Meeting in Belfast on the penultimate day of the denomination’s General Assembly, members discussed the report on climate change by the Stewardship of Creation panel. The Report has developed a biblical position on its causes and effects while setting out seven principles of being good stewards of God’s creation. It also looks at what practical action and lifestyle choices can be made by churches and its members to be good stewards.
The report states that its aim “is to develop a biblical position on what a very substantial and significant scientific population believe to be the causes and effects of climate change. The scientific material and the biblical material will lead us to some principles of stewardship of creation and finally to some practical application of what we can do as a denomination, as churches and as individual members to care for God’s world and to reduce our adverse impact on it.”
The paper called all PCI members to be open to being challenged by climate change and view it as ‘an essential aspect of discipleship.’
Affecting East Africa
During the debate, members heard from some of PCI’s global mission partners attending the General Assembly. The Rev. Alfred Kanga, Deputy Secretary General of the Presbyterian Church in East Africa, said, “I want to assert that Climate Change is a global issue that is the result of human abuse of God’s creation. This has led to the negative effect being experienced by developing countries and the developed as well."
Speaking about his own experience of the effect of climate change in Kenya, Rev. Kanga said, “Last month Kenya experienced unusual rains as a result of Climate Change, which culminated in thousands of acres being destroyed, more than 100 people died and 3,000 people displaced. A dam burst and swept away many houses including a Presbyterian Church."
He concluded by saying, “Since we love God and we belong to God then we should therefore treat His property with care and respect and repent for mistreating His lovely creation.”
Referencing Psalm 24, which says, 'The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it', Rev. Dr. Liz Hughes, convener of the Council for Global Mission told the General Assembly that, “We owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ across our world to care about the issues which impact them so severely."
Preventing a harvest
Dr. Hughes talked about the experience of the Indonesian island of Sumba where the Christian church is growing at an impressive rate. But it is also a part of the world which is being seriously threatened by climate change. The convenor was in the country two years ago and visited one village where nothing they had planted that year had been able to grow.
“Sumba has two seasons, a rainy season and a dry season. Previously both seasons would last for around six months each, but since the climate began to change, Sumba has become drier and the rainy season has become shorter.
“The fear of losing the young people from these villages to the constant danger of human trafficking has become a major concern for the local church. We were told that there were over 100 villages on this relatively small island, which were unable to grow enough to feed their people,” Dr. Hughes said.
The General Assembly commended the Report on climate change and encouraged congregations to consider how its conclusions might challenge lifestyle choices. The Report identified a number of areas of practical action, encouraging congregations, for example, to undertake an environmental audit to see what can be done to reduce the damage done to God’s creation and reverse the trend of wastefulness.
Most of the public sessions will be streamed live via this website. All public session proceedings can also be followed via live Twitter feed @pciassembly using the hashtag #PCIGA18.
Details of each day’s business of the 2018 General Assembly can be found at www.presbyterianireland.org/GA18 along with the resolutions and reports before the General Assembly contained in the Blue Book. The General Assembly closes tomorrow, Friday, 8th June.