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Climate justice the top priority for Oceania's Anglican Primates

South Pacific Anglican leaders affirm the value of solidarity in a divided world

Australia's Primate Archbishop Philip Freier (front row, centre) with his fellow Anglican leaders and Provincial secretaries from Oceania at their Tweed Heads meeting.

By Mark Brolly

March 6 2017 

Oceania’s five Anglican Primates have declared that climate justice advocacy and action is the most urgent priority for the Church in the South Pacific “as whole nations of ocean people lose their island homes”.

Meeting in the northern NSW town of Tweed Heads in the days before the Australian bishops’ annual conference, the Oceania bishops offered profound thanks and praise to God “whose faithfulness, throughout generations, has brought us to this place of fellowship and trust” and affirmed the virtue of solidarity among peoples.

“We are four Provinces covering many nations, more than 1000 languages, with rich and diverse cultures,” a statement issued on 6 March after their three-day meeting said. “We are surrounded by the oceans that define our lives and we are united through the interweaving of history and long friendships. In all our diversity and across our many differences we continue to find our unity in Christ, who binds us together despite our failure and sinfulness.”

The bishops and general secretaries who attended the meeting represent the Anglican Provinces of Australia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea and Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Australia’s Primate, Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, hosted the meeting, which was also attended by Archbishops Clyde Igara (Papua New Guinea), Winston Halapua and Philip Richardson (the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) and George Takeli (Melanesia). Maori Archbishop Brown Turei, the third member of the NZ Church’s shared primacy, died in January, aged 92.

“We gather at a time when the rhetoric of nationalism, ridicule, fear-mongering, and hatred is so prevalent. In such a climate where ‘me first’ or ‘we first’ dominates, we affirm: ‘we together’,” the Primates said.

“We will be judged by our failure to support our weakest part. We celebrate that what the world views as weak is in fact strength, what the world views as folly, is indeed wisdom. We rejoice at the fruits of the Spirit we see in each other, and we give thanks for the faithfulness of our forebears who sowed the seeds of the Gospel in our lands.

“We agreed that as whole nations of ocean people lose their island homes, climate justice advocacy and action must become the most urgent priority for Oceanic Anglicans.

“We heard harrowing stories of human rights violations in West Papua, which were poignantly focussed for us by Archbishop Clyde Igara, who said: ‘I am West Papua. I am Papuan’ – such is the arbitrariness of national boundaries and the historical circumstances that have defined them.”

The Primates also:

  • Committed themselves to extending their partnership in theological education and leadership development and to encouraging relationships between Anglican schools and development and welfare agencies;
  • Considered ways they could respond pastorally and politically to the challenges of seasonal workers and labour mobility across the region;
  • Discussed the work being undertaken across in their Churches to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable and particularly those in their Churches’ care;
  • Examined how their growing relationships with the Anglican Provinces across Asia could be deepened and said they looked forward to the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in October 2017; and
  • Found common ground in their strong commitment to working for the continuing unity of the worldwide Communion.

They are to meet again formally as the Oceania Anglican Fono (a gathering, meeting or council) in Suva, Fiji, in March 2018.

The full statement may be read on Archbishop Freier’s primatial website at http://www.anglicanprimate.org.au/news/we-together-in-christ/.