Anglican Indigenous Network discusses climate change, full partnership

April 30, 2009

With the active Kilauea volcano spewing steam nearby, the Anglican Indigenous Network (AIN) met April 24-26 on the island of Hawaii and called upon Anglican Communion member churches "to recognize and honor the wisdom of the elders by ensuring they are an integral part of all official climate change planning and development processes."

"This is a good place to be talking about global climate change … indigenous people are feeling the first effects of global warming, whether Anglican or not," said Malcolm Chun, Secretary General of the network, in a telephone interview from the Kilauea Military Camp Recreation Center, the location of the conference.

About 25 delegates from Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand attended the 11th biennial gathering. They released a final statement acknowledging belief that "God is leading us to a turning point in our histories, toward full partnership between indigenous minorities living in our respective homelands."

The AIN gathering also approved a series of resolutions for consideration at the May 1-12 Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) gathering in Kingston, Jamaica, where Chun is set to make a presentation to member churches.

He said he is hopeful about the upcoming meeting because AIN, an organization of indigenous people who are minorities in their native lands "was for the first time actually acknowledged" during the discussion groups at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in Canterbury, England.

"It was recognized that we exist in the communion and that bishops wanted to hear from us words of advice and council about global warming," Chun said after the conclusion of the AIN gathering.

Bishop Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, agreed. "We were all delightfully surprised at the way the Lambeth Conference highlighted indigenous issues. It is critically important that those who arguably have contributed the least to the problem (of global warming) are the most and the first to experience its effects," MacDonald said in a telephone interview.

Delegates to the gathering emphasized "calling the church to recognize in a practical way the implications of the idea of indigenous people as first peoples whose reality of life and authority of life is based on the fact they were always here (and) … are so connected to the environment in a way to prophetically to larger culture today," he added.

MacDonald is a rarity in Anglican tradition as a bishop who is pastor to a group of people irrespective of where they live, rather than to residents of a geographic diocese. In Canada, only the Bishop Ordinary to the Armed Forces, with pastoral oversight of Anglicans serving in the Armed Forces, is in a similar position.

The group also "strongly" urged ACC member churches "whose governments have not yet signed and ratified the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to take appropriate steps to encourage their governments to become signatories."

Four nations -- Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States -- refused to sign the September 13, 2007 landmark declaration which outlined the rights of the world's estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlawed discrimination against them. It specifically cites the rights of indigenous peoples to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

The AIN also approved a resolution renewing the call for indigenous leadership development through "access to all levels of theological education and training, appropriate to their cultural context and traditions."

A fourth and final resolution called upon "the ACC and each national church to recognize the ongoing disastrous effects that colonialism has had on our families. And that they take appropriate and necessary steps for the healing of our families towards wholeness and holiness."

The resolution also asked for protection from violence and human trafficking, and for the ACC Secretary General Kenneth Kearon to report progress to the next AIN gathering, planned for Sydney, Australia, in October 2011.