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Canberra Central Parish’s “Eco Justice Charter”

Through a series of workshops and consultations, Canberra Central Parish (Wesley Uniting Church at Forrest, and St Aidan's Uniting Church at Narrabundah)  has developed an "Eco Justice Charter".  The charter outlines the theological basis for environmental concern and action, and presents practical suggestions for individuals and groups.

What did you do?

Through a series of workshops and consultations, Canberra Central Parish (Wesley Uniting Church at Forrest, and St Aidan's Uniting Church at Narrabundah)  has developed an "Eco Justice Charter".  The charter outlines the theological basis for environmental concern and action, and presents practical suggestions for individuals and groups with respect to:

  • Use of energy resources
  • Water use, management and conservation
  • Land use, management and conservation
  • Population issues
  • Church action

Why did you do it?

The parish wanted to explore Christian responsibility towards the environment.  In its charter, the theological basis for this responsibility is outlined.  It includes an appreciation that God created, loves and is present in the whole of the creation, and an understanding of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all created things.  It concludes that "restoring a harmonious relationship with Creation is a central concern of our faith".  The term ‘eco-justice’ expresses concern for an active, fair and just relationship with our environment, in contradistinction to the ways in which we have flagrantly abused, damaged and exploited it in the past, and in parallel with our Christian concern for individual and collective social justice and the elimination of social injustice in our society.

How did you do it?

From July to October 2006, the parish ran eight workshops addressing Christian concern for the state of the environment.  A draft eco-justice charter was an outcome of the workshops, to consolidate the learning together and to provide guidance for future action.  The draft charter was distributed to the congregation for their comments in November 2006, and after discussion at the church's general meeting in February 2007, was referred to the church council.  An Environment Sub-team within the Service and Social Justice Mission Team was formed to revise the charter.  The revised text was adopted by the church's general meeting in February 2008.

Who was involved?

The process of developing the eco-justice charter has involved many people.  A coordinator has led the process, and is now supported by an Environment Sub-team of 8 people.  30-40 people attended each of the workshops, about half of whom were from the parish.  Guest speakers at the workshops included theologians, a bishop, and scientists.  The church as a whole has been included in the consultation process of finalizing the text of the charter.

How much did it cost?

The costs were very minimal, amounting to only the costs of afternoon tea and use of audiovisual equipment for the workshop sessions.  Two leading speakers came voluntarily from Sydney to address different sessions.

What problems did you have and how did you overcome them?

It took quite some time to develop the charter.  This is in part because the parish had not previously addressed ecological issues in much detail.  But it is also because the parish had never before developed a charter.  The parish has learned much from the experience and is considering to develop further charters in the future, e.g. in relation to other social justice issues.

What is the outcome?

Now that the charter has been adopted, the Environment Sub-team is working on identifying specific practical actions that the church can undertake.  The first step is an energy and water audit of the church premises.  Canberra Central Parish also intends to propose to the Uniting Church Presbytery of Canberra Region that all congregations be asked to undertake such an audit.  The Parish also hopes to work together with other faith communities in Canberra on a Multi-faith Eco-justice Charter.

Links 

Canberra Central parish's website: http://www.wesleycanberra.org.au/index.php