COP25. Ring a bell? No? Well, I mentioned it in my last blog before Christmas. I know, I know. That’s an age away. Your attention might have been elsewhere – there was an election on after all. And things around churches get frantic in the run up to Christmas, election or not.
So, what is it? COP? Maybe some new programme. Just the thing to kick start your church into 2020? May be “Church of Purpose” – a new programme to release the purpose God has for you. Or perhaps, “Carry on Persevering” – helping you to keep on keeping on with God’s mission. Or even “Churches of Prayer” – that’s something we all need help with.
Well – and perhaps this will disappoint you – it’s none of those things. COP stands for the “Conference of the Parties” of the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”. It’s when the nations of the world meet to try and agree what is to be done about the Climate Crisis. They have been meeting for a long time. November 2020 will see the twenty sixth meeting – COP26. You will hear a lot about it as its being hosted by the UK Government in Glasgow and they are bound to make a fuss! And COP26 is not something you should miss as a disciple of Jesus.
At the first meeting back in 1995, the nations present agreed to take steps to tackling climate change. And some progress has been made. Yet, since 1995, levels of Carbon Dioxide have risen by 14%. And people are noticing. In fact, some people were noticing before now.
Twelve years after that first meeting, just before COP13 was held on the Island of Bali in 2007, the Pacific Conference of Churches issued a call to their “sisters and brothers in Christ throughout the world to act in solidarity with us to reduce the causes of human-induced climate change”. Perhaps not a call that was heeded, for last December – 12 years later – President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands, a group of small islands in the west Pacific, spoke to COP26; “Water covers much of our land … as we fight rising tides. It’s a fight to the death for anyone not prepared to flee. As a nation we refuse to flee. But we also refuse to die.”
Did people listen? By all accounts. The outcome of December’s COP25 in Madrid was a bit of a cop-out. Rich developed countries did not bring plans as to how they will further reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Large developing nations were reluctant to commit to reducing their emissions before the large rich nations recognised their historic contribution to increasing carbon dioxide and took further steps. And the small, vulnerable nations like the Marshall Islands got caught in the middle.
Let’s hope, even pray, that COP26 will be more fruitful and honest. Hey, here’s an idea – perhaps when they come together, rather than presenting their plans and “bigging” them up with potential “greenwash” they need to heed the words of James – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5v16).
Maybe we need to listen too. For back in 2007, the call of the Pacific Conference of the Churches was not only to their Christian “brothers and sisters” across the globe to join in their concern and action over climate change. It went further and was more focused; “We issue this call especially to churches in the highly industrialized nations whose societies are historically responsible for the majority of polluting emissions.” A message directed at us. Ouch.
Last month, I said that if we are going to respond to climate change as part of our missional discipleship, sharing in God’s mission to care for creation, we need to go deeper. And the next step towards freedom continues that drive. To admit “to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Confession.
Perhaps we need to heed the words of James too. I wonder if confession plays a part in your worship services anymore. Of course, when we share communion, we need to prepare ourselves. But we seem to have lost the art of confession, especially the accountability of confession to one another. And yet, it comes with a huge promise – “that you may be healed”.
As you begin 2020, take time to listen to the voices of those impacted by climate change. Take time in your worship services to confess how our lives are impacting the environment and other people around the world. It’s been a while since we began this journey, so why not take stock in your discipleship groups of how you are trying to reduce your carbon and environmental footprint. And where you are struggling, pray for each other so that together you can continue to take small steps into God’s future for the planet.
From now until November 2020, and beyond, we need to be embraced by COP. We need to be the “Church of Purpose”, joining in God’s call to care for creation, a world created to fulfil his purpose. We will need to “Carry on Persevering”, being honest with one another, encouraging and challenging one another through our successes and failures. And we need to “Churches of Prayer” as we face the climate crisis. Remember “the prayer of the righteous a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5v16b). It even shapes the climate – remember Elijah;
“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5v17,18)
So, let’s pray for ourselves and one another. Pray for the leaders of the world as they prepare to meet again in November 2020. Pray for the vulnerable effected today by climate change. And listen to them too. Perhaps we need to humbly ask the COP – the Churches of the Pacific – to pray for us all.
This is the fifth blog in a 12 part series from Dave Gregory – you can read the first four by clicking on the links below or going to our Home Page:
- Twelve Steps Toward Freedom – Addicted
- Twelve Steps Toward Freedom – Powerless
- Twelve Steps Towards Freedom – Conversion
- Twelve Steps Towards Freedom – Deeper