Africa

Deforestation and How the Church Is Helping
Deforestation in action.

Deforestation makes a bigger impact on the planet than people care to believe.

Canada is no stranger to deforestation, in which trees are cleared to make land available for non-forest use. The deforestation rate in Canada is 0.02 percent, making Canada a leader in sustainable forest management. Most people believe that deforestation occurs through harvesting trees or forest fires, but the reality is that deforestation only occurs when forests are permanently removed. The government regulates forests on public lands, about 94 percent of the forests in the country. When trees on public land are harvested, the land must be reforested, typically through planting. And it’s not urban development that is the biggest contributor to deforestation. It’s actually converting forested land to agricultural land.

The Unfortunate Truth about Deforestation

The rest of the world isn’t quite as fortunate. Experts report that over 13 million hectares of forest around the world have been cleared to make room for alternative uses. Trees are cut down for many reasons:

  • Agriculture – farmers need more land for crops and livestock.
  • Logging – trees are cut down for wood and paper requirements.
  • Biofuels – palm oil is becoming more popular, and many forests in Malaysia and Indonesia are being harvested to produce this biofuel.
  • Fuel – trees are harvested for firewood to heat homes and for cooking.
  • Roads and highways – forests are being cut down to make roads.
  • Mining – forested areas have a lot of minerals, making them vulnerable to mining operations.

How to Fight Back

The loss of forests contributes to a loss of habitat and an increase in global warming, as well as more erosion and flooding because the trees do not hold the soil down. As a global society, we must do our part to prevent deforestation around the world. We have to:

  • Plant more trees
  • Put pressure on companies that are destroying forests to manufacture products by not buying from brands that are not eco-friendly
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle
  • Support non-profit organizations that are fighting deforestation
  • Take a stand on political issues
  • Look for green products that reduce your use of natural raw materials

The Anglican Church Steps Up in Burundi

Burundi, a small country in Africa, has lost about 22.1 percent of its forest habitats through deforestation from 1990 to 2005. The government has decreed that people should act more responsibly toward the environment, and to that end, it has a goal of planting 10 million trees over the next five years.

The campaign is called “One Person, One Tree.” The Green Anglicans have been promoting tree planting for a number of years in the area, but now, the church and government are working together to improve the environment. Episcopal Relief & Development, the US-based arm of the Anglican Church, has set up nurseries in the country. The goal for the first year is to plant one million trees on both public and private land. Many ceremonies have already taken place, with civil organizations joining the church leaders and government officials to kick off the campaign. It’s a good way to start the new year.

Trees

Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

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Marriage Equality in Scotland
Gay / lesbian wedding icons set

The fight for marriage equality is one that is being fought on a global scale.

Next month, the Anglican Church of Canada votes on marriage equality in the church. As the ULC has reported in the past, this topic is hotly debated within the Anglican Church. The Episcopal Church in the United States changed their canon last year. They were given a “time out” by the international church, but have held to their beliefs that marriage equality is for all of their members. Now, the Scottish Episcopal Church has taken small steps toward changing the canon on marriage within their doors.

The Status of the Canon in Scotland

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church passed a first reading of the change. Currently, in Canon 31, it states that marriage is understood to be between a man and a woman. The proposal is to remove that statement from the canon. This is just one step along the process, because it should be noted that the proposed change is not the final decision. Now that the General Synod has made this proposal, it goes to the seven dioceses within Scotland for more discussion and opinions.

Next year at the General Synod meeting in June, the proposal will get a second reading. To pass, it must get a two-thirds majority of votes. Bishops, clergy and laity are included in this vote. Individual churches send representatives to the General Synod. The first reading received a vote of 5 for, 2 against from the bishops; 43 for, 19 against from the clergy; and 49 for, 12 against, 3 abstentions from the laity. The proposed change does seem to have a great deal of support from the church leadership.

The General Synod is the church’s legislative body, kind of like you might think of Parliament. The Synod members oversee the work of the church and vote on policy. They also might work on national and international issues. A diocese is made up of a group of churches in a particular region. This lets church members and leaders have input into the final canon of the church.

The proposed change would allow clergy to solemnize weddings between people of the same sex. However, there would be a conscience clause for clergy who are opposed to the change. They would not be forced into blessing a same-sex union.

The International Debate in the Anglican Church

Just recently, Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, married her girlfriend. Although South Africa recognizes same-sex marriages, the South African Anglican law does not. The church has made it clear in the past that gay clerics must remain celibate. Shortly after Tutu van Furth’s marriage was celebrated, the diocese withdrew her license to practice as a priest in the church. The South African Anglican Church is also looking at new guidelines for church members who are entering same-sex unions.

It’s been suggested that there might be consequences from the Primates and Archbishop of Canterbury, the international governing body of the Anglican Church, if countries move forward with changing church canon concerning same-sex marriage. Some countries with an Anglican church still have laws on the books that make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. Other countries, such as Russia and Lithuania, simply have repressive laws that prohibit a propaganda of homosexuality. The leadership from some of these countries does not approve of the changes in other countries.

Pushing for same-sex marriage equality in the church is becoming an international issue. We’ll continue to watch how things in the church become more inclusive for all the members, not just heterosexual individuals. The Scottish Church is taking positive steps, but there is still a long way to go. It will be interesting to watch the vote at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada this summer to see what happens.

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