Resolution B023 Passes General Convention!

Nice piece here by Lynette Wilson of Episcopal News Service. Reposted from ENS:

Convention moves to balance ‘environmental’ and ‘economic’ justice

By Lynette Wilson | July 20, 2012 4 Comments |

Kivalina is the only village in Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough region where people hunt the bowhead whale, a cultural tradition and dietary mainstay that has been severely hampered by the thinning ice. Once, hunters camped on the ice for weeks at a time; now, they stay only a few days and mostly look for whales that have strayed from the herd. This historic photo shows a whaling team and was provided courtesy of Janet Mitchell.

[Episcopal News Service] In the past 20 years the state of Iowa has experienced three crisis-levelfloods, the latest, in 2008, put nearly a third of the state underwater.

“It was a 500 year flood, causing $60 billion in damages,” said the Very Rev. Cathleen Bascom, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in downtown Des Moines, adding that the frequency of the floods “is what opened our eyes to the climate change issue.”

The cathedral, which sits on High Street along with the four other remaining “old churches,” weathered the storms, but the low-lying areas – mostly home to low-income residents and immigrants – “suffered the most,” she said.

“One of the economic justice issues I was made aware of following the flood was that the levee above Birdland [a low-lying neighborhood in north Des Moines] was allowed to remain weak, so it broke,” said Bascom, adding that areas downriver, including the city’s financial district, have experienced re-gentrification. “So the water, then, was not a threat to higher income properties.”

Bascom, an Iowa deputy to the 77th General Convention in Indianapolis July 3-13, testified before the National and International Concerns Committee in Indianapolis on behalf of a resolution to address environmental justice (B023).

In a post-convention telephone interview with ENS, Bascom said one of the things she really liked about the resolution was its call to action, which implores institutions, the church, dioceses and congregations “to support to implementation of grassroots, community-based solutions to climate change,” including ecological restoration, promoting food sovereignty and making local adaptations toward resilience. The latter being something the cathedral has done already by mitigating storm-water runoff.

Replacing dilapidated asphalt with permeable pavement and a filtration system, the cathedral has the capacity to keep 12 swimming pools worth of water out the storm-sewer system and out of the river, Bascom said. The cathedral also planted a garden, including native-plant species like prairie grasses, that is irrigated by the water. The garden also serves as a “welcome mat” and place of respite for nearby workers and a conservation laboratory for urban children, she added.

In addition to B023, General Convention passed Resolution D055, which advocates for public policy to reduce climate-change emissions. Both B023 and D055, in addition to previous general convention resolutions, form the basis for the church’s environmental and economic justice work in the coming triennium.

“To me, two of the issues about which the church is called to be more and more visible and proactive are climate change and poverty/economic inequity,” said Michael Schut, the Episcopal Church’s officer for environmental and economic affairs. “Resolution B023 calls us to ‘resist the development and expansion of ever more unconventional, dangerous, and environmentally destructive sources of fossil fuel.’”

“That resistance may mean we need to be out on the streets in peaceful protest of such efforts. Such resistance obviously answers the call to be more proactive about climate change. But the resolution recognizes that in such resistance the church must support those who might lose their jobs in the transition from a fossil-fuel-based economy to a clean energy economy… which answers the call to address poverty.”

Balancing the need to protect the environment while simultaneously working to alleviate poverty, however, can often leave Episcopalians in the trenches feeling at odds, especially in states like Pennsylvania where the unemployment rate is high and where generations have made a living working in the mines and the oil and gas fields.

“Finding the social justice right mix representing the church’s good stewardship of the environment and its love and concern for people and to mitigate poverty is not an easy path,” said Joan Gundersen, who served as a deputy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and on convention’s National and International Concerns Committee, in a July 17 interview with Episcopal News Service.

In Pittsburgh, the diocese has a “double concern,” Gundersen said: “Of course we are interested in the environment, and making sure that whatever is done, is done safely, but we are also cognizant of the high unemployment rates and the hunger for jobs.”

Pittsburgh sits over the Marcellus Shale, an enormous natural gas reserve lying a mile beneath the surface and covering an area from New York through parts of Pennsylvania into Ohio and West Virginia. Given its location near major population centers in the eastern United States, some see the Marcellus as ripe for development.

In 2010, the city of Pittsburgh voted to ban corporations from drilling for natural gas, including hydraulic fracking, within the city limits. The diocese, which includes rural, high-unemployment areas like north Cambria, hasn’t taken a position on fracking and hasn’t had a “deep conversation” on the matter, said Gundersen. In addition, General Convention discharged a resolution to “oppose dangerous fracking.”

During a hearing on Resolution D055, Gundersen testified that selling the resolution in Pittsburgh might not be difficult, but the same wouldn’t hold true in surrounding rural areas.

“When you’re in the countryside where 39 percent of the population is unemployed and these fuels are their livelihood,” she said. “… How do you sell it in the rural depressed coal mining areas?”

Unlike in West Virginia, where the state receives a bigger cut of the profits generated from resource extraction, which it can use to repair roads and for environmental restoration projects, Pennsylvania where infrastructure and regulation have lagged doesn’t receive the same revenue. And depending on where you are in Pennsylvania, reaction is mixed regarding environmental contamination, the extent and its existence, she said.

A natural gas processing plant, Gundersen added, is poised to open along the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, bringing at least 2,000 jobs to the area.

Resolution D055′s explanation states: “… Other costs of fossil fuels include oil spills, contamination of ground water with mercury and other pollutants from coal mining, and accumulation of improperly stored radioactive waste as a result of hydrofracking. There are many concomitant health care costs from our exposure to these pollutants…”

It continues, “The continued use of fossil fuels is not sustainable.”

Also during the testimony, the Rev. Barbara Schlachter, a visitor to convention from the Diocese of Iowa who helped found Iowa City Climate Activists, called attention to the real costs of low-cost fuels, as pointed out in the resolution’s explanation, and called for support for renewable energy sources. Schlachter said reducing reliance of fossil fuels is a “moral issue.”

“What is going to happen to our environment, our atmosphere,” she asked. “It’s [climate change] has already come to some parts, and it’s coming here.”

During his testimony on B023 before the committee, Austin Swan Sr., a deputy from the Diocese of Alaska, and a resident of Kivalina, an Inupiaq island-community where climate change threatens the community’s continued existence, shared his experience.

“I am a lifetime resident of Kivalina, born and raised there. When I was a child, we had probably two-thirds more land and now have 35 percent of that land, all this loss due to erosion mostly in the last four or five years,” he said.

And despite living in an environment rich in natural resources, including the world’s largest zinc mine located upriver, Swans said: “We still live in third world conditions. Where does that money go?”

Proposed by Alaska Bishop Mark Lattime, the resolution resolves “That the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church stands in solidarity with those communities who bear the greatest burdens of global climate change: indigenous peoples, subsistence communities, communities of color, and persons living in depravation around the world…”

The village of Kivalina sits on the tip of a six- to eight-mile-long barrier island – a quarter-mile at its widest – some 80 to 120 miles above the Arctic Circle between the Chukchi Sea and the Kivalina Lagoon in Alaska. It is home to about 400 people and reachable only by plane and boat in the summer and plane, and snowmobile in winter.

Of the 200 native coastal communities in Alaska, varying degrees of erosion affect about 180 of them, according to the federal government’s General Accounting Office. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said that Kivalina is one of three native communities in need of relocation.
As explained in the resolution’s explanation, Kivalina “has been ever-increasingly at risk because of global climate change. Loss of sea ice has led to increased coastal erosion, land failure, and unreliable, if not perilous, conditions for the practice of subsistence hunting.”

In 2008, the village of Kivalina filed a lawsuit against 24 oil, electricity and coal companies, including Exxon Mobile Corp., Conoco Phillips and BP. The claim alleges that, as significant contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions, the corporations have exacerbated global warming, thereby accelerating erosion in Kivalina and leaving the island vulnerable to storm surge and flooding.

Further, the resolution’s explanation stated, that Shell Oil was set this month to begin oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea, “the deepest source of Inupaiq food, cultural identity and spirituality alike.”

California Bishop Marc Andrus, who endorsed B023 and sat on the National and International Concerns Committee, said the people of Kivalina “identify with the island and its surroundings,” and to move is not as simple as moving from Alabama to San Francisco, as he did when he became bishop.

Not unlike with the Guarani, a formally nomadic indigenous tribe in Brazil that has lost much of its ancestral land, for the people of Kivalina to move, “is a kind of death,” he said.

(Through a companion relationship with the Diocese of Curitiba in Brazil, the Diocese of California has supported the Anglican Church of Brazil’s efforts to stand with the Guarani.)

While at convention, hearing the stories of the Guarani and the situation in Kivalina, who are in “much more extreme” situations, reminded Bascom, she later said, of a lecture Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams once gave called “Renewing the Face of the Earth: Human Responsibility and the Environment,” in which he said:

“It is possible to argue about the exact degree to which human intervention is responsible for these phenomena … but it is not possible rationally to deny what the inhabitants of low-lying territories in the world routinely face as the most imminent threat to their lives and livelihoods.”


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Proposed Resolution for the 77th General Convention: Climate Justice for all God’s People and all God’s Creation.

Title: The Episcopal Church commits to Climate Justice for all God’s People and all God’s Creation.

Resolved, the House of ________ concurring, That the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church stands in solidarity with those communities who bear the greatest burdens of global climate change: indigenous peoples, subsistence communities, communities of color, and persons living in deprivation around the world; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, to organize and advocate for local, state, federal, and international policies to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions, that such policies be based on the best available scientific consensus, and that they provide tangible benefits to overburdened “frontline” communities (those already experiencing the impacts of climate change) and “fence-line” communities (those suffering in body and spirit for their proximity to the extraction and processing of fossil fuels); and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, to work for the just transformation of the world’s energy beyond and away from fossil fuels (including all forms of oil, coal, and natural gas) and toward safe, sustainable, renewable, community controlled energy, and that fossil fuel workers and their families be supported during the transition to a “post-carbon” society; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church to resist the development and expansion of ever more unconventional, dangerous, and environmentally destructive sources of fossil fuel, including, but not limited to: mountain-top removal coal mining in Appalachia, expanded coal strip-mining in the Intermountain West, offshore oil-drilling, especially in the Arctic, ongoing “tar-sands” development throughout North America, and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church to support the self-determined aspirations of communities around the world, who, like the Iñupiaq Community of Kivalina, Alaska, having emitted minimal amounts of carbon and having received negligible material benefit from fossil fuel consumption, nevertheless bear the brunt of climate-change impacts; and be it further

Resolved, That the 77th General Convention calls on congregations, institutions, dioceses, and corporate offices of The Episcopal Church, including Episcopal Relief and Development, to support the implementation of grassroots, community-based solutions to climate change, including, but not limited to, adaptations to improve local resilience, to build local food sovereignty, to support ecological restoration and economic re-localization.


Especially since 2004, the Iñupiaq community of Kivalina has been ever-increasingly at-risk  because of global climate change. Loss of sea ice has led to increased coastal erosion, land failure, and unreliable, if not perilous, conditions for the practice of subsistence hunting.  Climate change is the latest of environmentally mediated “historical traumas” to descend upon Kivalina in the name of progress and development—these include the ongoing water and fish pollution from the worlds largest zinc mine (the Red Dog Mine), and the community’s near annihilation through a narrowly defeated project of nuclear hubris, known as “Project Chariot”.   In July 2012, Shell Oil is slated to begin oil exploration of the Chukchi Sea—the deepest source of Iñupiaq food, cultural identity and spirituality alike.  Recognizing that Kivalina is but one community which exposes the violence of climate change, the Kivalina Epiphany Church, through this resolution of its Mission Committee, cries out for “climate justice” for all God’s People and for all God’s Creation.

We affirm past efforts and commitments of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (2006-B002 Response to Global Warming, 2009-D035 Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, 2009-D014 Environmental Justice, 2009-C070 Memorializing the Genesis Covenant, 2009-C064 Endorsement of the Earth Charter, 2009-C012 Scientific Integrity and Environmental Policy, 2009-C011 Governmental Policies for Environmental Stewardship, 2009-A155 Alleviation of Domestic Poverty). We especially take heart in the Bishops’ Pastoral Teaching on the Environment, adopted in Quito in September of 2011 (page 52-54 in “the Blue Book”), which calls on the Church “to work toward climate justice”; we submit this resolution in faithfulness to their pastoral leadership.

As indigenous followers of Jesus, we are emboldened by the 76th General Convention’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery and regard new and continued fossil fuel exploration and extraction as a contemporary manifestation of that evil Doctrine, abiding by the very same logic of “manifest destiny.” Such practices add insult to injury when they are carried out in proximity to already vulnerable populations, like Shell’s oil exploration in our Chukchi Sea. We recognize that we are but one of the many climate-vulnerable communities around the world.  It is clear to us that the dominant global culture is in need of a dramatic overhaul—the scope of which may be difficult for those who “hold authority” to imagine, let alone enact—yet as Christians we are called not simply to imagine but to make God’s Kingdom incarnate.

We recognize and affirm the urgent aspirations of environmentally vulnerable communities around the world. To such communities the Episcopal Church has a duty of solidarity and Christian love.  We believe that such networks of compassion and support within the Body of Christ may be our last best chance at survival. We call upon the Episcopal Church at every level to live into its prophetic voice for climate justice as part and parcel of our baptismal commitment to “justice and peace among all people” and to “respect the dignity of every human being.”


You may view the Episcopal Digital Network’s coverage of Kivalina HERE.

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Brazil’s Anglican Church works with indigenous people in their fight for land, existence

Reposted from Episcopal News Service

By Lynette Wilson, September 16, 2011

[Episcopal News Service] Guarani Chief Pedro Alves lives with his people in Tekoa Vy’a Renda Poty, a tiny village owned by the city of Santa Helena in the southern Brazil state of Paraná, where the city provides for their basic needs.

During the last 35 years or so, the Guarani, once a self-sustaining nomadic people in what was then their sub-tropical, deeply forested, biodiverse aboriginal lands, have been driven into dependency with the rise of industrial agriculture in Brazil and the accompanying construction of Itaipu, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam.

“At the time when the dam was built, our forests, our natural land, everything was destroyed, so we had nothing at all,” said Alves, in Portuguese, through an interpreter.

Before construction of the dam, the Guarani lived in an area of protection near what is now the lake, or reservoir.

“Itaipu took us away from there and gave us an area of 231 hectare [570 acres], and at that time there were only 19 families. And then more families joined, and there wasn’t enough room to grow crops.”

From occupying more than 500 acres, the tribe today – 25 families numbering 85 people – lives on less than 10 acres in the village, 75 miles from Itaipu. They live in houses made of large sticks, the roofs reinforced with discarded plastic materials. Water drips from a communal spout.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Guarani living near the planned hydroelectric plant were forced to relocate to reservations, sparking problems since studied and documented by academics: a rise in population, conflict over the reservation boundaries, religious conflicts and rejection by other indigenous people who in prior years had settled on reservations.

The Rev. Luiz Carlos Gabas, an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Curitiba, visited Alves’ village three years ago. After that, with the assistance of diocesan Bishop Naudal Gomes, Pastoral Anglicana da Terra, or Earthly Anglican Care, emerged as a way for individuals, parishes and the diocese to work on issues of climate justice and the rights of indigenous people, peasants and the landless.

Earthly Anglican Care also is supported by a companion relationship between the Diocese of Curitiba and theEpiscopal Diocese of California and facilitated by Michael Tedrick, an Episcopal Church-appointed missionary from the California diocese.

“We see the relationship between their struggle and the struggle of the indigenous in North America, the struggle of the small farmers and their families and that of documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States,” Tedrick said. “It is in our struggles that we gain a deeper understanding of our likeness.”

Earthly Anglican Care’s purpose is not to evangelize, said Gabas in Portuguese through an interpreter, but to understand indigenous peoples’ problems and advocate for their rights. Indigenous peoples, specifically the Guarani, have rich spiritual lives and beliefs that have inspired others, including leaders in the liberation theology movement.

“The Guarani people have a utopian dream, and that is to walk eastward in search of the ‘promised land,'” said Gomes. “The Indians themselves call it the ‘harmless land.'”

Gabas explained further: “When the Portuguese and Spanish arrived, the Indians started to lose their territories. Before the foreign occupation and the violence, they visualized a harmless land where no harm could exist.”

In fact, this vision of a utopian “promised land” inspired liberation theology, and liberation theologian Pedro Casaldaliga, who worked with indigenous people, created the Missa da Terra sem Males, or Mass of the Land Without Evil, based on this dream, Gabas added.

Largely seen as a construct of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, liberation theology has been used widely as a foundation for social change by religious groups worldwide. With the rise of conservative leadership in the Roman Catholic Church, the church has moved away from liberation theology.

“What I have learned from secular people working with both the landless and the Guarani is that while there is great gratitude for the solidarity the [Roman] Catholic Church has shown to both those groups and the poor in the past, the new advocates standing courageously with the landless and the Guarani are the Episcopal Church and other partners,” said Diocese of California Bishop Marc Andrus, who visited the Guarani in April 2011.

“I saw it very, very concretely in Cascavel, where the local parish led by Gabas is working in a parallel way with both groups and very powerfully bringing the two disempowered groups together, the Guarani and the landless, to begin to make common cause together … That is a new thing that really is being mediated by the local parish in Cascavel so that’s fantastic.”

Spiritual life

In Alves’ village, as in most Guarani villages, the prayer house is at the center of life.

“They are a very spiritual people,” said Paulo Humberto Porto Borges, a professor at the Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Paraná, speaking in Portuguese through a translator. “They are understood as some of the most spiritual people of the Americas. And the Guarani’s cultural resistance is also due to their spirituality.”

Porto Borges, who introduced Gabas to the Guarani, began working with indigenous people in 1990 alongside Jesuit missionaries. For many years, he worked on land-division issues with Indians in the Amazon, and for the last 11 he has worked with the Guarani.

With a population of more than 200 million people, Brazil is the 10th largest economy in the world, yet more than 26 percent of the population lives in poverty – many in extreme poverty. A wealthy few and multinational corporations own most of the land, which has led to ownership conflicts, violence and death.

Both Brazil’s landless and indigenous people fight for territory and are concerned with the country’s industrial agriculture practices, with the landless training leaders for political life. Gabas also works with the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, the Landless Workers Movement, a large social movement organized by rural workers that fights for land and agrarian reform in Brazil.

“The Guarani want to recover the traditional territories of their ancestors, and their main focus is to keep their culture, their language, their religion,” said Gabas. “They are also worried about agricultural chemicals and pesticides. And they want to be able to provide enough food for their people without any help from the government. The landless, on the other hand, get involved in politics and government.

“Indigenous people never had title to the land because they were indigenous.”

The land where Tekoa Vy’a Renda Poty sits today once belonged to his ancestors, the chief, Alves, said.

The dam

When Itaipu was built, it flooded 800,000 hectares of indigenous land, and Itaipu only compensated them for that loss after lots of pressure. Ultimately, they were given 6,000 hectares spread over three areas, for what they had lost, said Porto Borges.

“Itaipu could only be built during a dictatorship,” he said.

Driven mostly by high demand for electricity in Brazil, the governments of Brazil and neighboring Paraguay began negotiating the hydroelectric dam’s construction in the 1960s, signing the Itaipu Treaty, an agreement necessary to harness the Parana River’s power, in April 1973. In May 1974, Itaipu Binacional was created to build and later manage the power plant, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam in terms of power generation, supplying 20 percent of Brazil’s and 90 percent of Paraguay’s electrical demand.

Phase 1 of the dam’s construction began in 1975 with the Paraná River channel excavation, eventually diverting the river from its natural bed, under the government of Ernesto Beckmann Geisel, a military-elected president.

The hydroelectric dam at Itaipu, with a height of 196 meters, was modeled after the 80-meter-high Iguaçu Falls, a world heritage site; one a natural wonder, the other an engineering marvel.

In 2003, Itaipu Binacional changed its institutional mission to incorporate environmental responsibility and sustainable development into its strategic corporate goals, as noted in its booklet “Cultivating Good Water.” The change has required Itaipu Binacional to open a dialogue and form partnerships with the “numerous players,” including the Guarani, in the 29 cities included in the Parana basin, or set of waterways connected to the dam’s 109-mile watershed.

“The Triple Frontier, the location of the Itaipu Dam, has a history that is inseparable from the indigenous presence, especially the Guarani people, which exerted great cultural influence in the region,” the booklet says. “Today, these communities are populations at social risks, and therefore Itaipu [Binacional] is trying to develop actions that will enable them to have better living conditions, with new opportunities for income generation, technical assistance and food production for their own consumption, rescuing their culture and self-esteem, and the encouragement of crafts, among others.”

Itaipu Binacional acknowledges that historically unequal relationships subordinated the Indians to the whites, a relationship driven by barter for small requests in the short-term. A new approach requires “establishing a decision-making process with the participation of indigenous people, where they are, in practice the main players,” which will require patience, the booklet says.

Indigenous people

Brazil’s indigenous population numbers half a million people, divided into 400 tribes, speaking 170 different languages, said Porto Borges.

“They are all very distinct,” he said, adding that three individual tribes live in Paraná.

The Guarani were hunters and farmers, but very little land remains for them in Paraná after the building of the dam and the rise of agribusiness, which has increased the demand and competition for land.

“In old times, they used to have wide, wide extensions of land, and now they are supposed to adapt to small land,” Porto Borges said. “Their holy men say the world is out of balance and that the white man commits a huge sin when the white man states that the lands have an owner. Because the only owner of the lands is God; God is called ‘nhanderu,’ ‘father of all.’  And Jesus Christ ‘nandejara,’ that means ‘our owner.’ There is a big difference between God and Jesus Christ.”

One of the great challenges for the indigenous people is self-sustainability; they are aware that their dependency on government to supply their basic needs harms their political struggle.

“There are some indigenous communities – like in Amazon – where you can find reserved areas that are very extensive, large tracts of land where they can still be autonomous,” Porto Borges said. “But for the rest of Brazil, south and southwest, and northeast, these areas are too small for the needs of the Guarani or other indigenous [people]. Only in the Amazon do some of them have enough land to exist.”

“In our region, for example, the indigenous people are supposed to adapt themselves to another logic of living [involving economics and different ways of organizing], and that is their great challenge,” Porto Borges said.

Without sufficient land, indigenous people become dependent on help from others. Moreover, the indigenous leadership is beginning to understand their continued native existence depends on the political projects of the state.

“A Brazilian project that praises and gives advantages to agribusiness will always be harmful to native people,” Porto Borges said. “A Brazilian project that gives advantage to Brazilian families and small farmers is likely to be more favorable to indigenous people, and that is why nowadays the indigenous people in Paraná are now joining the landless movement and La Via Campesina.”

Still, he said, cooperative indigenous involvement in national politics is greater in other South American countries, such as Peru and in Bolivia, where people elected an indigenous president, Evo Morales.

“In Brazil, there are conflicts among the Indians: Some are for joining the movement, and some are not,” Porto Borges said.

“There are some Indians in Brazil who have no contact with civilization as we know it, and there are others who are in full contact with civilization. Some of them have lots of land, some have no land at all, or a small or little bit of land. Because of this, conflicts of interest have arisen.”

The government doesn’t have written policies favoring one tribe over another, but there are cases in which it has gone further to address the needs of some over others. In Paraná, for instance, the Kaingang have received the most attention, Porto Borges explained.

“There are fewer policies for the Guaraní, and the Kaingang people are strung together with FUNAI, but the Guaraní are not and have less strength,” he said. “So, depending on the fight strategy, the results are different.”

The National Indian Foundation, FUNAI, is the government agency that establishes and carries out policies related to indigenous peoples.

A great national debate exists concerning indigenous matters, and Brazil’s modern-day progressive constitution defends the rights of indigenous people, Porto Borges said. For instance, mining is prohibited on land belonging to indigenous people, he said, adding that business interests also exert great pressure to modify the laws.

“Eleven percent of the national territory belongs to the indigenous [tribes], but in the constitution the ‘union’ can only explore them if the Indians permit it,” he said. “In government, laws are now being made so that the indigenous, mining and farming monoculture interests can all exist, with the Indians favored.”

In early September, the Guarani Indians demanded that Shell, a global oil company, stop using their ancestral lands for ethanol production.

Indians’ understanding that they have interests in common and their increased connectedness through knowing each other’s demands are recent phenomena, he noted.

Throughout history and up to 100 years ago, Porto Borges said, some or all of the indigenous people were enemies. The Kaingang came into contact with modern people in the 1930s, but the Guarani have been in contact with modern people for 500 years. (According to FUNAI, some 67 tribes in Brazil don’t have sustained contact with people outside their tribes. In January 2011, FUNAI released photos of an “un-contacted” tribe along the border with Peru.)

Despite language, cultural and religious differences, Porto Borges said, most indigenous tribes share or have lived a form of “primitive communism,” sharing housing, food and work.

“For example, the Guarani have a word to describe their economy: ‘Jopoi.’ It means ‘open hand,'” Porto Borges said. “That describes their economy. They are generous … Because they are not people who accumulate, they don’t close their hands.”

The Guarani people see the people of European descent, in both North and South America, as closed handed, said Andrus, explaining his encounter with the Guarani’s “open hand,” society.

“When they receive something they are already asking themselves how do I pass it on, so not to necessarily pass it on unchanged, but how can the pass it on enhanced to the right person who is right to receive it,” he said. “It’s a dynamic that is open so that if they receive money, or wisdom, or emotional understanding, or possessions of any kind, they are asking themselves how can that pass from the one hand that receives it and the other that gives it away.”

Applying an “open hand” to an economy – looking at how to enhance and pass on what is received – could be transformative in an economy, he added.

“For me there are other ways of life and organization than capitalism,” said Porto Borges. “There are other ways of culture than the white, Western Christian culture. And there are cultures that have rich responses to reality… and these cultures compound humanity … they are part of it.”

In September 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which contains 46 Articles aimed at protecting their rights, and thereby their existence.

“When any given human culture disappears, humanity becomes more fragile and poorer,” Porto Borges said. “They teach us that it is possible to resist and to maintain their integrity and culture even though they are fighting a globalized culture like ours.

“And besides all that, we owe a historical debt to these people. What we call the discovery of America was actually a true holocaust for these people.”

For more information on Pastoral Anglicana da Terra, or Earthly Anglican Care, contact Diocese of California missionary Michael Tedrick at

 — Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service. In May, she traveled to Brazil to report on issues indigenous peoples face.  Reposted from Episcopal News Service

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Presiding bishop’s message for Lent: Are you traveling light on the earth?

By Katharine Jefferts Schori, March 08, 2011
Reposted from: [Episcopal News Service]

The Episcopal Church observes Lent in solidarity with Christians throughout the ages. Lent has anciently been understood as a time of solidarity with those who are to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. It’s a time to focus on prayer and study and fasting, and in some traditions, almsgiving. Each of those, when done in solidarity with those preparing to be baptized, isan invitation for us to deepen our own Christian spiritual practice.

I would encourage you this year to expand the realm of that practice; to think about your solidarity with those who walk the way of Christ, with those who walk the way of Jesus, in particular concern for those beyond your local community.

We have a remarkable calling in this era to think about our relationships not only with other Christians, but with other human beings across this planet, and indeed with the rest of creation. Perhaps you might focus your Lenten discipline this year in attention to how you live on this earth.

Do you live like the Son of Man, who travels continuously with never a place to lay his head? Who doesn’t carry two bags or an extra lunch or an extra pair of sandals? That is what he encouraged his disciples to do, to travel light.

Are you traveling light on this earth?

Consider as you live through each day, how you use water, how you use fuel, how you use electricity, and how you use the food that is a gift.

If each of us is able to thoughtfully enter into a more compassionate concern for the blessings of creation, it will change the way in which human beings as a species impact this earth.

I heard at the Primates Meeting recently, from the Primate of Polynesia, a very agonized conversation about the plight of his people on low-lying islands in the South Pacific, which are rapidly disappearing beneath the rising sea level. That rising sea level is the result of the way in which wealthier parts of this human population use energy.

We hear about the concerns of people in Africa who find corn too expensive to buy for food because we are using it here to produce ethanol so we can drive our cars.

The way in which we use our resources is a spiritual matter. The way in which we live on this earth is a matter of faithfulness. Can we act in solidarity with those who are preparing to enter this community and do so more thoughtfully and in a more compassionate way that considers all of God’s creation?

I invite you to a blessed and holy Lent, to a Lent of prayer and study and compassion through almsgiving and fasting.

— The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church.

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Final Statement and Commitments from December Meeting

December 7-10, 2010
Episcopal-Anglican Climate Justice Gathering
Bishop Kellogg Conference Center, San Pedro de Macorís

We are a group of Anglican Episcopals from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States who feel the urgency of addressing climate justice at this time in the world we serve. Participants are from the Episcopal/Anglican Dioceses of California, Central Ecuador, Colombia, Connecticut, Cuba, Cuernavaca, Curitiba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, New Hampshire, New York, Olympia, and Panama; the Anglican Province of Brazil; the Anglican Province of Central America; The Episcopal Church (TEC); the Berkeley Divinity School; the Yale Divinity School (YDS); the Theological Center of the Dominican Republic (CET); the Commission for Theological Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (CETALC); the International Center for Anglican Theological Studies (CIAET); and the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI).

We met in the Dominican Republic at the Bishop Kellogg Retreat Center in San Pedro de Macorís from December 7 – 10, 2010, in parallel with the UN Framework Convention Climate Change COP 16 in Cancun.

In the context of companionship, with worship, prayer and Bible reflection the issues related to climate change were addressed from our varied contexts. We heard powerful witnesses to climate injustice and creative responses by dioceses, communities, and individuals. Within our group we had people who have been advocates for climate justice for many decades, academics who have devoted years of study and effort to the issues, Church leaders, bishops, priests, and lay, who see the destruction visited on their communities, and young people, some who are seminarians who seek to pattern their lives in ways that reflect climate justice as a core value.

Climate change affects the whole planet. Every system of human culture: economics, politics, education – all are inextricably related to climate change. Representatives of our various dioceses described rising water levels displacing entire island populations, deforestation on a vast scale, the decimation of indigenous peoples, and degradation of rivers through toxic pesticide runoff and human waste. We named the truths about the causes of these devastations: we have lost a sense of connection with the world, and have become dominators rather than “good gardeners;” over-developed countries have given themselves over to the sin of consumerism. This sin, as sin always does, has clouded and distorted all our relationships: between people, with the Earth, and with our creator God.

In some places we recognize that the scale and depth of destruction can no longer be reversed. Such irreversibility awaits the whole planet, in a timeframe much shorter than we imagined even a few years ago. We are consuming at such a frantic rate that we are stealing from the future generations of the Earth. It is essential, urgent that we act now.

Among us are representatives of the Diocese of Haiti. They raised their voices in dramatic witness to the most acute abuses of Earth and human dignity. Our Haitian brothers spoke with a prophetic voice, denouncing a history and a present at variance with the teaching of God. Haitians, deeply vulnerable already because of long-standing abuses of the Earth and human dignity, now also live the results of chaotic climate change.

Although each instance of climate injustice we heard of during our meeting is terrible in itself, and together they present a nearly overwhelming reality, we as Christians are people of hope. Our hope is in God, “whose memory is eternal,” who does not forget the covenants made with the Earth, and our hope is in our capacity to love, planted in our very being, the Image of God among us. Further, we have hope in a God who not only goes beyond the Earth, even the universe, but is also intimately with us and all the creation. As a result, we are deeply interconnected. This hope, we recognize, places a great responsibility on us.

As Anglican Episcopals we have received the hope that springs from the love of God through the Baptismal Covenant. This Covenant has shaped our lives to recognize Christ in every person, and to work untiringly for justice and peace in creation. We are strengthened by our life in the Church to take risks in the world in the cause of justice. Just as we act as prophets to denounce injustice, we act as reconcilers and announce the possibility of hope and love. “So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

We met in the season of Advent, when we watch for the coming of Christ. We feel the tension of the nearness of God, and the not-yet nature of a broken world. We trust that by the grace of God and our efforts inspired by the Sprit of God, the following prophecy will come true: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more… The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:1-3a, 20)

In this gathering we have expressed our Advent hope through five concrete commitments to each other, to the Church, to the Earth and its peoples, and to God:

  • to develop a mechanism (ie. a carbon tithe or energy fund) to promote actual reductions of carbon emissions by affluent populations and to offer assistance in ways identified by vulnerable communities
  • to incorporate the issue of climate justice, and related themes, in educational programs, at all age levels and venues, within and outside the Church
  • to support ongoing global initiatives and campaigns aimed at:  the actual reduction of climate emissions by overdeveloped nations, advocacy and support for forest-dwelling and indigenous peoples, and food sovereignty
  • to recruit and empower a core of missionaries from the global south to come to the United States, in a ministry of accompaniment and consciousness-raising about the effects of climate change
  • to maintain our relationships with one another through an active network for climate justice in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church

These commitments are both in process and part of the process, and we realize that they will only reach their full expression as our group, and others who join us, work and walk together. We leave with a deep sense of gratitude for this time together and with the fervent desire and dedication to follow this path which God is making before us.


the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, USA;

the Rt. Rev. Grisleda Delgado Del Carpio, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba;

the Rt. Rev. Naudal Gomes, Bishop of the Anglican-Episcopal Diocese of Curitiba, Brazil;

the Rt. Rev. Armando Guerra, Bishop of the Episcopal Churh of Guatemala, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of the Region of Central America, President of CETALC;

the Rt. Rev. Julio C. Holguin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic;

the Rt. Rev. Julio Murray, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Panama, President of CLAI;

the Rt. Rev. Luis Fernando Ruiz, Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Central Ecuador;

Mr. José Abreu, Theological Center of the Dominican Republic;

the Rev. Soner Alexandre, Episcopal Diocese of Haiti;

Dr. Sheila Andrus, Episcopal Diocese of California;

Mr. David Barr, the Yale Divinity School;

Mr. Pedro Ivo Batista, Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil;

Mr. Steve Blackmer, Diocese of New Hampshire, Yale Divinity School;

the Very Rev. Canon Ashton Brooks, Dean of the Cathedral Church of the Epiphany, Santo Domingo;

Mr. Scott Claassen, Yale Divinity School;

Mr. Leonel Polanco de la Cruz, Theological Center of the Dominican Republic;

the Rev. Luiz Carlos Gabas, Anglican-Episcopal Diocese of Curitiba;

Mr. Luis García, Theological Center of the Dominican Republic;

Mrs. Barbara Gomez, Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic;

Mr. Lorenzo Gómez, Theological Center of the Dominican Republic;

the Rev. P. Joshua “Griff” Griffin, Environmental Justice Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of California;

Ms. Freddie Helmiere, Seattle, Washington;

Dr. Willis Jenkins, Margaret A. Farley Assistant Professor of Social Ethics at Yale Divinity School, Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut;

the Rev. Stephanie Johnson, Episcopal Diocese of New York, Yale Divinity School;

Ms. Pauline Kulstad, Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic;

Mr. Ken Lathrop, Diocese of Cuernavaca, Anglican Church of Mexico;

the Rev. Alvaro Yepes López, Bishop Kellogg Conference Center, San Pedro de Macorís;

the Rev. Glenda McQueen, The Episcopal Church Global Partnership Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean;

the Rev. Chris Morck, Episcopal Diocese of Central Ecuador, CLAI Environmental Program Coordinator;

the Rev. Canon Ricardo Potter, Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic;

Ms. Angela Maria Pulido, Bishop Kellogg Conference Center, San Pedro de Macorís;

Mrs. Carmen Regina Duarte Gomes, Episcopal-Anglican Diocese of Curitiba;

Mrs. Melissa Ridlon, Episcopal Diocese of California;

The Rev. Diego Fernando Sabogal, Episcopal Diocese of Columbia;

Mr. Vanel Saint Juste, Theological Center of the Dominican Republic;

Ms. Katie Salisbury, Yale Divinity School;

Mr. Mike Schut, The Episcopal Church Officer for Environmental/Economic Affairs, Episcopal Diocese of Olympia;

Mr. Michael Tedrick, Episcopal Diocese of California Missioner serving in the Episcopal-Anglican Diocese of Curitiba;

the Rev. P. Angel R. Vallenilla, Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic;

Mr. Wagner Vergara, Episcopal-Anglican Diocese of Curitiba;

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Disobedience: direct action on global warming, by Bill McKibben

From the Christian Century.

Dec 27, 2010 by Bill McKibben

If there was ever an issue about which civil disobedience should not be required, global warming is it.

It’s not like the civil rights movement, in which protesters had to break through encrusted millennia of ugly habit, making the kind of dramatic and courageous stand that forced the rest of the nation to see them as real, vital, equal. Seeing black southerners set on by dogs, tossed sideways by fire hoses—somehow it managed finally to get across the notion that these were people. It made sense that preachers were at the head of the fight: this was a moral issue ultimately—the moral issue.

By contrast, global warming is, or should be, dry science, an entirely rational question that should be addressed by economists, engineers, scientists working on our behalf and with our thanks; a democratic process, difficult but not controversial. No one has a prejudice against chemistry, an animus about physics. A moral issue? Almost the opposite. Opinion isn’t the issue; no one’s heart should need changing.

But it’s not happening. For 20 years now scientists and engineers and even many economists have spoken with rare unanimity: we need to use much less fossil fuel, and very quickly. They’ve coalesced around a fairly straightforward plan: make fossil fuel pay for the damage it’s doing to the planet, so that we start quickly to shift toward renewable energy. We have to work speedily, because the damage from global warming is already under way; in fact, two years ago NASA scientists gave us the bad news that we were already past the threshold for real danger: above 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere, they warned, we were in serious trouble from flood, fire, melt. We’re at 390 ppm now and rising two parts per million per year, which is precisely why we’re suffering through summers like 2010: 19 nations set new temperature records, drought devastated Russia and convinced the Kremlin to end all grain exports; record rainfalls put 7 million Pakistanis out of their homes. Global warming is under way, and unless we act very quickly the damage will get far worse; on its current path, our atmosphere will hold nearly 1,000 parts per million CO2 by century’s end. That is to say, it will be a strange and dangerous place.

So why are we doing nothing? There are many answers. We’re used to our way of life, so inertia gets in the way. But that’s not the whole picture. Part of it is that the financial power of the fossil fuel industry gets in the way of rational political action. It has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and advertising—half a billion, by some accounts, just to convince the Senate not even to take a vote on the very mild global warming bill that was before it last summer. It’s managed to obscure the science and drain the sense of urgency from the debate in this country; as a result, last year’s Copen­hagen conference on climate ended in failure, and the prospects for engaging the rest of the planet grow ever dimmer. (Happily, some nations are making halting progress on their own—the Chinese, for instance, though building coal-fired power plants, are also by some counts investing $700 billion in renewable energy programs; when 250 million Chinese take a shower now, the hot water comes from solar panels on their roofs.)

We’ve made the science of climate one more political football—just another issue we square off over, as if physics was simply one more interest group. As things stand, we are nowhere near taking the decisive action that might give us a chance of avoiding the most devastating kinds of warming; as coral bleaches, deserts grow and ice sheets melt across the planet, we’re just marking time.

Which is why some of us have been thinking it may be necessary to mount a campaign of mass action, of civil protest, of dignified disobedience. Its goal would not be to shut down the fossil fuel system—that system is much too big and too pervasive to be shut down, since it powers every action we take from the moment we wake up. The campaign’s aim, instead, would be much simpler: to demonstrate the sense of urgency that this issue requires. It would be in the nature of a witness.

Exactly where that witness makes most sense is an open question. Perhaps outside a few of the coal-fired power plants that spew the most carbon into the atmosphere—plants we no longer need, save to bolster the profits of the utilities that own them. Perhaps outside the headquarters of the fossil fuel billionaires that fund the cynical disinformation campaigns. (For instance, Charles and David Koch, brothers at the helm of an enormous energy empire, have become the bankroll for every organization fighting legislation on climate change, as Jane Mayer demonstrated in the New Yorker earlier this year.) Perhaps outside the offices of those congresspeople who have done the most to block progress.

The where is less important for the moment than the how. Civil disobedience is a tactic that’s in decline, because we’ve forgotten certain truths about how to use it honestly and effectively. Maybe the most important of these is: it’s a last resort, a step we use when other avenues are exhausted.

I’ve been writing and speaking about climate change for a quarter century; I’ve watched as endless panels of eminent scientists have gone before Congress to tell the truth about what’s happening to the planet. At we’ve organized the most widespread days of political action in the planet’s history. This past October we had 7,400 “work parties” in 188 nations, where people put up solar panels and laid out bike paths—and implored their leaders to get to work too. A coalition of Amer­ican environmental groups last year proposed a mild and tame climate bill—a baby step in the direction we need to travel. They lobbied for it ceaselessly, but in the tidal wave of fossil fuel money, a cowardly Senate refused even to take a vote on the bill. I think we’re justified to press our cause in new ways.

But we’re not justified in doing it carelessly. Advocates like Thomas Friedman and Al Gore have called for students to stage sit-ins outside power plants, and I appreciate their urgency. But I don’t think college kids should be the cannon fodder this time around. For one thing, it’s not really their fault, not yet: it’s those of us who have spent decades pouring carbon into the atmosphere who really need a way to show our remorse. In an ever-tougher economy, it’s not fair to impose an arrest record on someone who hasn’t even landed his first job; those of us with a little more security need to lead the way.

So if I’m going to be involved in this kind of battle, I know who I want by my side, at least at first: those of us born in, say, the Eisenhower administration or before. Many of us participated or watched as the civil rights movement pioneered these tactics and understand that their power derives in no small measure from the dignity that marked those events. I don’t wear a necktie very often, but if I’m going to get arrested, I’m going to have mine neatly knotted.

The lesson we need above all to communicate is this: people asking for action on climate change are not radicals. Just the opposite—they’re in some sense deep conservatives. What’s radical is to double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and just see what happens—no one, not Marx or Mao, has ever proposed a change as radical as that. Those radicals backed by the fossil fuel industry flirt with destroying the planet’s physical systems, and they do it so a few of us can keep our particular way of life a decade or two longer; that’s not just radical, it’s so deeply irresponsible that there’s really no precedent.

Having been given this earth to keep and protect—dominion over a living planet—we’re on the verge of wiping away much of creation. In the process we’re already making life impossible for millions of our poorest brothers and sisters. This is not just radical, it’s a kind of blasphemy. Global warming shouldn’t be a moral question, but because of our inaction it’s become the greatest moral challenge of our time.

From the Christian Century.

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In the darkness, hope awaits

Reposted from: Episcopal News Service:

By Stephen Blackmer, December 14, 2010

[Episcopal News Service] Last week’s gathering in the Dominican Republic of Episcopalians and Anglicans from Latin American, the Caribbean and the United States — bishops, clergy, staff, seminarians and lay leaders — was a tangible sign that a new world is waiting to be born — and that we are called in Christ to serve as midwives of new life.

As participants from Panama, Brazil, Haiti, Guatemala, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic told us, the effects of climate change are being felt right now. People are being hurt and killed. Other forms of life are being extinguished. The planet we will pass on to our children tomorrow is being impoverished today. Whether we are ready or not, whether we want to believe it or not, a changing climate is bringing social and ecological challenges to every person on this earth.

While we were gathered, Bishop Julio Murray of Panama gave us breaking news of devastating rainfall in Panama. Ten people, at least, died. So much water fell from the sky that the Panama Canal — that great manmade river linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans — had to be closed.

Such violent storms are becoming increasingly common all around the world, signs that a previously stable global climate is becoming volatile and increasingly dangerous. Even the wealthy of the world, including many of us who use money, education, and privilege to keep hardship at bay, will feel the effects. Others with less security will seek escape through migration. Too many will turn to drugs, alcohol and violence. Many will suffer. For this, those of us who consume the vast amounts of oil, coal, and gas that are the primary cause of a changing climate bear responsibility.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you…

Through our consumption and destruction of the riches of the world, through accumulating the benefits for ourselves and requiring people in other places and times to bear the costs, through ignorance and closing our eyes to the harm we cause, those of us in the United States and other wealthy countries are bringing great harm upon the world that God created for all life.

And yet, in this very loss, in this very sin, new life and a new way is starting to take form. As with all new life, this one is taking shape in darkness and will be born in pain. We are called not only to witness but also to participate in this pain. These are eternal truths we cannot change. There is no other way.

By virtue of our life in Christ, we know it is only by our passage through the darkness that we may find new life. Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio of Cuba movingly told participants about the renewal of her church through not only restoring a lovely building but establishing gardens of abundance to feed hungry people. The church gathering in the Dominican Republic is itself another sign. It is our task to share all this news — news of death, pain, and darkness as well as news of life, joy and new light. All of us in the church have a choice to help this birth or to hold it back.

Alone, God brought the world into being out of darkness. Since then, it is through human beings that God has brought new light into the world. Through Noah after the flood, through Moses seeking liberation from Egypt’s empire, through Jeremiah and the prophets, through Miriam, Ruth, and Esther, finally through the conceiving of Jesus Christ born in the darkness of the Virgin Mary’s womb. It is in human form and through human action — passing through the darkness of both womb and tomb — that hope in human form comes again.

So it may be once more as, through climate change, we learn anew the lessons of the flood and as we cry to be freed from our self-created slavery of consumption. In days ahead, as we celebrate the great liturgy of new birth, those who gathered in the Dominican Republic bear a message for the church and the world to rejoice that hope awaits in the darkest hour — and that our task is to bring new life into the world.

To follow discussion on next steps from the gathering, click here.

— Stephen Blackmer is a student from the Diocese of New Hampshire at Berkeley Divinity School. Prior to going to seminary, he worked for 30 years in forest conservation and rural community development in northern New England and New York.


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