This is an update to Synod and the diocese on the Environmental Synod Motion. It was received by Diocesan Council at its meeting in December, 2020.
At the diocese’s Synod in November 2019, the following motion was passed:
“Moved by the Rev. Canon David Harrison and seconded by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford that Synod requests the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care, working through a creation care lens and in the context of our developing relationship with Indigenous peoples, to develop and propose environmental policies and resources for all diocesan operations that reflect the need to increase the use of renewable energy services and decrease our carbon footprint. In particular, Synod requests a review of and development of policies pertaining to:
- our spending practices;
- our travel policies;
- our land use and development;
- the creation of a fund to assist parishes to reduce their carbon footprint;
- the creation of a fund to assist clergy to purchase or lease zero-emission vehicles;
- the curtailment of the purchase of single-use plastic products, with the intention of ending their use no later than the beginning of 2023, taking into consideration the accessibility needs of our communities;
- developing modules for clergy and lay formation on the connection between creation care and the gospel;
- and promoting reduced consumption as part of a Christian Rule of Life.
“Synod and the diocese shall be provided with a report on the work of the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care and the progress made on these issues by June 30, 2020 and every six months thereafter until the next Regular Session of Synod.”
The Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care has met monthly since July 2020 and by Oct. 1, 2020, had established three working groups: one on liturgy, one on education, and one specifically focused on the environmental Synod motions passed in 2019. The Synod Motion Working Group includes the Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford, seconder of the motion, as well as Bishop Andrew Asbil, the Rev. Deacon Alison Kemper, and Elin Goulden, staff member. All three working groups have been meeting regularly since October 2020.
The Synod Motion Working Group has identified items #2 (travel policy), #6 (plastics reduction) and #8 (promoting reduced consumption as part of a Christian Rule of Life) as immediate priorities for action; items #1 (spending/investment practices), #3 (land use and development and #7 (modules for clergy and lay formation) as intermediate priorities; and deferred items #4 and #5 to the longer term.
- Travel Policy: Bishop Asbil has instructed the diocese’s executive director to provide a benchmark of what the “normal” (pre-pandemic) travel budget is for the diocese’s staff and volunteers. Departments are also being asked to consider how to conduct meetings and other diocesan business after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and to what extent travel budgets can be reduced by moving meetings online. Members of the Synod Motion Working Group are researching options for carbon offsets for necessary travel as well as coming up with guidelines to help evaluate what travel is necessary post-pandemic.
- Plastics Reduction: Members of the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care and others throughout the diocese were encouraged to comment on the federal government’s proposed regulations to ban certain single-use plastics. Plastic-reduction ideas from government, non-profits, parishes in our diocese and the neighbouring Diocese of Niagara which have already made progress in this area are being compiled and the Synod Motion Working Group will work with the Education Working Group to create a resource for parishes and individuals in our diocese, available by Spring 2021.
- Promoting reduced consumption as part of a Christian Rule of Life: Members of the working group are working on creating a “Rule of Life” resource based on the baptismal vows found on p. 159 of the BAS and the Five Marks of Mission.
Looking ahead, the Synod Motion Working Group hopes to find opportunities for collaboration with the diocese’s Investment Committee on investment policy as well as with the diocese’s Affordable Housing Working Group (which has already been working on a theological framework around land use). The Education Working Group of the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care will likely take the lead on the development of modules for clergy and lay education but the Synod Motion Working Group will work to facilitate collaboration with diocese’s staff and volunteers involved in programs for clergy and lay education.