Twelve years after that first meeting, just before COP13 was held on the Island of Bali in 2007, the Pacific Conference of Churches issued a call to their “sisters and brothers in Christ throughout the world to act in solidarity with us to reduce the causes of human-induced climate change”. Perhaps not a call that was heeded, for last December – 12 years later – President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands, a group of small islands in the western Pacific, spoke to COP25; “Water covers much of our land … as we fight rising tides. It’s a fight to the death for anyone not prepared to flee. As a nation, we refuse to flee. But we also refuse to die.”
Did people listen? By all accounts, the outcome of December’s COP25 in Madrid was a bit of a cop-out. Rich developed countries did not bring plans as to how they will further reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Large developing nations were reluctant to commit to reducing their emissions before the large rich nations recognised their historic contribution to increasing carbon dioxide and took further steps. And the small, vulnerable nations like the Marshall Islands got caught in the middle.
Let’s hope, even pray, that COP26 will be more fruitful and honest. Hey, here’s an idea – perhaps when they come together, rather than presenting their plans and “bigging” them up with potential “greenwash” they need to heed the words of James – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5v16).
Maybe we need to listen too. For back in 2007, the call of the Pacific Conference of the Churches was not only to their Christian “brothers and sisters” across the globe to join in their concern and action over climate change. It went further and was more focused; “We issue this call especially to churches in the highly industrialized nations whose societies are historically responsible for the majority of polluting emissions.” A message directed at us. Ouch.
Last month, I said that if we are going to respond to climate change as part of our missional discipleship, sharing in God’s mission to care for creation, we need to go deeper. And the next step towards freedom continues that drive. To admit “to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Confession.
Perhaps we need to heed the words of James too. I wonder if confession plays a part in your worship services anymore. Of course, when we share communion, we need to prepare ourselves. But we seem to have lost the art of confession, especially the accountability of confession to one another. And yet, it comes with a huge promise – “that you may be healed”.
As you begin 2020, take time to listen to the voices of those impacted by climate change. Take time in your worship services to confess how our lives are impacting the environment and other people around the world. It’s been a while since we began this journey, so why not take stock in your discipleship groups of how you are trying to reduce your carbon and environmental footprint. And where you are struggling, pray for each other so that together you can continue to take small steps into God’s future for the planet.
From now until November 2020, and beyond, we need to be embraced by COP. We need to be the “Church of Purpose”, joining in God’s call to care for creation, a world created to fulfil his purpose. We will need to “Carry on Persevering”, being honest with one another, encouraging and challenging one another through our successes and failures. And we need to “Churches of Prayer” as we face the climate crisis. Remember “the prayer of the righteous a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5v16b). It even shapes the climate – remember Elijah;
“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5v17,18)
So, let’s pray for ourselves and one another. Pray for the leaders of the world as they prepare to meet again in November 2020. Pray for the vulnerable affected today by climate change. And listen to them too. Perhaps we need to humbly ask the COP – the Churches of the Pacific – to pray for us all.
This is the fifth blog in a 12 part series from Dave Gregory. To read the first post ‘Addicted’, please click on this link.
Rev Dr Dave Gregory is Ministry Team Leader at Croxley Green Church, a former President of the Baptist Union, and co-ordinator of Messy Church Does Science. He is a JRI Director.
This article was first published on Seventy-Two and it is reprinted with their permission.
Image by Dr. Martin Hodson