Committees hear testimonies on fossil fuels treaty, creating additional task forces, nuclear energy usage

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted May 15, 2024

During General Convention’s Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation legislative committees’ May 14, 2024 open hearing, San Joaquin Bishop David Rice and the Rev. Robin Hollis, a deacon in the Diocese of Arizona, discuss proposed resolution A098, “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation.” The resolution seeks to endorse the proposed global treaty that would complement the Paris Agreement by laying out a guideline to phase out fossil fuel exploration and expansion while supporting countries in their ethical transition to renewable energy sources. Photo: Screenshot

[Episcopal News Service] General Convention’s Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation legislative committees heard testimonies May 14 on five proposed resolutions seeking support for various environmental initiatives ranging from mitigating climate change to supporting nuclear energy usage to protecting biodiversity.

Fifty-two people attended the virtual hearing of the House of Bishops’ and House of Deputies’ committees, which though distinct, typically meet and deliberate together. Once finalized, resolutions will advance to the 81st General Convention, to be held June 23-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. This was the committees’ last open hearing before convention.

The Task Force on Imagining a Church Grounded in Social Justice as Christian Ministry proposed resolution A098, “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation,” which seeks to endorse the proposed global treaty that would complement the Paris Agreement by laying out a guideline to phase out fossil fuel exploration and expansion while supporting countries in their ethical transition to renewable energy sources. More than 100 cities and subnational governments endorsed the treaty during the 28th United Nations Conference of Parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP28, held late last year in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The requested budget to implement A098 is $40,000.00.

“Our abilities to advocate and live into our baptismal covenant is found in the accompany explanation that justifies this resolution, and it helps us in keeping with our following of a living Christ,” said the Rev. Robin Hollis, a deacon in the Diocese of Arizona, while testifying in support of A098. “We feel it is no longer sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We now must phase out the use of fossil fuels.”

One person, Richard Jordan from the Diocese of Southwest Florida, testified against A098 “as it stands” because a draft of the treaty has yet to be written.

“What we have are three foundational pillars, one non-proliferation of the use of fossil fuels to a fair phase out of use of fossil fuels, and three a just transition away from fossil fuels. …There is no text, only three pillars.” he said. “I do applaud the change of behavior… I urge reworking of the language and [additional] resolves to ensure accuracy and adoption by the House of Deputies.”

The Task Force on Imagining a Church Grounded in Social Justice as Christian Ministry also proposed A099, “Task Force for Indigenous Justice to Increase Advocacy Groups Reflecting Creation Care and Environmental Justice Ministries,” which calls for General Convention to authorize the formation of a task force for Indigenous Justice for the next triennium. The task force would represent The Episcopal Church’s Indigenous demographic including two bishops, an equal number of presbyters, deacons and laity up to 16 members. The Indigenous Justice task force would initially focus on eco-justice and later work to promote the recognition of sovereignty for Indigenous people at future U.N. climate conferences.

Five people testified in favor of A099, including the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett, Washington, and vice president of the church’s House of Deputies. She and other participants recommended clarifying language to emphasize that most task force members must be Indigenous. Taber-Hamilton, who is Shackan First Nation, was the only Indigenous Episcopal delegate at COP28.

There’s still work to be done “to empower our own Indigenous voices within the church and being a part of those critical dialogues at COP among Indigenous communities across the world and across the communion,” she said.

During General Convention’s Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation legislative committees’ open hearing May 14, 2024, the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, who serves as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s canon for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, gave an overview of the church’s creation care budget. Photo: Screenshot

The Diocese of Chicago proposed C029, “Supporting a Clean Energy Future,” which calls on General Convention to endorse the use of carbon-free nuclear energy as a fossil fuel alternative alongside other renewable energy sources.

Alan Metzker, a vestry member at St. Simon’s Episcopal Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, said unlike other renewable resources, such as solar and wind, which are generated through solar panels and windmills, nuclear energy plants require “an astonishingly small amount of land” by comparison.

“The way I see it, the best way to support nature is to leave it alone,” he said. “Using energy with low land requirements allows us to do more of that.”

Warren Wong, a member of the church’s House of Deputies from the Diocese of California, recommended referring C029 to Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility to further study before the 82nd General Convention in 2027.

“Does this policy tell our churchwide interfaith global partners that we prefer nuclear energy, that this is our solution to the carbon free solution?” Wong asked. “Do the public and private operations of nuclear energy speak to the issues of environmental racism?”

The Creation Care Caucus proposed Resolution D029, which calls on General Convention to direct all Episcopal institutions to adopt, support and promote the 30×30 target in the report from the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework – also known as the Biodiversity Plan – to ensure 30% of land and water are conserved by 2030.

“This resolution has the opportunity to have local and global impact,” said Emily Hopkins of the Diocese of California. “This resolution does not ask for funding, and it does not create any new committees, task forces or structures. It simply asks people to report the work that they’re doing for biodiversity and to share our stories about what we’re doing.”

The Rev. Barbara Merrick proposed D030, “Create a Task Force in Imagining a Church Grounded in Creation Healing as Christian Ministry,” which calls on General Convention to affirm that creation healing is a primary ministry of The Episcopal Church and for dioceses and congregation to establish programs, events or initiatives revolving around creation healing and repentance. The requested budget to implement D030 is $60,000 for a task force consisting of two bishops, two priests, two deacons and two lay people.

“It is our corporate public witness to the mission of God and Christ to reconcile to himself all things whether on Earth or in heaven by making peace through the blood of his cross,” the Rev. Jerry Cappel, priest-in-charge of St. James Episcopal Church in Shelbyville, Kentucky, said while testifying in favor of D030.

After the testimonies, the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, who serves as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s canon for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, gave an overview of the church’s creation care budget. She said most of the money funds climate change mitigation efforts, specifically The Episcopal Church’s work towards its 2030 net neutrality goals.

The Rev. Melanie Mullen, the church’s director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, and Phoebe Chatfield, the church’s program associate for creation care and justice, provided overviews of churchwide creation care programs, including collaborations with the wider Anglican Communion, such as, potentially, the Anglican Communion Forest.

General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church. Every three years it meets as a bicameral legislature dividing its authority between the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops and composed of members from each diocese.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service based in northern Indiana. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.


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