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

December 6, 2010

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."