Encountering God in the storm: beginnings

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for prayer for an international consultation organised by Us (USPG). As the Revd Adrian Smith reports, the first main day of the consultation centred on the urgent issue of climate change…

As delegates from around the Anglican Communion have gathered in Fiji at the special invitation of the Most Revd Dr Winston Halapua (Bishop of Polynesia and Primate and Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia), a message of greeting from the Archbishop of Canterbury offered a source of great encouragement to attendees as proceedings got underway.

The text, which was read to delegates by the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, Bishop of Lincoln, stated that it was the prayer of Archbishop Welby that ‘this consultation will play a hugely significant role in defining a strategy going forward with climate justice’. In addition, he said ‘Together, you will be exploring and struggling with difficult themes which create many challenges for the Anglican Communion and the world. We need to face them together and find a way forward. Then we will be able to fulfil our purpose’.

Fiji is struggling with the impact of rising sea levels due to climate change, with 676 villages at risk of flooding (Rawalai, 2014) and several village communities already forced to relocate. It was with this in mind, then, that Archbishop Halapua opened proceedings with a Bible study on Mark 4:35-41, prompting individual and group discussion based on context and experience. As the Archbishop later remarked, this time spent thinking about Jesus and the stilling of the storm had offered ‘a rare opportunity for Bible study with the world together’.

Time was offered for groups to reflect and share further on their context, culture, history and tradition, and then during the afternoon there was an opportunity to listen to representatives of the Diocese of Polynesia and their perspectives on climate change. One of the speakers, Professor Elisabeth A. Holland (Director of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development), used paddles as props and stated that:

“If we continue to emit in a manner of ‘business as usual’, we will see a metre of sea-level rise in 2100. It is increasingly possible,” she said, “that in the next 150 years we will have three metres (illustrated here as three paddle-lengths) of sea-level rise. We will have three paddle-lengths by 2300 if we continue business as usual, even with ‘no surprises’.”

Professor Holland was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and she and her colleagues responded to questions from delegates in a plenary session that took on a global perspective.

As the day’s sessions drew to a close, the Revd Dr Val Ogden (Director of the Pacific Theological College Education by Extension programme) offered a time of reflection on the day’s direction of travel. Using phrases to summarise and capture the essence of the day, a telling phrase of wider implication was that ‘It is not enough to hold the partner’s hand; we have to hear the heart beat’.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of Us.
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