Diocese of Spokane Passes Climate-Change Resolution, Calls for Planting of “Paris Groves”

DioSpokane delegates
Delegates to the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane’s annual convention gather outside the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Picture by the Rev. Jeffrey Neuberger.

On Saturday, October 20, delegates to the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane took action against climate change, overwhelmingly passing resolution “2018-21 Environmental Stewardship” and calling for the planting of local “Paris Groves.”

The Spokane resolution was inspired by an earlier resolution passed this summer by General Convention, the governing body of the Episcopal Church. GC resolution 2018-A010, “The Planting of ‘Paris Groves‘,” urges the church’s 85 camps and conference centers to plant trees that can “serve as a visible witness to the significance of the Paris Accord [on climate change] and do the practical work of sequestration of carbon.”

The Spokane resolution was introduced by delegates from the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The final version reads:

RESOLVED: that each region of the Diocese be encouraged to seek out areas in their vicinity that are not church properties and are amenable to the planting of trees or other ­suitable native vegetation, and work with local authorities and other environmental groups to fund and to plant Paris Groves of trees or suitable native vegetation, and in some manner identify each planting as an element of Episcopal environmental stewardship of and care for creation.

The Episcopal Diocese of Spokane is located in the Inland Northwest, including Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Unlike the General Convention resolution, which focuses on camps and conference centers, the Diocese of Spokane decided to plant its Paris Groves on non-church properties. The resolution’s authors explained that additional trees at the diocese’s heavily forested, remote Camp Cross might not be helpful. Instead, parishes can forge relationships with new partners and serve as witnesses against climate change in their communities, “action consistent with the [General] convention resolution but adapted to our local circumstance.”

In related news, three days before the Diocese of Spokane took this climate action, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina announced that its own November convention will feature keynote speakers on climate change.

These examples of climate witness could inspire similar action across the Episcopal Church. If your diocese has also taken recent climate action, please let Episcopal Climate News know.

(Full disclosure: The editor of Episcopal Climate News, the Rev. Nathan Empsall, was present at the Spokane convention with seat and voice, but not vote, as one of the diocese’s three ordinands to the transitional diaconate.)

As the Spokane convention began, it appeared that some delegates had concerns regarding the environmental resolution, the only of one of 21 under consideration that dealt with social issues rather than diocesan constitutions and canons. After these concerns were expressed at an informal information session, the environmental legislation was removed from the consent calendar. The other 20 resolutions were passed by unanimous consent, leaving only the Paris Groves to receive an individual debate and vote.

Ultimately, the drama was temporary. Almost all concerns regarded implementation of the resolution, not its underlying goals, and were easily addressed via amendment. Delegates passed the Paris Groves resolution on a voice vote, with only one or two voting “nay.”

The theme of the convention was “Loved & Called; Listen & Respond.” This environmental-stewardship resolution can be seen as a response to the call of General Convention, and to God’s love for creation.

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