Abundant hope can overcome climate despair

The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) committed to “leading a conversion of epic scale, a metanoia, or communal spiritual movement away from sin and despair toward the renewal and healing of all creation.”

The statement was announced during t the opening session of a two-day gathering was sponsored by the Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden.


“We commit to being the voice and hands that will witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and build the moral and political will that prompts action from our elected leaders,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and Church of Sweden Archbishop Anders Wejryd said in a joint statement issued May 2. “As international churches with congregations in many nations, we can and will use our global networks to promote a political framework to limit climate change, while in a unified voice we speak to the world about the urgency of committed climate work.”

They addressed their statement to “our churches and to people of faith around the world….”

…Jefferts Schori acknowledged during her opening remarks to the gathering that “the idea of changing climate elicits grief in many people, as well it should.” She said that people express that grief in “many of the classic ways that we respond to all kinds of loss.”


Mary Evelyn Tucker, a senior lecturer and senior research scholar at Yale University and a co-founder and co-director of its Forum on Religion and Ecology gave the keynote address on May 1. She continued the conference’s theme of hope by suggesting that the academy (and scientists in particular) and the church must both change their stances in the face of overwhelming evidence of climate change.

Tucker said “moral wakening is critical,” but, she asked, “will moral rebuke be sufficient or is evoking compassion for the earth community – both people and planet – what is also needed?”

Guilt can be a motivator for change but, Tucker said, “if we are just inducing guilt into the people we won’t have the transformation of action and long-term change.”

Tucker asked “how can we break through scientific complexity to moral clarity that gives rise to social, political and religious change?”

“Scientific facts and graphs have not changed behavior,” she noted.

And, scientists are not inclined to make the leap from describing problems to advocating prescriptions for change, according to both Tucker and another speaker at the opening session, Kevin Noone, the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and a research scientist in atmospheric chemistry and physics at the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.

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