Rev Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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NATIONAL BISHOP'S TURN
Justice Tour 2015
It was my honour to participate in Justice Tour 2015, a cross-country gathering of people of faith in conversations about poverty in Canada and climate change sponsored by the Canadian Council of Churches (of which the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is a member) and Citizens for Public Justice. Throughout the 15 different gatherings which made up the eight stops along the tour, framed by prayer and song, we listened to the concerns of our church members on the issues of climate justice and anti-poverty work. Joining me on the tour were my colleagues: Rev. Dr. Willard Metzger, Executive Director of Mennonite Church Canada and Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches.
A heartfelt thank you to all of you who came out to present, to listen, to make your voice and your concerns heard. I am so proud of the high percentage of ELCIC members who attended the events and participated in the discussions. I am inspired by the wide variety of initiatives in all parts of the country that are working to address climate change, poverty, or both! There are many wonderful creative ministries that are taking place!
Very early on we discovered that these two issues, poverty and climate change, are interrelated. We cannot address one with-
We learned the reality that in Canada poverty has many faces. The face of Indigenous peoples, refugees, the disabled, the working poor, temporary foreign workers—the list goes on and on. We learned that we have a lot of work to do in demythologizing poverty and helping people overcome negative stereotypes. I was really touched when Valerie Getzon, a member of Redeemer in Halifax, said “Statistics are human beings with their tears dried off.” We need to work together to share the real stories of those living in poverty in Canada, including their tears.
Many people talked about the brokenness experienced in communities across Canada. We have become more individualistic. It has led to brokenness in relationships with God, with each other and with the land. I believe this poverty of community, or poverty of relationships, is an area which we as church are well positioned to address. We need to restore the place of the church as a centre of community and a safe gathering place to help build and foster relationships.
Listening to experts talk about climate change and the potential future ahead of us is frightening. There are many reasons, including economic realities and lifestyle choices, that make us want to skirt around this issue. But we were reminded again and again that the earth is a gift and that we have a responsibility, indeed a ministry, to care for it. In Ottawa, Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute challenged us that we are on a collision course between climate change and the prevailing economic system. He went on to say that “the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor are the voice of God in our time. Are we listening?”
Poverty, climate change, Indigenous rights—these are all major and daunting challenges. It is easy for us to be overwhelmed and paralyzed with inaction. But everywhere we visited we also heard messages of hope. People are inspired by their God who leads them into ways of justice and truth. People are energized by partners in faith communities and in civil society who are working to achieve the same goals. I came back re-energized to continue following the example of Jesus in working for justice. It is my prayer for our whole church!
Canada Lutheran, June 2015
Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.