Lambeth Conference resolutions and statements on the environment and climate change

Lambeth conferences happen approximately every ten years. Bishops from the Anglican Communion are invited to attend by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Lambeth Conferences serve a collaborative and consultative function, expressing “the mind of the Communion” on issues of the day. Resolutions from Lambeth Conference do not have any legal weight but are nonetheless influential.

There have been many resolutions on the environment, going back to at least 1968. In reverse order…

Section D of the Reflections from the 2008 Lambeth Conference was dedicated to the environment and includes the following (my emphasis; full text here)

  1. The fifth mark of mission is: “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and renew the life of the earth.” So far this is the mark of mission least universally owned by the churches of the communion. If we say that “The earth is the Lord’s…”, we must be prepared to live as if that is true! We cannot misuse a gift from the Lord. If we are to call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be prepared for radical discipleship by “living simply, so that others may simply live.” Safeguarding creation is a spiritual issue. Climate change is posing questions freshly for us about our attitudes toward creation, technology, sustainability for a future, and justice for all people. This is a discipleship issue not something we might possibly do. When others see that we Anglicans take the issue of environment seriously, they may be drawn to work alongside us, and in so doing they may see the Good News of Jesus Christ proclaimed in action.
  2. Ignorance of the issues of environment is a priority that must be addressed. Stories shared from bishops around the Communion give a picture of a global crisis. There are many examples including water pollution, dumping of toxic waste, air pollution, deforestation, irresponsible disposal of garbage. It is clear that the personal level exchange of issues being faced (with first hand knowledge) has a greater impact on us than Western media reports. Environment is the top priority for some provinces and must be a high priority for all of us. In developing countries and among Indigenous peoples, notably in the Arctic, safeguarding creation is a day to day activity, not an intellectual exercise. The Communion’s bishops should take a leading role by example, modelling a simpler lifestyle, using a carbon offset for meeting travel, or travelling less!
  3. While many agencies can engage with environmental issues, the church must do so from the starting point of Scripture and a credible theology. One particularly difficult Scripture reference has been Genesis 1:28 where the words ‘have dominion over’ or ‘subdue’ have been misinterpreted as ‘Do whatever you want with the earth.’ If humanity is made in the image of God, who saw that creation was good, then humanity needs to learn to care for God’s creation. Theologies of creation, Sabbath, stewardship and “enough” need to be developed for general use. Creation did not fall, humanity did, and this has led to the destruction of creation. Some of the symptoms of this human sin include selfishness, greed, consumerism and overindulgence.  The destruction of the environment is a spiritual issue and the church can suggest taking actions in terms of spiritual disciplines, including repentance of ingrained habits that are ecologically irresponsible.  This is not just trying to fix up the world but living toward the hope of the promised redemption of the creation by God.
  4. Indigenous peoples have traditional understandings of the earth as a gift of the Creator and of their relationship to it and its creatures being one of interconnectedness and responsible caring. The Indigenous peoples have reminded us that we are not aliens in a wilderness to be conquered, but integral parts of the created order, as are plants and animals, which are to be cherished and nurtured. The Anglican Indigenous Network could provide good resources for the Communion to develop these ideas more fully.
  5. Many examples of destruction focused on various concerns about water. Water is central to baptism, the sacrament of new life. This is a reminder that we have a responsibility for those yet to be born to ensure conditions for their potential life and flourishing. The Communion, Provinces and Dioceses could focus on one major campaign the human right to water.
  6. There is only one instrument for sustaining God’s creation – humanity. To get people moving requires moral leadership and this is the role of the church together with other aware bodies, e.g. the United Nations. The Anglican churches must engage with other agencies with sound knowledge and experience to impact church members, various levels of government and the business communities.

What can the church do? Take action! Do not wait any longer!

  1. Education: Engage with scientists to have accurate and credible information. Scriptural and theological education should be available for seminary students to produce knowledgeable clergy and lay leaders to engage congregations. We need educational materials to encourage children and youth to engage with programs for change. Adult education materials for parishioners would be helpful. Every Anglican must understand that it is their personal responsibility to live a rule of life that sustains and restores God’s creation. The changing climate is a call upon us to examine our impact on the environment – as individuals and as a community of faith with buildings.
  2. Empowerment: There is also an opportunity for bishops to raise the consciousness of church members as well as the public. The Communion/Province should position itself to be a symbol for ecological commitment to sustaining and renewing God’s creation. Dioceses and parishes provide opportunities for learning and action. People respond well to specific, simple actions, e.g. plant one tree each year, use no plastic in the churches, walk whenever you can instead of using a car. Bishops can also have specific actions, e.g. plant a tree on each parish visit, focus sermons for one season on the Environment. “Green Awards” are also incentives to dioceses and parishes to decrease the damage they do to creation and improve the ways they contribute to renewing the earth.
  3. Advocacy: The Bishop is often in a position to make connections with levels of government and business where there are opportunities to advocate for change. Accurate information containing requests for specific actions must be at hand. As well the bishop can maintain ecumenical and interfaith connections in order to speak with one voice to the powers. The Bishop is also often needed/wanted as a public figure to head up campaigns but these should be chosen keeping the suitability of the campaign.
  4. Liturgy: The Communion and Diocesan worship committees can develop worship resources on creation and environmental themes, and use the liturgical seasons for environmental awareness, e.g. planting time and harvest thanksgiving, the memorial of St. Francis, a Lenten fast from energy consumption. Scripture that speaks to the integrity of creation can be identified in the Lectionary and support materials be made available for study and preaching. (e.g. Genesis 1:27,28, 29 or 9:11; psalm 8; John 1:1-3; Romans 8:18-21; Colossians 1:15-20)
  5. Empowerment for Action: Think globally, act locally and globally. Work ecumenically and with other faith groups to lobby governments for laws and implementation of international agreements, e.g. Kyoto and Copenhagen 2009. The bishops could also have a reconciling role for brokering conversations between business, government and environmentalists. We must be aware of the political and economic aspects of caring for creation. Ecology and economics are connected. The desire for economic development can start a vicious cycle of damage to the environment. Damage to the environment creates conditions that impact developing nations and those living in poverty (women and children) first. Economic improvements for one group may bring environmental disaster to another. In many Provinces, this is especially true for Indigenous Peoples.Bishops need to learn how to exert pressure on governments in regard to environmental issues and this means they have to be correctly informed and have credibility with governments.
  6. Environmental destruction is also connected to internal displacement of people and to migration. Sometimes the creation is deliberately destroyed by companies seeking access to resource, such as oil, and the local people are driven away. Sometimes, when the land is devastated by natural disaster, the people migrate seeking safety and a livelihood.

Green Conference: The next Lambeth Conference should be a green conference where the host institution is under clear direction from the Design Group to provide recycling facilities.


1998   (full text here: here)

Resolution I.8 CreationThis Conference:

a. reaffirms the Biblical vision of Creation according to which:

Creation is a web of inter-dependent relationships bound together in the Covenant which God, the Holy Trinity has established with the whole earth and every living being.

i. the divine Spirit is sacramentally present in Creation, which is therefore to be treated with reverence, respect, and gratitude;
ii. human beings are both co-partners with the rest of Creation and living bridges between heaven and earth, with responsibility to make personal and corporate sacrifices for the common good of all Creation;
iii. the redemptive purpose of God in Jesus Christ extends to the whole of Creation.

b. recognises:

i. that unless human beings take responsibility for caring for the earth, the consequences will be catastrophic because of: overpopulation; unsustainable levels of consumption by the rich poor quality and shortage of water; air pollution; eroded and impoverished soil; forest destruction; plant and animal extinction
ii. that the loss of natural habitats is a direct cause of genocide amongst millions of indigenous peoples and is causing the extinction of thousands of plant and animal species. Unbridled capitalism, selfishness and greed cannot continue to be allowed to pollute, exploit and destroy what remains of the earth’s indigenous habitats;
iii. that the future of human beings and all life on earth hangs in balance as a consequence of the present unjust economic structures, the injustice existing between the rich and the poor, the continuing exploitation of the natural environment and the threat of nuclear self-destruction;
iv. that the servant-hood to God’s creation is becoming the most important responsibility facing humankind and that we should work together with people of all faiths in the implementation of our responsibilities;
v. that we as Christians have a God given mandate to care for, look after and protect God’s creation.

c. prays in the Spirit of Jesus Christ:

i. for widespread conversion and spiritual renewal in order that human beings will be restored to a relationship of harmony with the rest of Creation and that this relationship may be informed by the principles of justice and the integrity of every living being, so that self centred greed is overcome; and
ii. for the recovery of the Sabbath principle, as part of the redemption of time and the restoration of the divinely intended rhythms of life.

Resolution I.9 Ecology
This Conference:

a. calls upon all ecumenical partners and other faith communities, governments and transnational companies:

i. to work for sustainable society in a sustainable world;
ii. to recognise the dignity and rights of all people and the sanctity of all life, especially the rights of future generations;
iii. to ensure the responsible use and re-cycling of natural resources;
iv. to bring about economic reforms which will establish a just and fair trading system both for people and for the environment.

b. calls upon the United Nations to incorporate the right of future generations to a sustainable future in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

c. asks the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates to consider the appointment of a co-ordinator of an inter-national ecological network within the Anglican Communion, who would:
i. work in co-operation with other ecumenical and interfaith agencies;
ii. be funded through and responsible to the Anglican Consultative Council;
iii. support those engaged in grass-roots environmental initiatives;
iv. gather and disseminate data and information on environmental issues so that the Church can play an informed role in lobbying for ecological justice in both the public and private sectors; and
v. contribute to the development of environmental educational programmes for use in the training of Christian leaders.


Resolution 35: Concerns of South Pacific Islands (full text here: here)

This Conference, noting that in Churches of the South Pacific there is deep pain and anxiety in many tiny island sovereign nations in the region regarding the abuse and exploitation of their lands and seas by powerful external political and economic forces:

  1. Affirms the desire of many indigenous peoples in the region to self-determination and to be in control of their own affairs and especially of the use of the vital resources of their lands and seas.
  2. Further supports them in their resistance to all those powerful states and multinational corporations who, for immediate economic and political gain, rape and destroy the forests, fisheries and mineral deposits in the region.

Resolution 40: Environment, Militarism, Justice and Peace (full text here: here)

This Conference:

  1. Identifies four interrelated areas in which the misuse of people or resources poses a threat to the life system of the planet, namely (a) unjust distribution of the world’s wealth, (b) social injustice within nations, (c) the rise of militarism, (d) irreversible damage to the environment; and therefore
  2. Calls upon each province and diocese to devise a programme of study, reflection and action in which the following elements should play a part:

(a) as a matter of urgency, the giving of information to our people of what is happening to our environment, and to encourage them to see stewardship of God’s earth for the care of our neighbours as a necessary part of Christian discipleship and a Christian contribution to citizenship;
(b) actively to support by public statement and in private dialogue, the engagement of governments, transnational corporations, management and labour in an examination of what their decisions are doing to our people, and our land, air and water;
(c) opposition to the increase in the arms trade, questioning both excessive expenditure of scarce resources on weapons and trade policies which look upon arms sales as a legitimate source of increased export revenue;
(d) the encouragement of Christians to re-examine the currently accepted economic policies which operate to the disadvantage of those with less bargaining power at every level from international to personal, and to use God’s gifts of technology for the benefit of all;
(e) the critical examination of the exercise of power, first within congregations and all other Church bodies, and then in secular institutions which affect the lives of all. Insofar as the aim is to achieve a just and sustainable society world-wide, priority must be given to those modes which nurture people’s gifts and evoke responsible participation rather than those which dominate and exclude.

3.(a) Commends, in general, the participation by every province in the WCC’s programme for “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation”;
(b) Urges Churches, congregations and individual Christians to actively support all other agencies which share this urgent concern. In particular we commend a widespread study of the United Nations report “Our Common Future” and a participation by Church bodies in the local responses it requires;
(c) Recommends that, in view of the resolutions passed by ACC-7, information concerning local needs and initiatives be shared throughout provinces, possibly by extending the terms of reference for the existing Peace and Justice Network;
(d) Encourages people everywhere to make changes, personal and corporate, in their attitudes and life-style, recognizing that wholeness of living requires a right relationship with God, one’s neighbour, and creation.

Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. Some effects, like famine, can be recognised immediately; some, like pollution, are a creeping crisis which is nonetheless deadly. These major threats to the earth’s future cannot be averted by action in one region of the world alone, nor by focusing on a single issue. Everything connects.


Resolution 1 includes the following (full text here: here)

  1. The resources of our planet are limited; delicate ecological balances can be disturbed by modern technology, or threatened by the toxic effects of human ingenuity. Ways must be found to stop waste, to recycle resources and to monitor and control the manufacture of substances dangerous to life and health. The use of nuclear fuel must be subject to the safe and permanent disposal of its toxic by-products. Alternative sources of energy must be harnessed for use.

Such changes will not be easy to make and will require wise leadership from both secular and religious sources. Creative solutions will require both technical knowledge and moral insights. Decisions will be not only difficult but unpopular.

We recognise and acknowledge with gratitude the many people and agencies who have pioneered in thinking and acting towards the future wellbeing of the human family. We confess that the Churches to which we belong have shared in attitudes and acquiesced in structures which have been hurtful to the true welfare of the peoples of the world.

We do not pretend to a knowledge of the practical solutions for these problems. But we do affirm that God intends all of us to enjoy this planet and not to ruin it; he intends all of us, as his children, to live together peaceably and creatively; to use our skills and knowledge not to destroy but to fulfil human potentialities.

We believe that time is running out. Beneath all the choices lies the ultimate choice of life or death. We join with all men of goodwill in appealing that we shall choose life. We know that tasks and situations which to human view seem hopeless can, with the boundless resources of God’s grace, be transferred.

From resolution 2 (full text here: here)

First, we appeal to leaders and governments of the world:

  1. to participate actively in the establishment of a new economic order aimed at securing fair prices for raw materials, maintaining fair prices for manufactured goods, and reversing the process by which the rich become richer and the poor poorer;
  2. to consider seriously all efforts towards a peaceful settlement of international disputes;
  3. to persist in the search for ways leading to progressive world disarmament, in particular limiting and reducing the production of, and commerce in, arms;
  4. so to limit the development of nuclear energy that they guard against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, at the same time applying every effort to the development of alternative sources of energy;
  5. aware that the world is one indivisible system in its operation, to provide that those whose lives are affected by global decisions should be heard in the formulation of policies; 
  6. to pay attention to human needs in the planning of cities, especially in those places where growing industrialisation brings people together in such numbers that human dignity is at risk;
  7. to make provision for a new understanding of the place of work in the life of individuals. If the human race as a whole is to reassess its philosophy of economic growth in order to conserve our environment, we will have to find new ways of human fulfilment, paying as much attention to leisure as to paid employment. This needs re-education and a redistribution of resources at national and international levels.

Second, we call on the Churches and in particular the Anglican Communion:

  1. to make provision locally to educate their membership into an understanding of these issues;
  2. in the face of growing urbanisation all over the world to make urgent provision for the training of lay and pastoral leadership in urban mission and to concentrate the use of their personnel and financial resources ecumenically in order to minister to the growing number of urban people with little hope or freedom of choice.

We recommend that greater attention be paid to the work already being done by agencies both within and outside the Churches, that provision be made for communicating their findings in appropriate forms, and that greater use be made of the specialist skills of our lay members to inform the Church’s decision-making on social, economic, and technological issues.

Third, we call upon members to exercise their rights as citizens of their respective countries;

  1. to create a moral climate which enables governments to act for the benefit of the world community rather than sectional interests;
  2. in situations where the interests of minorities are in conflict with large-scale development schemes to give consideration to the needs of persons rather than economic advantage;
  3. to review their life-style and use of the world’s resources so that the service and wellbeing of the whole human family comes before the enjoyment of over-indulgent forms of affluence.


(see here: here)

Resolution 6: Man’s Stewardship of Nature. The Conference urges all Christians, in obedience to the doctrine of creation, to take all possible action to ensure man’s responsible stewardship over nature; in particular in his relationship with animals, and with regard to the conservation of the soil, and the prevention of the pollution of air, soil, and oceans.