Archbishop Rowan Williams has written of the plight of Pacific islanders, brought home by out own Winston Halapua, a bishop of Polynesia, ordinarily resident in Auckland, NZ (where many Polynesians live):
"A new spiritual politics of limits
To meet the challenge of climate change, we need more than ever the recognition of human frailty that religious faith brings
Last Monday, at the Lambeth Conference, Bishop Winston Halapua from Polynesia spoke about a meeting of churches from various Pacific islands where the subject for discussion had been neither social justice nor personal ethics, but the bare fact of rising ocean levels. Within a very few years, the likelihood is that several small islands will simply become uninhabitable.
Nothing could have brought home more directly the issue that the conference discusses this Saturday – the church's responsibility for the environment. While scepticism about climate change is still given astonishing prominence in some western media, the day-to-day reality of rising water levels is not a matter of debate for our colleagues in the Pacific. Part of the importance of the Lambeth Conference to us all in the Anglican Church is that it lets us hear these things in first hand detail.
But this vignette of the global problem offers a potent image of one of the deep underlying issues in the environmental debate. We live in a world of finite space and finite resource. Endless trajectories of growth are not realistic; and our own rising 'oceans' of food and fuel prices are a stark reminder that scarcity is not someone else's problem in today's and tomorrow's world.
Somehow, conventional political discourse has not dealt with this very successfully. Time was when part of the wisdom of conservative politics was about limits, realism, adjusting to certain givens in the social and material environment, and moderating expectations. Unfortunately, this proved all too often to be a way of recommending the disadvantaged to accept their fate; and progressive politics was thus frequently allied to a passionate belief in endless possibilities of self-improvement and more sophisticated control of the environment. You have only to think of the utopian aspirations of the French Revolution or of the Soviet Union in the 1920s."
This is excellent. It is also intriguing. It includes language which precisely connects to the 'the other problem' Lambeth faces. Consider these phrases:
we need more than ever the recognition of human frailty that religious faith brings
Endless trajectories of growth are not realistic (Substitute 'diversity' for 'growth')
Somehow, conventional political discourse has not dealt with this very successfully. (Substitute 'Communion' for 'political')
Archbishop Rowan goes onto conclude:
"For believers, and very clearly for Christian believers, this is connected with the recognition that the world is God's before it is ours – never just a possession – and that we are in God's hands in life and death. But even a person who does not share the basic conviction might think what a politics would like that went beyond conventional "right" and "left" stereotypes to work out how we coped meaningfully with real, non-negotiable limits – not resentfully or in wilful disregard of reality, but meaningfully. The polarised categories simply don't work well here. Something more radical and more traditional is called for."
Here we could substitute "Communion" for "world". And agree wholeheartedly that 'the polarised categories simply don't work well here. Something more radical and more traditional is called for.
We await the application in what the WCG brings on Monday ...