`Sabbath principle is a life principle'
``The Sabbath principle is more than just a religious principle; it is a life principle,'' says Bishop George Browning (Canberra and Goulburn, Australia) who is heading the subsection on environmental issues. ``Built into the whole created order is the principle of rest and refreshment-the land needs it, plants need it...We are appealing to the Church to appropriately reclaim that principle,'' Bishop Browning says.
Resolutions on the environment (in Section One) are not scheduled for debate, and ecology is not dominating the Conference agenda. But Bishop Browning warns that when it does top the agenda, it may be too late. ``I think the Church is mirroring world governments where the pressure of the immediate is so great that we have to focus on what appear to be the critical issues and they are almost always humanitybased. ``The last Conference focused on women's ordination, this one on debt and sexuality, human dignity and human rights. But at the heart of the matter we need to relate to the whole created order---we need to relate to the world that God has made.''
Ecological issues are spiritual issues, he says. ``That's why increasingly a number of people outside the Church are looking to us to take a lead, and sadly we are not responding.'' Bishop Browning outlines four ways in which the Communion could work in this area:
First, convince the Church: The subsection report provides a theological statement which is both news and ``good news'' for many people: ``If this theological paper commends itself to the Church at large, perhaps the Church will see that in the environmental issue we do have a foundation for evangelism, for teaching and for renewal. For young people an entry into spirituality is through the environment.''
Second, the acts of individuals count: The contribution of every individual is important on this issue, the subsection maintains. The houses we build, the form of energy we use, to how we dispose of our rubbish---all have ecological consequences.
For Bishop Browning, ecological commitment includes collecting and recycling rubbish he finds on his daily morning run, as well as his household waste. He admits that using a bicycle instead of a car poses problems for a 300km journey. If a third of the world's population is Christian, the changes that these millions of people could effect could make a huge difference. ``We are encouraging the bishops to see that ecological issues are as fundamental to their episcopate as the way they manage their administrative and more traditional aspects of Church management.''
Third, influence governments and companies: Environmental issues are not necessarily a popular stance in government because of the cost of imposing ecological restraints. But this advocacy role is essential for the Church, Bishop Browning says. The subsection's report provides a theological statement showing how environmental concerns are a core part of the Gospel, and the subsection hopes this will provide the impetus for people in the Church to move on to practical programmes in their own nations and communities.
Fourth, establish an Anglican coordinator
for the environment: The subsection is calling for the appointment of an Anglican coordinator for the environment
in the same way that the Communion has officers for other areas of the Church's world. It is demanding not necessarily
an officer in London orWashington or Sydney but a person who can use the new technologies to network with people
working in this field and provide the Communion with someone ``who will ginger us and disturb us within the Church.''
The appointment of such an officer might ensure that environmental issues are more prominent on the Conference
agenda in 2008.
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