Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation committees vote on fossil fuels, nuclear energy, conservation

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Jun 5, 2024

San Diego deputy Rachel Ambasing asks a question during the June 4 online meeting of the legislative committees on Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation. Photo: Zoom screenshot

[Episcopal News Service] The legislative committees on Environmental Stewardship & Care of Creation recommended action on three resolutions during their meeting on June 4.

Deputy Kirsten Lee from the Diocese of Kansas presented a proposed substitute for Resolution A098, dealing with fossil fuel non-proliferation. It calls on General Convention to endorse the United Nations Climate Summit’s 2023 Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and it also encourages provinces, dioceses, congregations and all other institutions of The Episcopal Church to create a plan for phasing out fossil fuels over the next 10 years, and keep their constituencies updated on the progress toward that.

After discussion, both the bishop’s and deputies’ committees voted to recommend the substitute resolution be adopted. Legislative committees include parallel but distinct committees of deputies and of bishops that typically meet and deliberate together but vote separately.

Lee also presented a recommendation that a substitute for Resolution C029, which endorses the use of nuclear energy while the United States moves to carbon neutrality, be adopted. She noted the concerns that people have about issues of nuclear waste and safety but said it was important for The Episcopal Church officially to endorse nuclear energy as a reliable, carbon-free energy source during the transition away from fossil fuels.

After discussion, both committees voted to recommend that the substitute resolution be referred to an interim body.

The Rev. Lisa Ransom, deputy from Vermont, recommended adoption of a substitute for resolution D029, which asks that all entities of The Episcopal Church adopt as a target that 30% of land and water are conserved by 2030. New language would allow the Office of Government Relations to advocate on behalf of this effort, she said.

She said her subcommittee worked with the Episcopal Church’s Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations in crafting the substitute resolution. Because that office can engage members of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government only on matters for which The Episcopal Church has an official position, it is necessary for General Convention to create that policy by resolution.

Both committees voted to recommend the adoption of the substitute.

Kansas Bishop Cathleen Bascom, who was chairing the meeting, then asked the other two bishops present, San Joaquin Bishop David Rice and Taiwan Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang, to vote on whether the committee’s recommendations about resolutions should go to the floor of the House of Bishops for debate or whether they should be placed on the consent calendar.

In the House of Bishops, the default is that resolutions are debated on the floor unless a committee votes to put them on the consent calendar. It is the opposite in the House of Deputies – resolutions go to the consent calendar unless a committee votes for floor debate.

The bishops voted to put their committees’ action on Resolutions A022, A084, A098, A099, B005, C029 and D029 on the consent calendar. Resolutions A021, B002 and D030 will have floor debate.

One remaining resolution, D050, will have a hearing and committee votes in Louisville, Kentucky, where the 81st General Convention takes place. General Convention – the church’s primary governing body – is scheduled for six legislative days June 23-28, but committees can meet as early as June 22.

—Melodie Woerman is a freelance reporter based in Kansas.