General Convention Passes 19 Resolutions for the Care of God’s Creation

General Convention, the triennial legislative governing body of the Episcopal Church, met for the 79th time from July 5-13, 2018, in Austin, TX.

The bicameral body passed 19 out of 29 resolutions related to the environment and/or climate change. These resolutions are listed and summarized below.

Many resolutions cite their strong theological basis in their first paragraph(s). A013 begins, “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we recognize that the Earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24), has been made in and through Christ (John 1) and we are placed in it as a garden planet (Genesis 2).” Similarly, A018 connects climate change to Christian mission and ethics: “Resolved, that climate change be recognized as a human-made threat to all God’s people, creatures and the entire created order, while particularly placing unjust and inequitable burdens and stresses on native peoples, those displaced by environmental change, poor communities and people of color.”

The Episcopal Churchofficially supports aCarbon Fee and Dividend _to mitigate irreversible climate change

Together, the new legislation creates a new staff role at church headquarters for the Care of Creation, encourages parish action and commitment on a wide variety of things, continues grants for local environmental ministry projects, continues support for the church’s UN climate-change conference delegations, supports marginalized communities impacted by environmental racism as well as communities impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels, calls on church staff to use carbon offsets when they travel, recognizes that water is a human right and urges churches to ban plastic water bottles, expresses support for using local food at church events, opposes a new oil pipeline on Ojibwe land and drilling on sacred Gwich’in lands, lays out next steps on fossil-fuel divestment, supports carbon-tax policies, and much more.

Four of the 10 resolutions that failed to pass were simply unable to receive a vote before time expired. Six  were tabled in committee, including one that was essentially a duplicate of another that passed, and another that was essentially subsumed by amendment into another that passed. No environmental resolutions were rejected by floor votes.

“Concurred” (I.e., passed)

  • 2018-A010: The Planting of “Paris Groves”
    • Commend all Episcopal Schools, Camps and Conference Centers to make environmental stewardship and care of creation key components of formation for the next three years, and commends all 85 camps and conference centers to plant “Paris Groves” as a witness to the Paris Accord on climate change. Furthermore, every person received into the Episcopal Church or who reaffirms their Baptismal vows (as we all do at every Baptism) is encouraged to plant a tree in gratitude and reflect on the wonder and beauty of creation. Proposed by the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation (ACSC).
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-A011: Oppose Environmental Racism
    •  States the church’s belief that that no community, especially poor communities or members of marginalized ethnic groups, “should bear a disproportionate risk of environmental pollution or degradation.” The resolution creates a task force of 12 people with funding of $30,000 “to study and report specific recommendations for appropriate changes in federal, state, or local law.” Proposed by ACSC.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-A013: Facilitating the Development of the Church’s Ministry of the Care of Creation
    • Authorizes a new senior staff position for the Care of Creation at the Episcopal Church Center HQ. The resolution also establishes a Task Force for the Care of Creation, which will continue the work of the previous Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation. Urges creation of educational materials for clergy formation (possibly in seminaries). A total budget of $1.1 million is requested, including $400,000 for local grants. Proposed by ACSC.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-A014: The Use of Carbon Offsets
    • Requires Episcopal Church Center staff to test a carbon offset program in the next three years for their frequent required travel, and provides budget. Proposed by ACSC.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-A018: Episcopalians Participating in Paris Climate Agreement
    • Adopts the House of Bishops’ 2011 “Pastoral Teaching on the Environment” as the official position of the church, commits the church to continued involvement in the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change,  and encourages Episcopalians to follow the Paris Climate Accord by living lightly on the earth. Proposed by the ACSC.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-A020: Fossil Fuel Divestment
    • General Convention resolution 2015-C045 supported fossil fuel divestment across the church. 2018-A020 calls on the Investment Committee of the Executive Council, the Episcopal Church Endowment Fund, and the Episcopal Church Foundation to report on their progress in this area. Also urges the Church Pension Fund to consider the financial impact of climate change, not just the financial impact of divestment. Proposed by ACSC.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-B025: Water as a Human Right
    • Recognizing that water and sanitation are human rights, the resolution urges all church-related facilities to phase out and ban bottled water and advocates for publicly operated water infrastructure. Proposed by the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of California
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-B027: Gender Inclusivity in Climate Change Action
    • Calls on the Office of Government Relations and Episcopal Relief and Development to advocate for gender-inclusive approaches to climate resilience, and urges dioceses and communities to financially support the UN sustainable Development Goals. Proposed by the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of California
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-C008: Advocacy for Creation Care 
    • Requests $30,000 over the next three years “to make a web-based carbon tracking tool such as ‘Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home’ available to all Episcopalians” to support “healthy, sustainable choices.” Proposed by the Diocese of Navajoland Area Mission.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-C020: Carbon Tax
    • Supports public policy to stop further climate change, including the possibility of a Carbon Fee and Dividend. Also prioritizes protecting the poor from the cost of such policies. Proposed by the Diocese of California.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-C021: Climate Change and additional support for EC Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Calls on the Executive Council and the Church Pension Fund to identify 10 companies in which the church owns stock, and “initiate shareholder engagement to advocate for the inclusion of an expert in sustainability on their boards.” Proposed by the Diocese of California, and very similar to a rejected resolution (C042) proposed by the Diocese of Southern Ohio.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-C049: Support Producers of Locally Grown Food
    • Urges Church Center staff to “include programs and grants which will encourage Episcopal institutions and individual Episcopalians to serve and promote locally grown food.” Proposed by Province III.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-C063: Advocate for Ocean Health
    • Authorizes the church’s Office of Government Relations “to advocate for public policies that support and advance Ocean Health Work,” calls on dioceses and communities to pray and study about ocean health, and to support maritime dioceses already impacted by climate change. Proposed by Province VIII.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-C064: Support of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Opposing Enbridge Line #3
    • Reaffirms past repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, a theology (once supported by the Episcopal Church) that became the legal basis for much of the American Indian genocide perpetrated by the U.S. government (hand-in-hand with church partners). Echoes the concerns of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Chairman, who has opposed any placement of a new oil pipeline called Enbridge Line #3, and expressly states opposition to any threats to sacred lands and wild rice. Directs the Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop’s Staff of Ethnic Ministries, and the Office of Government Relations to study and learn from the church’s past engagement and solidarity with indigenous nations.
    • Proposed by the Diocese of North Dakota
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-D007: Disaster Resilience Policy
    • Commends Episcopal Relief and Development, urges the federal government to support long-term economic recovery from natural disasters (many of which are caused or exacerbated by climate change), and urges the U.S. to invest in climate-change disaster and resilience planning. Proposed by Mr. Bryan Belez Garcia.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-D053: Stewardship of Creation with Church-Owned Land
    • Encourages dioceses and congregations to use undeveloped church-owned land for “agriculture and biodiversity conservation projects… to mitigate climate change” via natural carbon sequestration, with support from Executive Council. Proposed by the Rev. Nurya Parish.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-D068: Criteria and Procedures for Deciding to Engage with or Establish a No Buy List of Companies 
    • Requests that the Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CCSR) develop criteria to assess church investment in companies that are inconsistent with the church’s mission and ethical teaching, as well as procedures to create a No Buy List for divestment. Specifically states human rights and the care of creation as two areas to consider. Proposed by the Hon. Warren Wong.
    • Final Status: Passed
  • 2018-D081: Helping Communities Affected by Change in Energy Use
    • Recognizes that a transition away from coal and other fossil fuels will hurt the communities that depend on producing those fuels (e.g. coal miners), and urges the Office of Government Relations and the Church Center’s creation-care staff members to develop resources and advocate for policy initiatives to support these communities during the transition to clean energy. Proposed by the Rev. Paula Jackson.
    • Final Status: Passed

“Adopt” (House of Bishops only)

  • X023 HB Report #8: Solidarity with the Gwich’in People
    • “With open and broken hearts,” this resolution acknowledged “the struggle and plight of the Gwich’in People,” reaffirmed the church’s opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (which is sacred to the indigenous Gwich’in nation), and states respect for the wisdom and authority of the Gwich’in elders and leaders.
    • This resolution was a statement of the mind of the bishops only, not intended to pass both houses.
    • Learn more from Episcopal News Service 
    • Final Status: Passed

“Take No Further Action” (I.e., tabled in committee)

  • 2018-A008: Continuing the Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation
    • Authorize the continuation of the Advisory Council that administers grants for local eco-ministry projects, track fossil fuel divestment efforts across the church, and support environmental ethics and theology in our seminaries. Proposed by ACSC.
    • Final Status: “Take No Further Action” by Committee 20 – Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation
      • The work of the advisory council from the past triennium will continue, but it will now take a different form — the new task force described in A013 below. That makes A008 redundant.
  • 2018-A009: Creating Greening Loans
    • States that energy inefficient parishes undermine our Baptismal vows, and commits $500,000 to helping parishes improve energy use in the next three years. Proposed by ACSC.
    • Final Status: “Take No Further Action” by Committee 18 – Stewardship & Socially Responsible Investing
  • 2018-A012: On the Importance of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relationships for the Stewardship of Creation 
    • Commends faith-based partnerships that address climate change and environmental racism, and directs the Office of Ecumenical Relations to “include the Stewardship of Creation as a priority item for dialogue and action in the Church’s ecumenical relationships.” Proposed by ACSC.
    • Final status: “Take No Further Action” by Committee 19 – Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations
  • 2018-C042: Climate Change: Corporate Governance
    • Extremely similar to C021, which passed. This version  contained additional language about eco-theology, the imperative of climate action, and support for shareholder resolutions as a tactic in general. Proposed by the Diocese of Southern Ohio.
    • Final Status: “Take No Further Action” by Committee 18 – Stewardship & Socially Responsible Investing.
  • 2018-C039: Amend the Parochial Report
    • “Include data on the annual consumption and costs of electricity, oil, and gas of all church properties” in church statistics, in order to identify church consumption patterns and then leverage the church’s better-undstertood role as a consumer in the energy market. Proposed by Province 1.
    • Final Status: “Take No Further Action” by Committee 20 – Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation
      • While ECN has not spoken to anyone about this resolution’s failure, the Episcopal News Service previously reported that two other, non-environmental resolutions related to the parochial report were controversial. Many parishes already consider completing the annual report a cumbersome process, especially small parishes that rely on volunteers to collect their data, and may object to any additional requirements, whether environmental or otherwise.
  • 2018-D008: Practicing Responsible Investing
    • Recommends that the governing body of every diocese, parish, and other church organizations that invest money apply ethical guidelines, engage in shareholder activism, and invest for responsible social and environmental outcomes as well as financial return (“impact investment”), with specific recommendations on how this may be accomplished. Proposed by Ms. Yvonne O’Neal.
    • Final Status: “Take No Further Action” by Committee 18 – Stewardship & Socially Responsible Investing.

“Pending” (I.e., never received a final floor vote)

  • 2018-A016: Trial Use of Creation Care Language in the Baptismal Covenant
    • Authorizes a sixth baptismal vow to “cherish the wondrous works of God, and protect and restore the beauty and integrity of all creation,” as well as an option to expand the fifth baptismal vow of justice and peace to include the dignity of the earth in one vow instead of a new sixth vow. Proposed by ACSC.
    • Note: C030: Proposed Baptismal Covenant Language was similar. Identical to the first portion of A016, but without the additional option of amending the fifth vow. Proposed by the Diocese of Connecticut, original creator of this idea.
    • While these resolutions for a sixth baptismal vow did not pass, the much higher profile Resolution A068, i.e. prayer book revision, did direct bishops to “engage worshiping communities in experimentation and the creation of alternative texts to offer to the wider church.” Therefore, there may still be a good opportunity to use this new vow during baptisms at your parish or in  your dioceses — talk to your bishop to learn more.
    • UPDATE: While A016 and C030 are both listed as “Pending” in the General Convention virtual binder, and not as “Take No Further Action,” Bishop Dan Martins of the Diocese of Springfield has shared that the resolution lacked majority support in committee.
  • 2018-A017: Creation Liturgies in Prayer Book Revision
    • Directs future Prayer Book revision to include creation-focused liturgies which recognize mourning and lamentation, joy and celebration, and repentance and reconciliation. Also directs for the inclusion of the understanding, appreciation, and care of creation in Baptism, Ecuharist, Confirmation, and Ordination liturgies. Proposed by ACSC.
  • 2018-A019: Create a Task Force To Study and Report on the Intersection of Evangelism, Church Planting and Care of Creation
    • The name is fairly self-explanatory. The task force will interview church-funded ministries from the past 18 years to determine if they Incorporated creation care, and if they were effective in engaging younger generations. Includes details about the make-up and budget of the task force. Proposed by ACSC.

If you know of other environmental resolutions by the 79th General Convention in 2018, please let Episcopal Climate News know via our contact link and we will update this page.

By Nathan Empsall

Episcopal Climate News is the unofficial climate-change communications hub for Episcopalians and Christians, highlighting the spiritual and social-justice sides of this great work. While occasional blog posts and articles like this may appear on the ECN website, please note that we are still primarily a Facebook page – like and follow us there to receive more content like this in your Facebook feed!

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