were fantastic, the resolution merely commends and affirms. If the Anglican Forest Initiative is important, let’s concretely join in the work — once we all know what it is.

 

A098 Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution is also out of order, because it asks General Convention to approve something called the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, but this document is not provided. Even if it were provided, the resolution merely encourages, acknowledges, and reiterates, while asking for $40,000 to update a website. That’s a hard no.

P.S. For $40,000 I will offer a webinar to resolution-writers to teach the techniques of useful resolution writing, focusing heavily on the provision of referenced documents.

 

A099 Task Force for Indigenous Justice To Increase Advocacy Groups Reflecting Creation Care and Environmental Justice Ministries. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

If passed, this resolution would create a task force that “will work to promote the recognition of sovereignty for Indigenous People in the negotiations of the United Nations climate summits (the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the COPs).” For this work, the resolution requests $30,000. While I am entirely in support of indigenous people in every nation achieving sovereignty if that is their wish, it’s not clear to me from the included explanation or from the resolution what a task force like this would do within our church to bring this about. A group of interested persons could collect and share resources without the red tape of a task force.

 

B002 Build Eco-Region Creation Networks for Crucial Impact. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution asks for $150,000 to create “Eco-Region Creation Networks.” These would be regional groups of dioceses, based on shared ecosystems or watersheds, and these networks would “link people, projects and properties dedicated to nature-based solutions to slow climate change through preserving and restoring plant communities appropriate to their bioregion; modeling transformative agriculture and food systems; and tackling issues of water quality and supply.” If bishops want to get together with nearby dioceses and do this work, I encourage them to start today! There’s no need for General Convention to authorize collaboration and conversation. A six-figure budget line isn’t necessary for zoom meetings or even some small regional gatherings, nor is it enough to build transformational agriculture systems or to tackle issues of water quality. So I think this work could be fruitful, but it does not need to depend on action of the General Convention. As I’ve said before, you can just do a thing!

 

B005 Bold Churchwide Action toward Net Carbon Neutrality by 2030. Full text. Likely vote: NO, unless amended.

As written this resolution claims to be “bold” in moving our church toward net carbon neutrality by 2030. As I said above, I’m all for this. The resolution creates several networks to talk about this work, but there is no accountability for getting the work done. The one and only sure way to make sure we have net carbon neutrality in 2030 is to require it canonically. We currently require Episcopal organizations (Canon I.7.1) to be insured, to have an annual audit, and to follow standard business methods, among other things. It’s not a stretch to require organizations to be net carbon neutral by January 1, 2030. If we just encourage, commend, affirm, and create committees, this won’t get done. So if we’re going to spend the $240,000 this resolution imagines, let’s make sure we actually do something. If vestries and diocesan conventions know that a canonical deadline is looming, they’ll get serious.

 

C029 Supporting a Clean Energy Future. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution would have the General Convention endorse “the use of carbon-free nuclear energy for replacing the use of fossil fuel, which, when achieved, will reduce pollution of the environment, reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, and increase the reliability and resilience of the power grid year-round and during extreme weather events.” I agree with all this. But endorsing something does nothing to change the reality on the ground. So what could we do? We could commit to buying electricity generated from nuclear power in areas where that option is available. Or something. But this is another resolution endorsing but failing to act.

 

D029 Commit to the 30×30 Initiative for Biodiversity. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

This resolution includes documents for which no translation is provided in Spanish. And the resolution appears to ask us to adopt a document that is not provided.

This also appears to be another resolution that asks the General Convention to, in this case, adopt a report that is not provided. The resolution refers to something called the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, but the only document that is provided relevant to this appears to be one called Preparations for the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework. But that is not the framework, right? The burden for untangling all this cannot be on deputies and bishops. The proposers needed to provide documents or clear guidance on where to find them in the included materials (provided in English only). Aside from that, the resolution has General Convention “directing” dioceses and provinces to take action, which is both ineffective and outside the bounds of the General Convention’s authority. The way to make dioceses do something is to put it in a canon.

 

D030 Create a Task Force in Imagining a Church Grounded in Creation Healing as Christian Ministry. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

After affirming some teaching about creation care and repentance (which I agree with), the resolution calls upon every church and diocese “to ground every planning or business meeting or convention with prayers inviting an examination of conscience regarding the specific impact of the decisions of such meetings upon our kindred creatures who are dispossessed, deprived, and disregarded, and to provide and model forms for such examination of conscience”. While it’s a lovely sentiment, it’s entirely unrealistic to think that every single meeting is going to do this. Let’s set realistic goals and then include some accountability. Change happens one step at a time, so let’s set an achievable goal and then make sure we do it. Passing pie-in-the-sky resolutions won’t change reality, and change is what we need.

The resolution also seeks to create a task force to the tune of $60,000 primarily to “consider what the church must look like if we put our vocation to love all our neighbors and to be repairers of the breach at the center of our work.” Well, yes. But Jesus already told us to do that, and if we aren’t listening to our Lord, we’re not going to listen to a task force.

 

D050 Resolution to Complete the Journey to Net Carbon Neutrality by 2030. Full text. Likely vote: NO.

Documents are referenced in the explanation for which no Spanish translation is provided.

There is some real energy toward pushing our church to be net carbon neutral by 2030. I’m 100% in favor of this, but none of the resolutions we’ve seen do the one thing that’s going to make it happen: require net carbon neutrality in the canons. This version of the resolution directs dioceses and congregations to get to work. Great! But without teeth, nothing much will happen. The resolution also asks for $225,000 for staffing to develop and manage a “resource hub” online in support of this work. I’m not sure what they imagine, but I think interested persons could start building a website right now without waiting for the blessing of General Convention.

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