Finding faith's role in the environment

Published November 18, 2007

The Right Rev. James Jones, an Anglican bishop in the Church of England, visited Northland church near Orlando last month to speak with interfaith leaders about global warming. Jones, bishop of Liverpool and a member of the House of Lords, is a leading advocate for climate change initiatives in his country, where faith-based groups embraced environmentalism years ago.

Jones oversees the Academy of St. Francis of Assisi, a green school co-sponsored by the Anglicans and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool. He also leads Operation EDEN, a faith-based organization that works with communities to help them protect the environment.

Since 2004, the group of Anglicans, Methodists and Catholics has funded bicycle repair programs, helped build a wind turbine, and organized training programs for churches to teach them to audit and decrease their consumption of water and energy.

Why is global warming a faith issue?

The Earth is the Lord's and everything in it, and we must take care of the Earth. The faith communities have a key role to play in changing hearts and minds because we can't just blame the politicians. It's no point in just saying 'Well the politicians aren't doing enough bringing in legislation,' because they will only bring out laws if they know they'll be supported at the ballot box. So how will the electorate change their attitude and vote for policies that will protect the Earth? That's where I think faith leaders, religious leaders have a role to play.


Has there been an ecumenical joining together around global warming?

It is happening. And the reason for my visit is to meet with different faith communities with evangelical leaders, with the imams and with others to challenge us to help change hearts and minds.


How will you know if you are successful?

We'll know if it's working if there are changes on three levels: if there's a personal change in people's lifestyle; if there's a change in the way communities organize themselves; and if there's a change in the policies that we have as governments, nationally and internationally.


What kinds of things have you asked people in your diocese to do?

Next Lent, I'm calling for a carbon fast. We've got a program where each day we suggest simple things that people can do. Like just take out a light bulb, and put in an energy-saving light bulb. That can be Day One. Day Two can be check the drafts in your house. Take one day a week when you share a car or travel in another way apart from using your car.


What do you hope will come of your trip?

I've got friends here to help - American religious leaders, evangelical leaders and other faith leaders - to play their part too. Unless there is change in America, there won't be change in the rest of the world because America is the world leader.