faith in action

Methodists among faith groups attending COP26

GBCS delegation arrives in Glasgow; Henry-Crowe to preach at Nov. 7 ecumenical service.

GBCS staff members Laura Kigweba James, left, and John Hill, right, with the Rev. James Bhagwan, a Methodist minister from Fiji, at a COP26 interfaith service and dialogue Oct. 31 at Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow.
GBCS staff members Laura Kigweba James, left, and John Hill, right, with the Rev. James Bhagwan, a Methodist minister from Fiji, at a COP26 interfaith service and dialogue Oct. 31 at Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow.

Earlier this year, staff of the General Board of Church and Society were part of a core team drafting a commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 that was signed by 11 agencies of The United Methodist Church.

Now, several GBCS staff — the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary; John Hill, deputy general secretary, who also serves as director of economic and environmental justice, and Laura Kigweba James, program coordinator for grassroots organizing — are part of the agency’s delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26).

Henry-Crowe also is the invited preacher for an ecumenical worship service in recognition of the climate conference at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, in Glasgow Cathedral.

The General Board of Church and Society is able to send delegates to climate changes conferences, including COP26, because it has observer status from the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Rev.Liberato (Levi) Bautista, assistant general secretary for United Nations Ministry and a participant in previous climate conferences, said that GBCS delegates would sound a message of urgency.

The report on climate change issued by the United Nations this year was considered “to be Code Red,” he pointed out. “I would hope that the governments make decisions in Glasgow as if it really is Code Red.”

To Bautista, a Code Red governance strategy means not delaying action.

“The challenge for the U.N. and the governments is to not push their targets all the way to 2030, 2050 or 2070, but to consider the targets as if they are achievable in their own lifetimes,” he said.

In the same way, The United Methodist Church has no excuse not to pursue urgent action to address the global climate crisis. “We should be able to mobilize every level within the UMC,” he said.

The faith groups present in Scotland also will advocate for the international community to take the justice implications on the effects of human activities on climate into consideration.

“We know that — historically and currently — certain countries can contribute more greenhouse gases than other,” Hill told directors of the General Board of Church and Society at an Oct. 21 board meeting. “When we look at the impact … we see an inverse relationship.”

Wealthier countries have better resources to protect against impact of climate change, Hill pointed out. “Those who are least resourced, those who are contributing the least, have the least resources to adapt to the changing climate.”

One way that GBCS is addressing the justice implications of climate change is providing support to Climate Justice for All, a youth-led program of the World Methodist Council.

Six members of its delegation — Jessica Bwali, Zambia; Camila Ferreiro, Uruguay; Iemaima Vaal, Fiji; Irene Abra, Methodist Church in Italy; and Steve Hucklesby and Mollie Pugmire, Methodist Church UK — are connected to Climate Justice for All.

Those involved in the program believe the worldwide Methodist family can make a difference on climate change issues.

“The climate crisis is one of the biggest justice issues the world faces,” the Climate Justice for All website points out. “It is important for the global Methodist family to make our voices heard, and to take action alongside others.”

A part of that global family is in the Pacific island. The Rev. James Bhagwan, a Methodist minister in Fiji who serves as general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, is in Glasgow to make his voice be heard.

“COP26 is important because if this doesn’t work, then we’re in serious danger. It’s already obvious that many of the targets set during the Paris agreement in 2015 have not been met,” Bhagwan said during a stop at the World Council of Churches offices in Geneva.

Members of the Pacific region churches find themselves “on the frontline of climate change,” he said, which affects both the ocean itself and the increasing number of extreme weather events.

Bloom is the interim communications director for the General Board of Church and Society.