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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Filed under December Meeting, English

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