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Executive Council Resolution prior to
70th General Convention (1991)
of the Episcopal Church, USA

The 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA met in Phoenix, AZ, in July 1991. Prior to the General Convention, the Executive Council passed the following Resolution:

Policy and Action Plan

Executive Council 11/3 - 6/89

Resolved,  That the Executive Council adopts, and submits to the 1991 Meeting of the General Convention in Phoenix for approval and endorsement, the attached:

A.  "Policy on the Environment";  and

B.  "Plan for Implementation of the Policy on the Environment";

and be it further

Resolved,  that the Executive Council recommends that the 1991 meeting of the General Convention include in the Program Budget for 1992 an apropriation of $100,000 to carry out the fore going policy and plan on the environment;  and be it further

Resolved,  That  the Secretary is directed to take the necessary steps to submit the foregoing in resolution form to the 1991 meeting of the General Convention.

 


EXPLANATION

The 1988 meeting of the General Convention in Detroit adopted Res. D126a regarding the "global environment."   That resolution requested,among other things, that the Executive Council "give high priority" to the development of a "statement of policy and plan of action regarding stewardship of the global environment,"  and that any such policy and plan"be presented to the (1991) General Convention for approval."  This resolution of the council is intended to carry out this responsibility.  Moreover,  it has been adopted in the light of a changing perception in the Anglican Communion,as well as other denominations, that the Church's approach to environmental issues should entail a broad view of the relationship between the environmental and creation. It has been adopted after prayerful study of and reflection upon the numerous materials that have been made available for its guidance.

Resolution D126a in Detroit was a simple statement of the intended task for the Executive Council that had emerged after consideration of a wide variety of environmentally-related proposals by the relevant committees of both Houses of the Convention.  Virtually all those proposals,  however, had as their stated focus the church's attitude toward the "physical environment"or the "conservation of natural resources," as those terms were commonly understood at the time.  Those proposals were evidence of deep concerns regarding the impact which industrial and economic development in the United States and around the world continued to have on the quality of the planet's air, water , and land and its resulting risk to human health and to animal and plant species.  Indeed,  the convention in adopting the eight "mission imperatives" of the Church stressed compelling need for the Church to "act in faitful stewardship in response to the biblical teaching of the right use of God's Creation"  (Imperative VI).

  Another perspective on the environment was developing at the same time, however.  A report of the StandingCommission on Peace had called attention to the relationship between the issues of the physical environment and those of peace and justice. In addition , the 1988 Conference of Anglican Bishops at Lambeth encouraged an integrated approach to these themes and articulated a growing sense of urgency in such concerns throughout the world. The Bishops, in their Resolution 40, "Environment, Militarism, Justice and Peace,"  "indentified four inter-related areas in which the issue of people or resources  poses a threat to the life system of the planet.  there were unujust distribution of the world's wealth, "social injustice within nations", the "rise of militarism" and "irreversible damage to the environment." The conference went on to observe in its "Explanatory Note" that "some effects of human activity in these areas, "like famine, can be recognized immediately," while others, "like pollution, are a creeping crisis which is nonetheless deadly." The Bishops further explained that these "major threats to the earth's future cannot be averted by action in one region of the world alone,  nor by focusing on a single issue...";  rather "everything connects."

In the intervening three years,  that understanding of the interrelationship among issues of the physical environment specifically, social and economic justice,  and promotion of peace has become widespread in religious communities.1  Tthus, the World Council of Churches has begun an integrated approach to the resolution of such issues in a discussion and resolution process known as "Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation."

Meeting first in March 1990 in Seoul, Korea and more recently in February 1991 in Canberra, Australia, the World Council in its detailed report "Giver of Life – Sustain Your Creation "  (Doc. No. SE1.4)  called for a "new vision" that will "integrate our interdependent ecological, social, economic, political and spiritual needs" (para. 5).

More particularly, the Council stated:
 

"We want to say as forcefully as we can that social justice for all people and eco-justice for all creation must go together.  Social Justice cannot happen apart from a healthy environment,and a sustainable and sustaining environment will not come about without greater social justice. Justice is truly indivisible,  not only as a matter of theological conviction but in practice.  The biblical concept of justice recognized the need for healthy relationships in creation as a whole. This way of viewing justice helps us understand the linkage between poverty, powerless, social conflict and environmental degradation."    Id.

 Moreover ,  the World Council's report provided the following useful summary of the urgency of the matter (para. 6):
 

"The warming of the earth's atmosphere poses grave danger to the capacity of human and other life to survive and flourish.  We are further threatened by the cumulative effect of other factors, including destruction of the earth's protective ozone shield, land degradation through deforestation, erosion, decertification, salinization, commercial exploitation, militarization and wars, water pollution, air degradation, species extinction and more.  All of creation seems broken, wounded and hurt."

  We commend this report by the World Council for careful review.2

Within our own Church, there also have been forceful calls for a new understanding of, and response to, the interrelated problems of justice and creation,  In this regard, the Executive Council has been particularly aided by a report made to it entitled "The Episcopal Church in Communion With Creation: Policy and Action Plan for the Environment and Sustainable Development"  Sept. 1990),  prepared by the Presiding Bishop's Consultation on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The Consultation's report stresses the urgent theological and scientific reasons why a new environmental policy and plan for the Church are needed,  as well as detailed recommendations for steps to be taken at various levels of the church.  We commend this document also for review,  and particularly for guidance in framing plans of action at the diocesan and parish levels. Similarly, we commend for study and guidance a new publication by the Office of Stewardship at the Episcopal Church Center. J. Scherff,  Just and Proper Use, Issues in Environmental Stewardship. (1991)

Accordingly, pursuant to a resolution of the Executive Council at its November 1990 meeting, the Presiding Bishop appointed an ad hoc committee of members of the Council and of the Presiding Bishop's Office to draw together some of the foregoing materials, as well as numerous others,  and assist the Council in developing a concise and practical policy and implementation plan for adoption and submission to the General Convention.  That ad hoc committee, in conjunction with the Council's Committee on Planning and Development,  then assisted the Council in a discernment process regarding a new approach to justice and creation that occupied the bulk of the Council's January 1991 meeting.  At the conclusion of that effort,  the Council adopted a resolution charging the ad hoc committee with using the results of the Council's discernment process to develop a proposed environmental policy and implementation plan for consideration and adoption by the council at its April 1991 meeting.3

 The policy and plan embraced by this resolution are regarded by the Council as faithful and realistic steps in moving toward the ideals set forth by the Lambeth conference of 1988 and the World Council of Churches Assembly of 1991,  as well as in the materials from our own and other denominations noted above.  The policy and plan thus attempt to reach farther than the mandate of the General Convention in 1988 by recognizing that our concerns for the environment must and do extend beyond the conservation and enhancement of physical  resources and into the interrelated areas of justice and peace.  At the same time,  the Council recognized that in many respects we in the Church – from the General Convention and the Council to our dioceses and congregations – are just beginning to be aware of how much there is to do, and how much we must supplement and expand our ongoing efforts in the areas of the physical environment, peace and social and economic justice.  The Council was also convinced that the whole environmental challenge is a systemic one that requires a systemic solution. 

The Council also recognized that our approach to this task must be rooted in the theologically-articulated faith of the Church.  It appreciated and was grateful for the diversity of theological thought that has been brought to bear on environmental issues,  as displayed in the report of the Presiding Bishop's "Consultation," as well as by contemporary scholars in the particular areas of fall/redemption theology, creation spirituality, process theology, feminist theology, liberation theology, and native spiritualities.  While the Council's liberation theology, and native spititualities.  While the Council's policy and plan do not attempt a definitive theological statement on the environment,  the Council's policy is based on fundamental Christian beliefs, in particular that all creation is of God and that as part of that creation we are given the specific tasks of responsible and faithful stewardship of all that is.  It is hoped that the issue itself will evoke further theological examination and reflection.

In sum,  the Council has taken seriously, as it urges the General Convention and all others in the church to take seriously, the call of the 1991 report of the World Council of Churches (Para. 16) that "all Christians...seek justice, peace and the renewal of all creation," that "churches...study the situation, and consider radical social change," and that there be a "reordering of personal and corporate life-styles, relationships and the overall economic system."

The Council has thus adopted this policy and plan, and submits them to the general Convention for approval, as a next step.                               _______________________________________________________________________

1- Keeping and Healing the Creation, by the Presbyterian Eco-Justice Task Force (1989),  and an American Baptist Policy Statement on Ecology An Ecological Situational Analysis  (1990), are but two of numerous examples of helpful discussion by other denominations in this regard.

2- We also commend the World Council's Report (doc. 79). Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, prepared at Seoul in 1990 in anticipation of the Council's 1991 Assembly in Canberra.

3- In addition, the ad hoc comittee has also been able to review the helpful reports on this subject by the Standing Commission on World Mission, Human Affairs and Stewardship and Development

 

From April 1991 meeting of Executive Council

 

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The EpEN is a national network of active lay and clergy persons within the Episcopal Church, USA, who share a common concern for the environment and a common belief in the presence of God in all Creation and who work to make these concerns and beliefs known throughout all Provinces and Dioceses within the church. Members come from around the Episcopal Church USA. The activities of the EpEN are focused on the areas of Reflection, Education, and Action. 

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last update:  2012-05-04

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