Saturday, February 20, 2016

Living Sustainably and Sustaining Life on Earth: A Quaker Testimony to the Whole World

I am pleased that my Meeting (Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena) has come to unity about adopting the "Facing Climate Change Minute" that was approved last summer by Pacific Yearly Meeting and 40+ other Quaker groups and organizations. The modern Quaker environmental movement was birthed at Pacific Yearly Meeting in 1985, when Marshall Massey gave a stirring talk that led to the formation of Friends in Unity with Nature and Quaker Earthquake Witness, the national Quaker environmental organization.

It was also encouraging that FWCC (which represents the different branches of Quakers world-wide). has once again come to unity on a minute on sustainability, this time recommending specific actions that groups and individuals can take to help preserve our planet. Several years ago, FWCC approved the Kabarak call to Eco-Justice that was also very powerful, and deeply biblical, but a little vague on specific actions.

I write about this statement in a previous blog post describing my experiences at the FWCC gathering in Peru that took place  in January, 2016.

These statements on the environment are wonderful, but the time has come to take action. My hope and prayer is that Friends will become as active in facing the challenge of climate change as we were about addressing the moral horror of slavery. In many ways, the climate crisis is a bigger challenge since the future of human life on our planet is at stake.

IRM 16-20. Sustainability.  The Consultation on Sustainability, facilitated by Jonathan Woolley (Mexico City MM/Pacific YM; Staff, QUNO-Geneva), Rachel Madenyika (Staff, QUNO-NY), and Charlotte Gordon (Aotearoa/New Zealand YM) have presented a minute for our consideration:

 Living Sustainably and Sustaining Life on Earth

The Light of Christ has inspired Quakers throughout the generations.  As we gather together in Pisac, Peru in 2016, we feel this light stronger than ever in our calling to care for the Earth on which we live. It is calling us from all traditions: programmed, unprogrammed, liberal, and evangelical. It calls us to preserve this Earth for our children, our grandchildren and all future generations to come, working as though life were to continue for 10,000 years to come. Be ready for action with your robes hitched up and your lamps alight. (Luke 12:35, Revised English Bible)

Our faith as Quakers is inseparable from our care for the health of our planet Earth. We see that our misuse of the Earth’s resources creates inequality, destroys community, affects health and well-being, leads to war and erodes our integrity.  We are all responsible for stewardship of our natural world. We love this world as God’s gift to us all. Our hearts are crying for our beloved mother Earth, who is sick and in need of our care.

We are at a historical turning point. Internationally, the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals oblige governments to take action. Faith groups and other civil society are playing a major role.  As Quakers, we are part of this movement. The FWCC World Conference approved the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice in April 2012, while the FWCC World Office was a signatory to the Quaker statement on climate change in 2014 and divested from fossil fuels in June 2015.

We recognise that the environmental crisis is a symptom of a wider crisis in our political and economic systems. Our loving and well informed environmental actions as Friends, consistent with our spiritual values, must therefore work to transform these systems.

Many of us all over the Quaker world are taking practical actions as individuals and communities. At this Plenary, a consultation of more than sixty Friends from all over the world worked to build on these leadings with further practical action. The Annex attached to these minutes shows examples of what Friends are doing already or propose to do.

We must redouble our efforts right now.  We must move beyond our individual and collective comfort zones and involve the worldwide Quaker community and others of like mind.  Just as Jesus showed us, real change requires us to challenge ourselves to be effective instruments of change.  We can do more. 

On recommendation of this Consultation, and after some discussion, we adopt the following minute:
In this effort for sustainability, and mindful of the urgency of this work, this Plenary asks the FWCC World Office and Central Executive Committee to:

1.      Invest FWCC World funds ethically.

2.      Share Quaker experiences with other faith groups to inspire them to action, especially through the World Council of Churches.

3.      Seek ways of connecting Friends worldwide that are sustainable.

4.      Facilitate dissemination of training materials on sustainability issues for Quaker leaders, pastors and teachers.

This FWCC Plenary Meeting also asks all Yearly Meetings to:

1.      Initiate at least two concrete actions on sustainability within the next 12 months. These may build on existing projects of individuals or monthly meetings or they may be new initiatives. We ask that they encourage Young Friends to play key roles. We ask that meetings minute the progress and results, so as to share them with FWCC and Quaker meetings.

2.      Support individuals and groups in their meetings who feel called to take action on sustainability.

3.      Support the work done by Quaker organisations such as the Quaker United Nations Office and the Quaker Council for European Affairs to ensure that international agreements and their implementation support sustainability.

This FWCC Plenary Meeting asks individual Friends and groups (such as Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and ad hoc groups within Meetings) to Share inspiring experiences of living sustainably on the new “sustainability webpage” of the Quakers in the World Website ( This webpage can be used as a source of ideas, inspiration and action.

Annex to the Minute: Possibilities for practical sustainability action

 from the Pisac consultation

Individuals can:

1.         Dedicate personal time to nature.

2.         Reduce consumption and use your consumer buying power to create change.

            3.         Cut down on meat consumption, be aware of energy costs in production and transport of all foods and methane from ruminant animals, support sustainable agriculture.

            4.         Travel – cycle, walk, use public transport or alternatives to private cars, keep air travel to a minimum.

5.         Grow your own food and plant trees.

6.         Be politically active in promoting sustainability concerns.

            7.         Share environmental concerns through books, publications, conversations, electronic media

8.         Reduce energy use.

9.         Use less water and harvest water.

10.       Make time for spiritual connection with God.


Monthly Meetings, Worship Groups and small groups within Meetings can:

1.         Live in a community, share housing, participate in a transition town movement.

2.         Educate yourself and others.

3.         Share transport and equipment.

            4.         Develop urban agriculture, community gardens, community supported agriculture, tree planting.

            5.         Love nature and encourage others to do so: we protect the things we love; get children out in nature; take care of nature around your meeting house (e.g., picking up trash/litter).

6.         Invest ethically and divest from fossil fuels.

7.         Ensure meeting houses are carbon neutral.

8.         Build alliances, seek visibility, approach legislators.

9.         Share sustainability skills.


Yearly Meetings can:

            1.         Support the sustainability actions of Monthly Meetings.

2.         Build solidarity with local people.

3.         Support Quakers in politics and international work.

            4.         Form support networks and alliances to make more impact – we can only do so much on our own.

5.         Invest ethically, including on sustainability issues.

6.         Practice what we preach.

7.         Discern and move concerns to action.

8.         Set targets for increased sustainability.

9.         Connect and share with other YMs, direct or via FWCC Sections and World Office


We recognise that different actions are relevant to different Quaker meetings in different parts of the world.

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