Methodist Mission and Ecumenical Occasional Paper
John Wesley and Ecumenism
At Conference 2006 Mission and Ecumenical organized an interest group on the theme ‘Wind in our Sails: New directions for ecumenism’ Discussion was led off by a panel responding to the theme from various perspectives.
Terry Wall, Convenor of the Faith and Order Committee, offered this Wesleyan perspective.
John Wesley was an eighteenth century clergyman of the Church of England. He shared many of the attitudes and characteristics that were typical of the times. For example, politically he was a Tory. This meant that he had no sympathy for democracy, was opposed to the rebellion of the North American colonies, was loyal to the monarchy and basically accepted the class structure of the age.
There were ambiguities with John Wesley. Like many of us, he lived with paradoxical aspects of his makeup. He had a great devotion to the Church of England. He believed that its government, liturgy and ethos were the most scriptural in all Christendom. He saw Methodism as ‘Anglicanism in earnest’ – an evangelical renewal society within the Church and insisted that he did not want division. Of the Conference in July 1789, he records in his journal, “The Conference began: about a hundred preachers were present, and never was our Master more eminently present with us. The case of separation from the Church was largely considered, and we were all unanimous against it.”
Yet, by his street and field preaching, his sanction of lay preachers, by his building of chapels and finally by his ordinations for North America, then for Scotland and England, he provoked schism without recognizing the consequences. It has been said that “Mr Wesley was like a skilled rower who faced the Church of England while every stroke of his oars pulled him in the opposite direction.”
In his Journal for March 1764 John Wesley wrote, “I met with several serious clergymen. I have long desired that there might be an open avowed union between all who preach those fundamental truths: original sin, justification by faith, producing inward and outward holiness: but all my endeavours have been hitherto ineffectual. God’s time is not fully come.” He appeared to support Lord Gordon of the Protestant Association who opposed the introduction of rights for Catholics.
Yet there are other indications which fly in the face of this rigid and narrow view. John Wesley was not afraid of other traditions. There is evidence that he enquired into their history, teaching and ethos. He felt free to draw on theological and spiritual insights from Lutheran, Moravian, Orthodox and Catholic backgrounds. His 1749 Letter to a Roman Catholic breathes an irenical spirit that surprises us today. He says, let us resolve not to hurt one another, to speak nothing harsh, to harbour no unkind thought and to help each other in what we are agreed leads to the Kingdom. His Christian Library, produced for his preachers, incorporates material from Catholic writers amounting to 5% of the total. David Butler summarises Wesley’s attitude in this regard: “Where Catholics wrote of the life of holiness without which no one could see the Lord, they were worth reading.”
Tentatively, I think we can say that the open impulses in John Wesley’s thought are the most appealing and relevant for our day. Without compromising the five or six essentials that he identified as being non-negotiable, perhaps Wesley might say to us today that we need to be a contemplative church. John Wesley’s major contribution was undoubtedly in the field of spirituality. He knew that the primary revolution was within: idols are dethroned and hardness of heart is addressed. The love of God sets before us a vision of growth in freedom. The transformation that the Spirit of God works within the heart profoundly affects our way of seeing. Prayer allows us to be centred and grow in awareness of a life lived before God. In silence we are reminded of the mystery. In stillness wonder is reborn as we reflect on creation. In contemplation we find ourselves marvelling at the explosion of light in Christ. I suggest that Wesley would want us to make the life of prayer and contemplation a priority.
He might also say that we need to be a mission-shaped church. John Wesley, conservative doctrinally and politically, found himself led by the Spirit into unfamiliar territory. The miracle is that he was willing to go. His working principle seems to have been – the church must not stand in the way of God’s mission. Nothing must stand in the way of the proclamation of the gospel or work for social justice. Sharing the Good News with those whose souls were starving: and sharing the vision of the Kingdom of God with those who were in places of power, and with the impoverished, consumed his energy. How can we be a mission-shaped church? What changes do we need to make to be a mission shaped church in our secular context?
In addition Wesley might say that we need to be open to truth from all sources. John Wesley was deeply committed to the Church of England and yet he drew on truth from Catholic and Orthodox traditions, as well as other Protestant Churches on the continent. He read widely in theology, literature, philosophy and science. He was willing to receive truth from beyond his tradition. He knew that his heritage had its limitations and inadequacies. Though he could be authoritarian, yet he had an openness to the great issues of his day. Once he had learnt what was happening in the new world, he came to deplore slavery and wrote vigorous tracts against it. What truth do we need to receive that comes from beyond the church, beyond our English speaking world? How do our sympathies need to be broadened?
Methodist Mission and Ecumenical Occasional Paper
A log in my eye?
I like to look at well designed, well made wooden furniture in the shops. I can’t afford to buy it, but I do admire it. I bought some outdoor wooden furniture from one of the local mega stores because it’s more affordable. However I didn’t think much about where it came from or how the timber that went into it was obtained. Now I’m wondering whether there’s been a log in my eye. I’ve failed to ask where the timber that goes into the making of furniture has come from and how it’s been gained. I need to remove the log from my eye and put furniture importers, manufacturers, and retailers on notice, asking if the logs that were milled for the furniture they have imported, made, or are selling, were legally obtained? If so were they sustainably logged? Were the people who originally owned the trees treated justly by the logging company? These are important questions because so much timber used for furniture making around the world comes from logging operations by multinational companies operating in countries of the developing world, where exploitation seems to be the name of the game.
The impact of logging
In 2004 I made a brief visit to a logging camp on the island of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. My travelling companion informed me that it was an Asian logging company that was working in the area. They had come, identified two or three people they deemed to be leaders of the land owning community, flown them to Honiara where they were wined and dined in a top hotel, made many promises as to how they and their people would benefit, and then confronted them with a document to sign giving the company the exclusive right to log in their area. In this case the leaders were assured of an income for twenty five years, as that was how long the company said it would be in the area. Now, however, they were leaving after five years. The land had been ravaged in the felling process. Promises had not been honoured. The community had been divided. The local men had been given only menial jobs and were paid at very low rates. The Asian work force took local women and fathered children by them. Now as the company moved on, these women and children were to be left behind. The logging company was able to get away with this because the Solomon Islands is one of the world’s least developed countries and has not had adequate laws to protect its natural resources from flagrant exploitation; so it has been vulnerable to big Asian logging companies coming in and devastating its land, natural resources, and communities. News reports say that the rate of logging in the Solomon Islands doubled from 2004 to 2005 and if logging continues at this rate then in eight to ten years the timber resource will be exhausted.
A recent feature in the NZ Herald told of indigenous and ‘uncontacted’ peoples living in the isolated forests of southern Peru, who are facing an unprecedented threat from illegal loggers moving into remote areas in search of rare mahogany trees to be turned into items of fine furniture sold in the USA. The Natural Resources Defence Council in the USA says “Tens of thousands of tons of Peruvian mahogany are imported into the US for luxury tables, household trimmings, and car dashboards.” Those who purchase the furniture have no idea that buying mahogany contributes to the destruction of the rainforest and threatens the people who live there because their environment is being destroyed, and they are being killed by diseases introduced by the loggers as well as in clashes with them.
Last year the London based Environmental Investigation Agency said it had uncovered a timber smuggling operation stretching from Papua to China, describing it as the world’s largest logging racket, involving the merbau species, a hardwood mainly used for flooring. The agency said that 300,000 cubic metres of merbau were smuggled out of Papua every month to feed China’s timber processing industry, a trade worth US$1 billion a year. A very recent report by the Australian Conservation Foundation reports that logging companies in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are involved in widespread human rights abuses, political corruption and the brutal suppression of workers. The report “Bulldozing Progress: Human Rights Abuse and Corruption in PNG’s Large Scale Logging Industries”, reports disturbing interviews with landowners. They gave eyewitness accounts of unreasonable arrests and physical brutality by police ‘moonlighting’ for logging companies, intimidation and sexual abuse of women, contamination of food and water sources, unfair working conditions and destruction of cultural sites, artefacts and graves.
What can be done?
What can be done about the evils of this world logging trade? Late last year in the Solomon Islands Bishop Charles Koete of the Church of Melanesia (Anglican) and some of his diocesan people visited a newly constructed logging campsite near Bola village on Gela Island. They raised a rugged wooden cross with a public notice halting further activity on the site. The action was taken in accordance with a synod resolution that “logging is not development but destruction.” The bishop, who is also the paramount chief of Gela, said the logging causes destruction to God’s creation and his diocese condemned logging in all its forms. This action was welcomed by the Mothers Union of the Church who were meeting on Gela at the time. In response to what is happening in southern Peru the National Resources Council is suing the US government and two other agencies for permitting the importing of illegal timber. In PNG an effort is underway to oppose industrial logging and begin eco-forestry.
Early this year Greenpeace was invited by the Catfish clan of the Kuni tribe to set up a camp on the edge of Lake Murray in the Western Province of PNG to run community development workshops for more than thirty clans. Land for eco-forestry was identified, and the owners trained in forestry management and sawmill operation. Local landowners have been able to set up community based small scale eco-enterprises that will strengthen land rights and culture, provide income, protect the environment, and provide a future for their children. The clans involved have expressed a commitment to oppose industrial logging and begin eco-forestry. The Greenpeace volunteers have returned to their home countries determined to raise consumer awareness about choices in purchasing consumer products. Their message is loud and clear. Illegally harvested timber destroys homes and communities, timber harvested sustainably preserves communities and their culture.
Let’s take the log out of our eye and ask some hard questions about the operations of the world’s multinational logging companies operating in the developing world, and those downstream who benefit from their activity, including log and timber importers, furniture manufacturers and retailers, as well as ourselves as consumers.
Methodist Mission and Ecumenical Occasional Paper
God in Christ reconciling
A report of the recent World Methodist Conference provided by David Pratt
The World Methodist Council met in Seoul for two days preceding the World Methodist Conference. The World Methodist Conference gathered on 20th July 2006 at Kumnam Methodist Church Seoul. Kumnam is the largest Methodist Church in the world, having a membership of 112,000 people. The Church seats 10,000 and has five services each Sunday. The worship centre was packed with 2,500 delegates to the Conference and with thousands of Korean Methodist people. Conference leadership included Past President Excellency Rev Dr Sunday Mbang of Nigeria; the new President Rev Dr John C. A. Barrett of the UK; and General Secretary Rev Dr George H. Freeman USA.
The opening service led by his Excellency Rev Sunday Mbang from Nigeria, President of the World Methodist Conference, featured a parade of banners representing the 76 Methodist Churches present. The Methodist Church, or its involvement in a Uniting Church, exists in 132 countries and has 75 million members world wide. Orchestral music, choral music, and traditional Korean music, all of the highest standard featured at this service and throughout the Conference. Door stewards were dressed in traditional Hambok attire. The theme of the Conference, “God in Christ Reconciling”, was introduced in the opening worship. This theme proved to be most significant for Korean people whose country is divided north and south by the DMZ (De Militarised Zone.) and whose countries are technically still at war. Hymns were sung in Korean English, German and Spanish. Always translation was available. It was thrilling to be led by a full symphony orchestra and a choir of 200 to sing “All praise to our redeeming Lord who joins us by his grace and bids us each to each restored together seek his face,” with 10,000 people, singing in five languages. God’s word was read from 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. This more than adequately set the theme for the next four days of addressed and worship.
The theme of the Conference was “God in Christ Reconciling.” For people of faith in Christ reconciliation is not an option, but a requirement. We forgive as we are forgiven. Like the father looking for the home coming of his prodigal son, we look forward and take action to move towards reconciliation. South Korea is a special place to talk of reconciliation, for here North and South, still technically at war with one another, look forward to that day when the two nations will be one nation again, and it is the Christian Churches of both North and South that are driving that reconciliation. During the conference we were to hear about the reconciliation of Christians and Muslim people in Bangladesh, the work of the Methodist Church in Costa Rica working amongst the poor, the process of being one nation in South Africa, and a host of other unity stories. It was most moving to hear Rev Dr Walter Klaiber, a leader of the German Methodist Church pray, from his own experience in Germany, for the reconciliation of North and South Korea. “When conflict and strife arise, turn our minds to the way of peace. Let your Spirit convert our heart, calming troubled consciences, reconciling the alienated, enabling conversation between adversaries, and turning the swords of nations into ploughshares.”
Doctrine of justification
It was a pleasure and an inspiration to be present at the signing of the Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Methodist Council. This declaration concludes the discussion on the differences that have existed since the Reformation between Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches on the doctrine of Justification. Dialogue continues with the Salvation Army and the Church of England which it is hoped will further add further signatories to the declaration.
A feature of the Conference was the daily cultural contribution. There were morning and evening concerts, and choirs and orchestras performed at lunchtime concerts. There were of an exceptionally high standard and included: university orchestras, army chaplains’ choir, ministers’ choir, ministers wives’ choir, children’ song groups, dance groups and at the Saturday evening cultural night a modern rock opera presented by a group of teens. It was apparent that the Korean Methodist Church, from which these groups came, had not adapted Korean music and culture, but had adopted American and European cultural practices.
Speakers and activities
Each Morning there was a Keynote presentation and a bible study. Trevor Hudson from Cape Town spelled out the meaning of Romans 8:22-27. “We know that all creation groans? and the spirit of God groans within us, ?waiting for God to make us his children and set our whole being free.” Dr Duplee Fernando talked of reconciliation between Tamil and Sri Lankan people in Sri Lanka. Heather Morris of Northern Ireland shared her understanding of the reconciliation taking place there between Catholic and Protestant communities. Evelyn Parker, an Afro American, shared her concerns for real healing of the black population, especially black American women.
Each committee of the Council had opportunity to report on their work. Rev Ivan Abrahams of South Africa presented the report of the Social International committee. Dr Eddie Fox heads World Methodist Evangelism. His committees work takes him to all parts of the world. Jill van de Geer was elected a member of the WMC Presidium and Mary Caygill a a co-chair of the Social and International Affairs Committee.
I now have a much deeper sense of belonging to a world wide fellowship of Methodist people. I can truly say that I have Methodist friends all over the world. I learned some very beautiful new songs and hymns. The Methodist church is a fast growing fellowship of Christian people. All over the world Methodism has a very practical serving edge which has no less an aim than reconciliation among all people - the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The sharing of Gospel good news is exciting. I am most thankful for the opportunity that I have experienced and wish to express my thanks to all those who made it possible.
Methodist Mission and Ecumenical Occasional Paper
Seeking answers in the ashes of Honiara
Dr. Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka, a Solomon Island Research Fellow at the East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Programme, Honolulu, Hawai’i, provides this assessment of the recent turmoil in Honiara following the general election. It is an abridged version of an article published in the Solomon Star newspaper on 23 April.
The Solomon Islands national capital, Honiara, woke up on Wednesday 19th April, 2006 to the smoldering remains of the previous day’s impromptu protest that left much of China Town burned to the ground, shops looted, vehicles torched, about 20 police officers injured, and a newly elected Prime Minister in hiding. That morning the sky opened and it rained as though to cool the anger that led to the mayhem. In some places, however, the flames flared on in defiance, eating away the old wooden structures that were once part of a bustling shopping district. In other places, like Ranadi and the Kukum seafront, the looting and destruction continued. Like the defiant flames at China Town, the memories of what happened on 18th April 2006 and the reasons behind this violent protest will not go away easily.
It was the first destruction of its kind ever seen in Honiara. During the social unrests in 1998–2003 the capital city was not destroyed in this manner. Even the riot of 1989 was nothing compared to what happened on Tuesday. Why did this happen? What created so much anger? What should be done to cool people’s anger and prevent such things from happening again? Even before the first fires were lit on the streets of Honiara, international commentators and spin doctors were quick to draw connections between this protest and rioting to the social unrests of 1998–2003 that led to the deployment of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). However, what happened in Honiara on Tuesday cannot be explained in terms of social unrest alone. In fact, it had little to do with the social unrest and more with what people perceived as the corruption of the democratic process. In particular, the protest (that later led to rioting and looting) highlights concerns about the process of selecting a prime minister, and how ‘business interests’ allegedly influenced the formation of governments. Further, it raises broader issues about the role of political parties in Solomon Islands politics, and questions assumptions about the Westminster parliamentary system and its ability to create a representative government.
Snyder Rini received a cold reception on Tuesday 18th of April when he was declared as Solomon Islands’ new Prime Minister. For the hundreds of people who gathered outside the National Parliament Building at Vavaya Ridge, Rini represented the ‘old guard’; the same group that Allan Kemakeza [the former prime minister] led in the previous parliament and who, in the eyes of many Solomon Islanders, failed miserably on the credibility scale. Rini was Kemakeza’s deputy in that government. When Solomon Islanders turned up in large numbers to cast their votes in the 5th April 2006 general election, there was widespread hope that parliament would elect a new government that would steer the country away from the path it had followed in the last 27 years of independence. That hope slipped away through the cracks of the parliamentary process when it was announced on Tuesday that the members of parliament had elected Rini as Prime Minister. If the desire of many Solomon Islanders was for a new government, then how did Rini manage to win the contest for the Prime Minister position and bring back into power the ‘old guard’?
To answer this question one needs to understand the weakness of party systems, the fluidity of political alliances, and the process of selecting a Prime Minister in the Solomon Islands. In the absence of a strong party system, voters tend to vote for individuals rather than political parties. These individuals, after being elected into parliament, form political alliances and then compete to capture the prime minister position and subsequently form the government. The country’s constitution provides a fourteen-day period between the date of the general election and the selection of the Prime Minister. During this period, aspiring candidates for prime minister lobby intensely to acquire the numbers needed to win the contest and form the government. Most Solomon Islanders have no control over this process and become spectators in a process that assumes that their respective members of parliament have their interests at heart. Past experiences have shown, however, that in many cases the constituents did not usually influence the choice of Prime Minister and the political alliances that were formed. Rather, there have been allegations that powerful businessmen – mostly Chinese, or waku as they are known in Solomon Islands – pay large sums of money to members of parliament in order to ensure that any government that is formed serves their interests.
In the election for prime minister there were three candidates who tussled to win the allegiances of the fifty members of parliament. They were Job Dudley Tausinga who was nominated by the Grand Coalition (GC), Snyder Rini nominated by the Association of Independent Members of Parliament (AIMP) and Peoples Alliance Party (PAP) coalition, and Manasseh Sogavare who led the Social Credit Party. Despite claims by the three groups that they had the numbers to form the government, no one could be certain until the voting took place. But, it was Sogavare who tipped the number scales towards Snyder Rini’s camp. After losing the nomination for the Prime Minister candidacy to Tausinga, he deserted the GC, pulled a couple of members of parliament with him and formed his own group. There were allegations that he was bankrolled by some Asian logging companies and prominent businessmen who were concerned that a Tausinga led government would not serve their interests. Rini, on the other hand had the support of a wealthy ethnic Chinese businessman who is also the president of the AIMP and who owns the Honiara Hotel where the AIMP/PAP group camped in the lead up to the election of the Prime Minister. Because of these connections it has been alleged that some members of parliament deserted the GC after having been offered large sums of money by those with deep pockets and connections in the shady corridors of Solomon Islands business world.
The protest against Rini’s election as Prime Minister was, then, a result of widespread public perceptions that Asian – especially Chinese – businessmen bribed members of parliament into supporting Rini and the ‘old guard’ who served their interests. Rini’s history of close relationship with these businessmen did not help. When he was Minister for Finance, for example, he gave many of them tax exemptions that cost Solomon Islands millions of dollars in potential revenue. The sad thing,. however, is that the media tends to refer to Asians and Chinese in a very general and inclusive manner that does not do justice to the fact that many Solomon Islander Chinese have little to do with politics. Unfortunately, they too suffered in the rioting and looting and have lost properties. Many of the Chinese who owned shops at China Town are descendants of those who came to Solomon Islands during the colonial days as labourers, cooks, laundry boys, etc. for the British administrators and plantation owners. Over the years they worked hard to build the retail stores and the other businesses they owned. It is sad and shameful to see all that go up in flames.
It must also be noted that while the protest was politically motivated, there was also a certain degree of opportunism in the rioting and looting that followed. Many people were there simply to loot and destroy and did not have any political agenda. Given all that has happened, the question then is: What should Solomon Islanders do to calm the anger and ensure that this does not happen again? While the reinforcement of RAMSI troops and police is welcome and the call for Rini’s resignation was understandable, much more must be done to resolve – rather than suppress – the issues and problems that underlie the protest.
There is a need to establish statutory regulations that would facilitate the development of political parties, regulate the conduct of politicians, and ensure that the process of selecting the prime minister is transparent. However, that the development of parties and their effective and efficient participation in the governance process cannot be addressed by statutory reforms alone. Parties are also influenced by the culture of the societies in which they operate. Voters’ perceptions of the role of parties and the nature of their relationship to members of parliament also influence how parties are organised and how politicians relate to parties. What is obvious in the case of Solomon Islands is that there is a need for reforms that would ensure that the entire process of selecting people for parliament – from the general election to the selection of prime minister – is fair, free and transparent. The rules of engagement must also ensure that the process cannot easily be corrupted.
Unless these changes occur, getting into parliament, selecting a prime minister, forming governments, and doing good, will continue to be a tricky business in the Solomon Islands. In the next few weeks, as we clean Honiara and sweep away the ashes, let us not forget the lessons that this event has offered us.
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical Occasional Paper
From 1999 to 2005 I served on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC). This gave me a privileged opportunity to participate in the programme life of the WCC. Issues of economic globalisation have featured large in the work of the Justice Peace and Creation team in Geneva over this time. The culmination of its work in the period since the Harare assembly in 1998 has been the document ‘Alternative Globalisation Addressing Peoples and Earth (AGAPE)’.
This document is a response to the question, “How do we live our faith in the context of economic globalisation?” It seeks to address the pastoral, ethical, theological and spiritual challenges that economic globalisation poses to the churches and the ecumenical movement. It is an attempt to develop a just, compassionate and inclusive world. This requires us to address economic and ecological justice holistically and with people participation at all levels.
The AGAPE document is rooted in the affirmation that the earth and all life have their origins in God and belong to God. “They are not the property of humans to be commodified. ?agape relationships reflect that all life has its roots in God’s free grace and life-giving love.” Grace is God’s power to sustain and renew creation and turn us from death to life. Discrimination, exclusion, and an unequal distribution of wealth and power deny the values of agape communities, and violate the commandment to love God and neighbour.
Life is under threat. Wealth is increasingly in the hands of a small minority resulting in massive inequalities. The lives of the poor are being sacrificed for the gains of the rich with 1.5billion people around the world, the majority of whom are women, children, and indigenous people, living on less that $1 a day. The annual income of the richest 1% is equal to that of the poorest 57%. 24,000 people die each day from poverty and malnutrition. Environmental problems caused by global warming, the depletion of natural resources, and the loss of biodiversity loom ever larger.
To change all this requires a focus on transformative justice, which calls for the building of just, participatory, and sustainable communities. It seeks the equitable distribution of social goods and acknowledges that the earth must not be exploited, but nurtured and cared for. Transformative justice calls us to make some shifts in our thinking.
From free trade to just trade
Justice in trade relationships is a biblical principle. Justice for the poor remains the test of any economic system. Abolishing inequalities must apply at all levels. An agape economy has at its heart a spirituality of transformation that promotes just relationships in consumption, production, and trade, such that the goals are ethical, sustainable, and equitable. The exchange and consumption of goods and services must meet the needs of all humankind and the earth. For this to happen, the fundamental values and structures of the international market place must change. The free trade agenda of the World Trade Organisation has to be reigned in.
From food security to food sovereignty
No country can guarantee the survival of its population without having control over the means to produce its own food needs. For only food sovereignty can ensure adequate nutrition for all. There is constant pressure on farmers in poor countries to move to the production of cash crops for export, only to find they face trade barriers in the North, and that the North dumps its highly subsidised food products in their countries. At the same time multinational food companies are gaining control over the world’s food and water supplies. Agape requires that power be put back in the hands of the people so that they can produce their own food and control their own natural resources.
From usury to just finance
In the recent past, poor countries have been encouraged to borrow heavily from international financial institutions. Few Questions were asked or checks made about the credibility of those taking out the loans. Some were dictators, others corrupt politicians and officials. The people were rarely consulted, but now they and future generations are made accountable for repayment of the debit. Agape calls for debit cancellation and transformation of the world financial system so that progress towards economic justice, poverty eradication, and environmental sustainability is maximised. It also means adjusting ethical practices and corporate codes for investment practices around the world.
From earth exploitation to eco-justice
Climate change is a justice issue. Those consuming high proportions of fossil fuels put other people’s lives at risk, through rising sea levels and changing climate patterns. The present level of resource extraction and energy consumption cannot be sustained. Water rights are being privatised and falling into the clutches of multinational companies. Agape calls for the earth and its resources to be protected for present and future generations.
So what can churches do?
The AGAPE document makes a number of suggestions, some of which are:
- To advocate the shift from free trade to just trade;
- To commit to the campaign for debt cancellation and the control and regulation of global and financial markets;
- To advocate for resource and energy efficiency and a shift from fossil fuel based energy production to renewable energies;
- To join the global struggle against the privatisation of goods and services and actively defend the rights of countries and people to define and manage their own development;
- To affirm life-giving agricultural practices by opposing the patenting of seeds and life forms, ensuring food sovereignty, and opposing agro-business;
- To align their economic management and investment structures with an agape economy and to encourage their governments to do likewise.
“We are called to transformation, to choose life so that we and our descendants can live. (Deuteronomy 30) This we do, led by the Holy Spirit, in faithfulness to the God of life who through Jesus Christ has come so that all may have life in all it’s fullness.”
Download full agape document at: www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/agape-new.pdf
Methodist Mission & Ecumenical Occasional Paper
Climate change is a spiritual crisis
The World Council of Churches made the following statement to the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Montreal, Canada, in December 2005
We light a candle – the light being a symbol of joy and hope – because we want to celebrate the coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol.
We want to celebrate the dedication that so many people and so many countries have shown to make the Kyoto Protocol and the UN Convention on Climate Change a success, by agreeing on the Marrakech Accords and on a working plan on adaptation.
We light a candle because we are thankful for the gift of life - ever so precious and ever so delicate - which for us and other people of faith is a gracious and sacred gift.
We are thankful for the gift of the atmosphere as a precondition of life to all living beings. Specifically we remind everyone that we owe a debt to poor and marginalised communities who, by emitting low levels of CO2, limit the climate impact that would occur if all people were to live the lives of wealthy communities, both in the South and the North. Recognising this debt must lead us to a response of justice. Therefore we plead for a substantial Climate Fund in which people from wealthy communities pay for all their excess emissions above the long term sustainable and per capita equal level, to be used for adaptation and sustainable development in poor communities.
We light a candle because we want to remind everyone of the pain and disaster that is already suffered in various regions of the earth due to climate change: disaster to people; disaster to nature.
Disaster inevitably will occur to future generations due to the already high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. We specifically refer to people living in vulnerable living conditions such as in the Pacific islands and the Arctic; to women and children in developing countries who often are first affected by the lack of water, food, fuel and sustainable livelihoods. So we emphasise the need for substantial and immediate adaptation efforts by nations of the North who carry the major responsibility for ongoing climate change.
We light a candle because by burning down the candle we are reminded that time is running out and an agreement must be reached for negotiating equitable and sustainable targets for post-2012.
We are at a critical moment now and it has taken a little over a century to get there. We must prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, which means limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees. Radical changes have to take place in order to make the transition to sustainability within this century. This is the moment for decision. The atmosphere has to be shared equally and justly. We mustn’t let political power, the market and technology-based economic competition decide how the use of the atmosphere will be distributed.
We light a non-fossil fuel candle as an appeal to the non-fossil fuel society that we envisage.
We welcome the tremendous possibilities of science and technology that can be and should be shared graciously, as a crucial contribution to sustainable development all over the world. This can lead to just societies with significant improvement in quality of life.
We light a candle as an acknowledgement that what we suffer from is not simply a technological, economic or ecological crisis, but a spiritual crisis.
Our present situation is the result of valuing political power over the community, solidarity and justice for all; of valuing individual control of material wealth over the enjoyment of the gifts of nature and friendship. So we seek guidance for all in moving to an appreciation of community and enjoyment of the bounty of nature.
We light a candle because we remember that people have always gathered around the light as a symbol of safety, warmth, community and hope.
As representatives of faith communities from all the continents of our world, we ask you, and dedicate ourselves to, continue to build a community of justice, equity, solidarity and sustainability.
Climate change forces village to move
A small island in Vanuatu is claimed to be the first in the world to have to move its community because of rising sea levels. "The sea has its own ways. We can't control it," says Chief Reuben Selwyn as he stands on a thin wall of coral which is all that now separates his little village from the invading sea.
The destiny of Tegua Island, home to 64 people in the remote Torres group of islands in far north Vanuatu, has always rested on the sea. The sea brought its first settlers at least 3000 years ago on bamboo rafts, its raiding enemies from nearby islands, the first beche-de-mer traders from Europe, "blackbirders" and Anglican missionaries. It brings bright rainbow-coloured reef fish and leatherback turtles, who build nests along a windswept coast, as well as colonies of football-sized coconut crabs, prized by the restaurants of the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila.
But for some years, the sea has been literally eating away this pristine coral island. Chief Reuben, paramount head of the island, claims that at least once a year a combination of king tides and a surging sea whipped up by strong winds floods his village of Loteu. He remembers as a young boy he could walk 30 metres from his house and fish from a rocky beach platform. Now the platform is submerged and he has been forced to abandon his childhood home.
A world away in Montreal, Canada, scientists have been attending a major conference on climate change and the human cost of rising sea levels. The scientific panel advising the UN Environment Program believes seas could rise by up to a metre by 2100 because of melting polar icecaps and warmer temperatures linked to burning fossil fuels and the industrial emission of greenhouse gasses.
A Pacific island delegate at the 189-nation conference, Taito Nakalevu, says king tides are flooding islands across his region. Pacific islanders living on low-lying coral atolls are among those seriously at risk. Two uninhabited Kiribati islands disappeared in 1999. Tuvalu has approached Australia and New Zealand to resettle its entire population when its islands are expected to go underwater within the next 30 years. Meanwhile, 2000 people living on the Carteret islands in Papua New Guinea are preparing to move to nearby Bougainville Island, a four-hour boat ride to the south-west.
The biggest problem for Tegua islanders has been the lack of fresh water. There are no rivers or creeks, so they relied on two small freshwater springs. One has dried up and the other is covered by the sea. For the past decade or more, islanders have had to rely on rainwater they get for six months of the year during the wet season brought on by the trade winds. For the other six months there is only what water they have saved in small plastic containers as well as that island saviour, coconuts. The village of Leteu is now being relocated half a kilometre inland. Chief Ruben says, "There's room here for our families and a rest house for visitors.
I think our water problems are over now. We plan to move into our new homes in January or February." Sydney Morning Herald 23 December 2005
A spiritual declaration on climate change
Made by faith community participants during the United Nations Climate Change Conference
· We hear the call of the Earth.
· We believe that caring for life on earth is a spiritual commitment.
· People and other species have the right to life unthreatened by human greed and destructiveness.
· Pollution, particularly from the energy-intensive wealthy industrialised countries, is warming the atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere is leading to major climate changes. The poor and vulnerable in the world and future generations will suffer the most.
· We commit ourselves to help reduce the threat of climate change through actions in our own lives, pressure on governments and industries and standing in solidarity with those most affected by climate change.
· We pray for spiritual support in responding to the call of the earth.