In an effort to make the issue of climate change a top priority on public and political agendas around the globe, the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches made a statement on climate justice at its meeting last week in Busan, South Korea, which calls on the United States to reject construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Rev. Sarah Campbell, team lead minister of Mayflower Church United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, was one of the UCC delegates at the WCC Assembly. She played an integral role in getting the language about the Keystone XL Pipeline included in the statement and says it is the single most strategic and powerful action the WCC could make at the 10th Assembly regarding climate change.
"This is a very big deal that the World Council Assembly, a unified voice of moral authority, decided unanimously to call on President Obama," said Campbell. "The WCC includes 45 U.S. denominations, so he will want to listen to the voice of WCC. Also, sadly, ironically, this vote happened in Southeast Asia as the worst hurricane in the Philippines was gestating."
The Keystone XL Pipeline would carry heavy crude oil from Canada's oil sands region to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Obama denied a permit for the project last year, but supporters of the pipeline have continued to fight for its creation. Many environmentalists say the completion of the pipeline would signal "game over" for the environment.
The WCC's statement continues the environmental advocacy work the WCC has engaged in for the past 20 years, when the organization was among the first to warn about the dangers of climate change.
"Climate change is today one of the most challenging global threats affecting especially the most vulnerable," the statement reads. "Despite being a most crucial issue, climate change has lost priority on the public and political agendas. While there are some encouraging signs, nonetheless climate change negotiations at the international level have not realized the stated goals."
The statement calls upon President Barack Obama to reject the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and welcomes the president's plan for combatting climate change. It also encourages member churches to support the role of the WCC to strengthen links between churches and communities in various parts of the world that are working to combat climate change, calls upon churches and ecumenical organizations to ask their governments to look beyond national interests to preserve God's creation, and reiterates the concerns of the churches about climate change and its adverse effects on the world and its people.
"Victims of climate change are the new face of the poor, the widow and the stranger that are especially loved and cared for by God," the statement reads. "When creation is threatened in this way, churches are called to speak out and act as an expression of their commitment to life, justice and peace."
Campbell agrees. "The most vulnerable suffer first and hardest – the birds, monarch butterflies, and the polar bears – the poorest of humanity," she said. "There will be more and more climate refugees in the future, those with no choice but to move to countries that already don't want them, and, most vulnerable of all, the seventh generation, our children's children."
Read the full statement on the World Council of Churches website.
The UCC is one of the 345 members of the WCC, and sent a team of almost two dozen representatives from across the life of the church to the gathering in Busan. The WCC assembly, which occurs once every seven years, took place from Oct. 30 through Nov. 8. The assembly is the highest governing body of the WCC, and is a moment when member churches come together for prayer, celebration and to set the future agenda for the council. More than 4,000 delegates, visitors, event staff and media members from more than 100 countries traveled to South Korea for the assembly.