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The Archbishop of Canterbury has given an award to a South African Bishop for encouraging the Church to embrace ecological issues.
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, has introduced six new awards to recognise distinctive service to the Church and society. Bishop Geoff - a WWF South Africa trustee - has been given the Langton Award, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to community service. It was named after Archbishop Stephen Langton who was crucially involved in the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago and is a symbol of the church’s involvement in civil liberties.
“The Magna Carta was a great step in establishing human rights and civil liberties. I am deeply grateful for this honour. We now need to recognise the rights of all of life, not just human life,” Bishop Geoff said. “We are part of the web of life and our well-being is dependent on the well-being of the planet. We are becoming more aware of this as we face the consequences of climate change, diminishing natural resources and the pollution and destruction of our natural environment. It is crucial that we recognise our responsibility to care for all of life.”
“Bishop Geoff has been largely responsible for our Church’s awareness of environment issues. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude since he did this when it was not fashionable or popular,” said Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in congratulating him for this award at a service in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town.
Congratulations were also received from the current Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, who, until recently, chaired the Anglican Communion Environment Network.
In 2005 Bishop Geoff and his wife Kate established SAFCEI, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute, a multi-faith NGO working with all religions to encourage, equip and inspire faith communities to care for God’s world – our only home. “For the future of our life on this planet, it is now critically important that we act together to care for the natural world and all that is in it. Faith communities need to take a lead and set the example,” Bishop Geoff stated.
Opening the recent award ceremony held at Lambeth Palace, London, Archbishop Welby explained why he wished to give these awards. "I want people who make outstanding contributions through their engagement with the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion to know that they are recognised.
"I also want to point the Church and the world at large to examples of lives and actions which embody our beliefs and values. St Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, ‘Preach the Gospel always: when necessary, use words.’ Your actions and your lives speak volumes.”
The six new awards are for: Evangelism and Witness, Worship, Prayer and the Religious Life, Education and Scholarship, Community Service, and Reconciliation and Interfaith Cooperation. Rabbi David Rosen, who worked closely with the late Ted King, Dean of St George’s Cathedral when he was in Cape Town, received this award, along with a number of ecumenical faith leaders.
The recent SABC tv2 three part series on “The Sacred Secrets of Nature”, which explores the environmental crisis and the response of religious groups, is available on the SAFCEI Website.