“An urgent call for our times” – Bishop Graham Usher reflects on the Lambeth Call on the Environment and Sustainable Development

September 13, 2023 in News

I welcome the Environmental Call. It is an urgent Call for our times and needs urgent action by Anglicans in all places across our single island planet home. Do read it, join in the conversation, and begin to take action.

As the Call says we have been gifted a world of breath-taking beauty, astounding abundance and intricate interconnection. However, despite our calling to be good stewards and care for the land, we have failed to do so.

Here in the UK we are one of the ‘most nature-depleted countries in the world’. 41% of species have declined since 1970. Our flying insect population has declined by 60% in the last 20 years. 97% of UK wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s. There is much to lament.

Gus Speth, the American climate change activist, said, “I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation.”

I believe that our Christian faith inspires that spiritual transformation. A calling to live gently on the earth, to repent of our ecological sins, and to be bearers of Christ’s light for all creation, should all be part of our Christian witness to the world.

In particularly, I hope lots of us will join in the Communion Forest initiative – ‘to protect and restore forests and other ecosystems across our planet and commit to promoting tree growing at the time of confirmation, and other key life and faith moments, as a symbol of spiritual growth.’ The Communion Forest is a practical, spiritual and symbolic response to the environmental crisis, and an act of Christian hope for the well-being of humanity and all God’s creation.

The Anglican Church in Tanzania has planted 310,000 tree seedlings across 69 villages. The Anglican Church of Kenya has planted 2,000,000 trees and is planning to plant 15 million by 2026. The Church of South India has worked with school children to plant 50,000 trees over the past 10 years.

Here in the Diocese of Norwich I give every person who is Confirmed a tree sapling to plant as a reminder of our Christian calling to care for the planet. Planting a tree is an act of faith. We are making a deliberate act to contribute to a future that is not of our own but will be affected, for good or ill, by our actions.

By planting and caring for trees so we are mirroring God’s love of creation, knowing that the Christian narrative begins in a garden of trees, and ends in a tree-lined paradise where ‘the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2).

My prayer is that as people pass an Anglican church building anywhere in the world they will think, ‘That’s a community that cares for God’s creation’. What can you do to make this a reality?

Supporting Information

The Right Revd Graham Usher is the Bishop of Norwich in the Church of England.

Read the Lambeth Call on Environment and Sustainable Development in full here.

Find out how you can take the Lambeth Call forward in your setting here.

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