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Church of Sweden Archbishop Anders Werjyd and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori present their signed climate change statement at St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. on May 1.

Church of Sweden Archbishop Anders Werjyd and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori present their signed climate change statement at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. on May 1. (Photo: Mariann Budde/Episcopal Diocese of Washington)

By Jeff Walton (@JeffreyHWalton)

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church encouraged a church climate change gathering to stand firm “in the face of those who would destroy God’s reflection in creation.”

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s words came as Swedish Lutherans and American Episcopalians entered into an agreement on climate change in which the two churches committed to “serve as the hands of God in working to heal the brokenness of our hurting world.”

Release of the joint statement signed by Jefferts Schori and Church of Sweden Archbishop Anders Werjyd came during the event on “Sustaining hope in the face of climate change” held May 1-2 at St. John’s Episcopal Church Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. The full statement can be viewed here.

The event featured panel discussions on international and local church responses to climate change, as well as a morning of lobbying Congressional and Administration officials on climate policy. The May 2 panels were heard by several Episcopal and Lutheran officials, including Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, Episcopal Bishop of Washington Mariann Budde, Bishop of Virginia Shannon Johnston, Bishop of Maryland Eugene Sutton, Bishop of California Marc Andrus, Anglican Bishop of Panama Julio Murray and New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good President Richard Cizik, among others.

In a noonday homily at St. John’s, Jefferts Schori recalled St. Athanasius and his opposition to the heresy of Arianism, which espoused a human Jesus fully distinct from God the Father.

“If Jesus were not fully God and fully human it would deny any possibility that beings who inhabit flesh and blood human bodies could have a real relationship with God, whom we call the Holy One,” Jefferts Schori intoned. “It is not only God in human flesh who images the Holy One. All parts of God’s creation must reflect their maker in some way.”

In reference to “the riotous diversity of the flowers of the field,” the creatures of the sea and the sparrows, Jefferts Schori noted that God intends that each should flourish.

“When Jesus says that ‘you will be hated because of what you teach’, well, watch out if you advocate for justice for all the world’s people and all the other parts of creation,” The Episcopal Church official warned. “But don’t be afraid to speak out and tell what you know, for your soul will find life in doing that.”

Quoting Saint Irenaeus, Jefferts Schori remarked “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

“Fully alive human beings know themselves made in the image of God. Created as brother to the sun and sister to the moon, friend to the deer and ant and sparrow as well as to the enfolding blanket of atmosphere and ocean we are one family, related through the one who created us to reflect the divine glory in fully alive-ness,” Jefferts Schori declared. “There is no room in that for misusing our brothers and sisters, human or otherwise. There is abundant hope for all given the image we reflect and the ever-creative one in whom we live and move and have our being.”

The Episcopal Church official declared that Athanasius “stood firm in the face of those who would deny God’s presence in human flesh — we must do the same in the face of those who would destroy God’s reflection in creation.”

The midday homily was followed later the same afternoon by a panel on international response to climate change with Murray, scientist Kevin Noone, Professor of Social Ethics Willis Jenkins of Yale Divinity School and Mary Minette, Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy for the ECLA’s Washington Office.

During the panel, Murray advised the church audience to “give the information” that people need to know, rather than answering “wrong questions” reporters may ask. This, he laughed, was risky as “they won’t give the microphone back to you.”

Minette also expressed dissatisfaction with media coverage of climate issues, asserting that reporters cover the issue as an argument, “give voice to dissenters” and elevate a position that she felt was not on equal footing with climate activists.

Asked about mainline Protestant response to climate matters, Minette observed that there was “little interest” in the media among what mainline denominations espoused about the climate, with greater interest directed towards Evangelical Christian responses.