Monthly Archives: December 2010

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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Update: Final Report from DR meeting still forthcoming, floods in Panama…

We are in the process of making final edits to the statement from conference participants and the commitments we have made to each other going forward.  These both will be posted as soon as they are completed.  You might consider subscribing to this blog (enter your email on the right hand side) to receive a notice when the final statement is released, and to join the conversation (you can unsubscribe at any time).

With heavy hearts we share news of record rainfall and deadly floods in Panama.  Bishop Julio Murray was present with us in the DR and has asked our prayers and support.

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Deforestation, intensive storms and floods show effects of climate change in Dominican Republic

Reposted from Episcopal News Service

By Lynette Wilson, December 09, 2010

[Episcopal News Service – San Pedro, Dominican Republic] It is estimated that by 2050, 80 percent of the rivers in the Dominican Republic will have dried up unless something is done to stop deforestation and develop a strategy to slow climate change, said Silvio Minier of Oxfam.

Minier, a former Jesuit priest who now works in advocacy and programs for Oxfam based in Santo Domingo, addressed the Episcopal Climate Justice Gathering Dec. 8, giving an overview of the local effects of climate change.

More than 30 people — mostly Anglicans and Episcopalians and a few ecumenical seminarians — from Cuba, the United States, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic are meeting Dec. 7-10 at the Bishop Kellogg Center to explore intersection between poverty and climate change, and perhaps frame the conversation in terms of “climate justice.” The meeting is convened by Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California, and Bishop Naudal Gomes, Diocese of Curitiba, Brazil.

The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and is crisscrossed by three mountain ranges. In the 1980s, Dominicans migrated to cities from rural areas; 50 percent of the population now lives in cities and surrounding areas, Minier explained, as translated from Spanish.

Some cause and effect can be quantified, Minier continued.

Forests areas surrounding cities have been clear cut to make way for agriculture. Over the last 10 years both the dry season and the rainy season have lengthened. Desertification and deforestation have increased the danger and severity of floods – rivers crest their banks, destroying crops and livelihoods. Water levels in Lake Enriquillo, the country’s largest, along with Lake Sumatra in Haiti, have risen more in the last five years than in the previous 200. Hurricanes and tropical storms have strengthened and wrought havoc, Minier said.

As an example of flood severity, Minier shared a photo from a storm in 2007 that showed flood waters at roof-top levels; adding that the photo was taken in a flat area and that in mountainous regions, floods are even more severe.

“The Dominican Republic is the eighth country in the world that will be most affected by climate change,” Minier said, adding that governments are not doing anything, and that the local environmental council has studied climate change’s effects on the coast and tourism, but not on poor people and agriculture.

The Episcopal-Anglican gathering coincides with the U.N. Climate Change Conference of world leaders who are nearing the end of a second week of climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, to attempt to hammer out the details of an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions that would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

At the 2009 U.N. conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, negotiators failed to reach a binding deal to replace the protocol. Developing nations are pushing for a second phase of the Kyoto agreement, including deeper emissions cuts. Developed countries, including Japan, Russia and Canada, have said they will not accept further cuts.

In Cancún, nations have been unable to agree on key issues, such as reducing emissions and monitoring other nations’ adherence to reducing emissions, and the specifics on a disaster fund for developing countries, could potentially mean another Copenhagen-style failure to come to an accord, according to news reports.

Oxfam works with partners in the Dominican Republic to mitigate the effects of disaster before disaster happens, but so far the government, Minier said, only responds to disaster and has not made progress towards prevention.

When asked what the church can do to help, Minier explained that people need to be made to realize their role in what is happening and that the government, which is doing some things, needs to be pushed to do more.

And he stressed, “You can’t have plans for climate change reduction without including women and food security.”

— Lynette Wilson is an ENS staff writer.


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Update From DR:: Statement, Commitments Forthcoming

Dear Friends:

It is impossible to describe the gratitude I feel at this moment.

For the last four days I have experienced a tremendous outpouring of love, community, and solidarity.  God has been made real to me, by sisters and brothers, gathered here from around the Americas.  We are currently reviewing a statement, written by our bishops which reflects the experience and affirmations of this gathering. I am delighted to report that we have also agreed on five concrete commitments which we will make to each other, to the Church, to the world, and to God.

Our time has been so rich and so focused that I have been unable to give steady updates along the way.  We have harddrives full of video and notes, and giant newsprint pages covered in Spanish, English, and a common sweat which unifies us all.

In the weeks and months to come, we will use this site to report as best we can, the beauty that has happened in San Pedro de Macorís.  Our ratified statement and the commitments of our group will follow later today.

En la esperanza de la justicia climática,



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In Dominican Republic, gathering explores climate justice perspectives

Reposted from Episcopal Church News:
By Lynette Wilson, December 08, 2010

[Episcopal News Service] What started in 2004 as a 2,000-square-foot organic garden behind La Iglesia Santa Maria Virgen in Itabo, Cuba, grew to a community-wide project that empowered people and spread to vacant lots, yards and other dioceses.

“A small group of people, in small places, doing small things, can change the face of the earth,” is a popular saying in Cuba, said Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio of the Episcopal Church of Cuba.

Delgado, formerly the rector of Santa Maria Virgen, shared the story of her parish’s garden during a presentation here Dec. 7, the first day of the inaugural Episcopal Climate Justice Gathering.

More than 30 people — mostly Anglicans and Episcopalians and a few ecumenical seminarians — from Cuba, the United States, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic are meeting Dec. 7-10 at the Bishop Kellogg Center here for the gathering, convened by Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California, and Bishop Naudal Gomes, Diocese of Curitiba, Brazil.

Three important things began to happen as the garden grew, Delgado explained to ENS through a translator following the day’s formal discussion: the people discovered they could make money by cultivating and preserving food; people learned how to work as a team and discovered they had previously undiscovered talents and the potential to create a new life; and, most importantly, the people grew spiritually, found faith and discovered God in life, she said.

Delgado was one of four presenters, including the Rev. Christopher Morck, environmental program officer for the Latin America Council of Churches; the Rev. Pedro Ivo Batista of the Episcopal Anglican Province of Brazil; and the Rev. Diego Fernando Sabogal, of Colombia, who each spoke during the session aimed at framing the gathering’s conversation on climate justice.

The purpose of the meeting is to explore the intersection between poverty and climate change, and perhaps begin to change the conversation in the church from one of “climate change” to “climate justice.”

The gathering convened as world leaders met for a second week of climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, to attempt to hammer out the details of an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions that would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

At the 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, negotiators failed to reach a binding deal to replace the protocol. Developing nations are pushing for a second phase of Kyoto, including deeper emissions cuts.

The Episcopal gathering’s presence “signifies the desire to envision together what justice means in the face of climate-induced suffering and continued environmental destruction,” Morck said during his presentation, which focused on the general themes of the climate justice movement.

Climate justice needs to be considered in context of broader questions, he said, including how people relate to each other and the earth and what Christian witness and practice mean in an “unprecedented crisis caused by specific human groups, ideologies and actions.”

“The intimate connection between wealth and economic growth to poverty and environmental crisis is both our past and our present, and many of the ‘solutions’ to the climate crisis threaten to repeat once more the way the overdeveloped have impoverished others as their enslaved labor pool, their amoral superstore of raw materials, their waste dump, their theater of war,” said Morck.

Early on in the gathering, particular themes began to emerge, including the consensus that now is the time for the church to reclaim and fortify its prophetic voice.

Solidarity is the thing that makes the prophetic voice strong, said Andrus during the discussion.

“In our [church] language, we think of the prophetic voice as one,” he said. “People need to speak in solidarity with one another.”

Andrus used the example of abolishing apartheid in South Africa. It wasn’t until South Africa’s problem became the world’s problem, he said, that the country was able to rid itself of its racial-social ideology of separation.

During his talk about social movements and climate change, Batista, who has for more than 20 years been involved in social justice movements, talked about the threat of disappearance now affecting island nations and other vulnerable populations.

“People who live on the river banks, coasts, mountains are already being affected by climate change and all governments of the world know that this is happening,” said Batista, as translated from Portuguese. “There has never been so much talk about climate change as there has been in the last 20 years … Why are they speaking so much about it and still some haven’t signed on to Kyoto? … Not because of lack of technology or science or spiritual contentions, it’s because of a lack of political will.”

In addition to the church finding its prophetic voice once again, other themes that began to emerge from the gathering included the need to translate theology into action, developing a catechism of redemption based on peoples’ relationship to nature, engaging children and youth and creating community awareness.

In regard to the latter, Delgado said, Santa Maria Virgen’s garden said it all.

“Once they started doing the work, we didn’t have to tell anybody — people caught on to what was happening, the university came, the media came, the minister of agriculture came because it was something that was happening and people could see it,” she said.

— Lynette Wilson is an ENS staff writer.



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Climate justice is focus of four-day Episcopal/Anglican gathering in Dominican Republic

Reposted from Episcopal News Service….

By Lynette Wilson, December 06, 2010

[Episcopal News Service] Anglican and Episcopal leaders from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean are arriving Dec. 6 in the Dominican Republic for a four-day gathering to explore the intersection between poverty and climate change.

“We’re hoping to change the conversation in the church from one of climate change to climate justice,” said the Rev. P. Joshua “Griff” Griffin, environmental justice missioner in the Diocese of California and one of the conference’s organizers.

Representatives from Cuba, the United States, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will meet Dec. 7-10 at the Bishop Kellogg Center in San Pedro de Macorís, east of the capital Santo Domingo, for the first Episcopal Climate Justice Gathering, convened by Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California, and Bishop Naudal Gomes, Diocese of Curitiba, Brazil.

Click here for the gathering’s blog.

The gathering in the Dominican Republic will take place as world leaders convene a second week of climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, for the 2010 U.N. Climate Change Conference, which kicked off Nov. 29. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, signed and ratified by 191 nations — the United States signed but didn’t ratify it — is set to expire in 2012. The protocol commits 37 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent (below 1990 levels) by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

At the 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, negotiators failed to reach a binding deal to cut greenhouse gases when Kyoto expires. Developing nations are pushing for a second phase of the protocol, including deeper emissions cuts of up to 40 percent by 2020.

Anglicans and Episcopalians meeting in the Dominican Republic in parallel with world leaders in Mexico is “symbolic,” said Mike Schut, the Episcopal Church’s economic and environmental affairs officer, in a telephone interview.

“If governments are not going to get it together, it’s time for grassroots awareness building and action,” he said. “This time together in the Dominican Republic could be one significant way to make that happen on an international level.”

The gathering, in fact, is the result of a companion diocese relationship between the Episcopal Diocese of California and the Anglican Diocese of Curitiba, in the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, Griffin said, in a telephone interview.

The gathering’s participants will share information from their own countries; look at climate justice from diverse perspectives; consider the climate change issue in the Dominican Republic; discuss the intersection of Christian theology and climate justice; and explore commitments to work together.

In addition to forming partnerships, the hope, Griffin added, is for the gathering “to build relationships that could be the fabric, the root, of a church- and communion-wide network for climate justice.”

Christians are called to take care of creation, said Gomes, in an e-mail.

The church, Gomes added, must work with the United Nations and civic and other organizations to change habits and use technology to reverse the damage humans have had on the environment.

“The church cannot remain outside this call, and other organizations of society should be positioned to act, so that decisions of our governments, which are political decisions, are actually carried out,” he said.

Shared faith and companion relationships have the potential to effect great change, said Andrus, in a telephone interview.

“[Archbishop of Canterbury] Rowan Williams wrote a number of years ago that it takes a global body to address global challenges,” Andrus said. “The communion — before the tensions that have caught our minds the last few years — was a virtual communion; we didn’t really function together.

“The attention that we’ve placed on the existence of the communion over the last few years gives us the chance to be a functioning body regarding globalized challenges. A great deal can be done and has to be done by individuals and congregations in their local context, but we also have to see how we can coordinate efforts across our shared faith and commitments … This presents a great possibility.”

— Lynette Wilson is an ENS staff writer.


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Attention Deficit in Cancun…

…..reposted from Bishop Marc’s Blog:

Attention Deficit in Cancun…

In 2008 I was part of the Lambeth Conference, an every-ten-year gathering of the bishops of the Anglican Communion; at the 2008 conference those in attendance were 650. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, host of the conference, configured our two-week time together around conversation, not legislation.

One morning, well into the conference, our discussion groups were given two topics for a two-hour discussion: human sexuality and environment. Human sexuality is the topic that is presented as ripping the Communion apart (I say presented, as this conflict, while real and important has been made to appear bigger than it is by both conservatives across the Communion and by writers and editors of major media outlets, for whom the conflict appears to be fodder). 

Before I say what happened in those two hours of discussions with bishops from Africa, the United States, India, and Australia, let me say that I seek not to privilege one sphere of justice work over another; for people of faith it must be true that the boundless compassion of God is enough for us to address all suffering, without having to say which issue is most important, to dissipate our energy in competing.

That said, the result of the two-hour discussion of the bishops surprised me. Right off the mark the consensus was that they wanted to talk about the environment, and they did so for the next 110 minutes. Only as we were nearing the end did we realize we needed to address the other big topic for the day, human sexuality, and did so in ten minutes. It wasn’t that they were disinterested in the sexuality question, but rather that they had been caught up in the environment discussion.

During the 110 minutes we heard bishops speak heart-wrenchingly about instance after instance of climate injustice and climate change effects visited upon the people they served. Big mines in India, drought in Australia, the effect of the U.S. Farm Bill on farmers in Africa, the stories tumbled forth from bishops who struggle to support their people, many of whom reside in the category we call “extreme poverty,” living on less than two dollar a day.

The United Nations annual summit on climate change is meeting in Cancun now, and as far as our country goes, it’s hard to see that the summit is in any way of great interest to us, in contrast to the passion the bishops showed around climate change at the Lambeth Conference.

In contrast as well to the group of Anglican bishops from Central and South America who will gather in Dominican Republic next week, meeting in parallel to the U.N. Summit. What began as a small seed, a meeting between a few people from the Diocese of California and from our companion diocese, Curitiba, Brazil, has grown because of interest to represent nine dioceses, including Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia, the Province of Brazil, and Central Ecuador.

What’s the difference between the strong attention climate change and climate justice get from much of the developing world, and the lack of attention and even denial of the challenge the issues receive here? The answer lies at the heart of the definition of climate justice: it is where poverty is most intense, and thus where people have few resources to protect themselves, that the worst environmental abuses occur.

Most needed it seems to me is the awakening of our heart imagination, our ability to know and understand our deep, all-encompassing interconnection. The birth of compassion is the medicine for our collective climate justice attention deficit disorder. In my tradition, compassion is born from learning that we are loved by God, as gift and grace and fact, and that this love is given to all without distinction. That is, God gives us the love we need to free us to be attentive, to be compassionate and active in a world of suffering.

Dec 4, 2010 12:37:22 PM


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