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Watching war movies, reading science fiction and examining Zen Buddhism aren’t your typical seminary fare, but they are among the many innovative, online continuing education courses available at CDSP.

The Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership (CALL) offers online courses during winter, spring and fall sessions that allow students to go at their own pace and learn at a time convenient to them. Courses are seven weeks long and are open to everyone, lay or ordained.

David Cunningham, a member at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley, and former director of planned giving at the University of San Francisco, is effusive about the CALL program.

“My wife, Claire, and I have taken two courses, Brian Taylor's ‘The Empty Way’ and John Kater's ‘Anglican Theology,’" Cunningham said. “Both were very rich in content and most stimulating and inspiring.”

Taylor’s course, “The Empty Way: Contemplative Christianity and Zen Buddhism,” was offered in the fall of 2015 and will be offered again in the spring of 2017. It explores the spiritual practices of contemplative Christianity and Zen Buddhism, including an openness to life as it is, compassion towards others, and freedom from anxiety-producing habits of mind.

“This course is not specifically Episcopal,” said Taylor, who served for 30 years as rector of an Episcopal congregation in New Mexico and has studied and practiced with a variety of Zen Buddhist teachers in San Diego, Albuquerque and Chicago, where he now resides. “This course puts together a Christian and Buddhism landscape and looks at the overlap. Today there are just so many people interested in Buddhism.”

Cunningham said the course helped further his and his wife’s own Christian formation.

“We found the course content a powerful tool for another approach to our Christian faith journey,” Cunningham said. “Brian showed us, via a video, how to sit in Zen meditation and why. He then guided our work to connect this contemplative experience to our spiritual learning.”

As part of the class, students were required to meditate each day. The Cunningham’s devoted 20 to 30 minutes a day to meditation, and “we still meditate now several months after the course ended. I wish Brian would teach another class. He is an excellent teacher.”

Brad - Headshot - Final 1In an upcoming class titled “War in Film and Faith,” participants will explore whether it is possible for disciples of Jesus Christ to participate in or approve of war. And if so, under what circumstances? The course, taught by Dr. Bradley Burroughs, will approach these questions through the lens of contemporary films—both fiction and documentary—that portray key aspects of war. The films will be augmented with readings that deepen students’ understanding of the rich history of Christian reflection on war.

“The films ideally are intended to open up certain questions and issues related to the ethics of war,” said Burroughs, a former CDSP professor who now lives in Dayton, Ohio, and teaches at United Theological Seminary. “For instance, the first film we watch is ‘Glory.’ When I had full-time students in Berkeley, most were inclined toward a form of pacifism. ‘Glory’ is intended to open up the question, might there be a time when war is just? This film portrays a war that has as strong of a claim to justice as any, in my opinion.”

In addition to “Glory” (1989), students will watch and reflect on one movie per week, including: “American Sniper” (2014); “Defiance” (2008); “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012); “Wag the Dog” (1997); “Selma” (2014); and “Restrepo” (2010).

Burroughs had an abundance of films from which to choose. So he chose ones that were easy for students to access online and that best addressed the questions he had in mind.

“For instance, I wanted to consider moral injury, which is not just PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but also war injuries in the larger framework—the idea that by participating in a certain act, you feel that you have damaged your own ability to do good or be good. This is of immense significance for those ministering to soldiers and returning soldiers.”

For that issue, he chose “Restrepo,” a documentary that chronicles the lives of men from the beginning of their deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan (at the time, regarded as one of the deadliest places on earth) until their return home.

“It’s a really powerful movie about how the ways the effects of war continue long after the general public has stopped thinking about it,” Burroughs said. “When soldiers come back, we’re not so good at thinking about the enduring consequences of what we have asked those people to do on our behalf.”

Burroughs said courses that deal with contemporary issues challenge the faith formation of laypeople and clergy alike.

“What I would say about my courses is there are right or wrong answers, and we are too quick to say there is no right or wrong. I certainly hope when you walk away from this course that you can make your case in a way that is faithful to Christian scripture, tradition and reason.”

Michelle MurrainLooking ahead to the fall of 2016, science fiction writer Michelle Murrain will teach a course called “Sci-Fi Faith.” A primary text for the course will be “The Sparrow,” by Mary Doria Russell, a book about the first Jesuit mission to a planet inhabited by intelligent life. The course will also include short stories and non-fiction readings.

“We’ll be talking about the themes in science fiction that have to do with God, creation, the ways in which religion manifests in human beings and may manifest itself in the future,” said Murrain, who lives in Healdsburg, California. “There’re lots of ways in which religious concepts have made their way into science fiction since the beginning.

Murrain, who has a Ph.D. in biology and a certificate of theological studies from the Pacific School of Religion, has written numerous science fiction books and currently works as a relationship coach.

She said the Sci-Fi Faith course will consider existential questions about the universe and human nature.

“Most of religions are human and earth bound—Jesus came to earth to save humans,” Murrain said. “So what does it mean if there are aliens and what is God’s relationship to them? So it forces us to think a little bit bigger than we may have before. It will really expand our sense of who is God and what God is responsible for.

“We’ve never seen aliens, but the universe is very large. Chances are there are other living creatures out there. So what is God’s relationship to them?”

Taylor, who teaches the contemplative prayer and Zen Buddhism course, said the CALL program answers a very specific need faced by many people of faith today.

“It’s not always easy to engage a lot of your parishioners in significant adult formation,” Taylor said. “You can offer courses on weeknights, Saturday programs, or Sunday forums, and often the only thing possible in these settings is a ‘101’ level of formation. It is difficult to go deeper. In a congregation, there will only be a small number of people who want to or can participate.

“On a national level, such as in CALL courses, you can go into depth in a way you can’t do in a parish,” Taylor said. “ There are people spread around all over the church who are looking for more in-depth experience but they can’t get it unless you go online.”

As a past participant in two of the CALL courses, Cunningham said, “I think this is a very vital way to the future for our church. It is easy to log on; the conversations make you really think; and the new experience learned, especially via the Zen experience, changes attitudes and bad habits. I breathe first before getting upset in traffic. Claire is most pleased about that!”

For more information about upcoming CALL courses, go to Continuing Education Units are offered for CALL courses at the rate of 2 CEUs per course. Spring courses run April 11 through May 30

CDSP Solar Mockup 10.14.2015-page-001CDSP’s plans for the largest solar installation of any seminary in the United States took a big step forward in January when the institution received an anonymous gift of $250,000 over five years toward the project’s $560,000 cost.

“At CDSP, we believe that moral accountability in our relationship to the environment is an essential component of quality theological education,” said the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, dean and president. “We strive to be good stewards of the resources we have been given, and with this generous lead gift for solar energy, we will be able to reduce CDSP’s carbon footprint and model sustainable living as a Christian community.”

CDSP committed to reducing its global warming pollution by 50% by 2030 when it signed the Paris Pledge developed by Interfaith Power and Light, an anti-global warming advocacy network. The pledge was launched at the United Nations-sponsored Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015, which Richardson attended as a representative of the Episcopal Church.

The planned installation of more than 400 solar panels on three buildings is a key part of the seminary’s plan to fulfill the Paris Pledge. The panels will be installed first of the roofs of Easton and Parsons Halls and later on the roof of Shires Hall.

“We are blessed with an active, supportive community of donors and alumni who share our vision of environmental sustainability as an integral part of theological education,” said Laurel Johnson, director of alumni affairs and major gifts officer at CDSP. “This generous lead gift makes that commitment tangible and provides alumni and friends with the opportunity to join this important movement to make CDSP more sustainable for generations to come.”

In January, CDSP’s solar panel plan was given a boost by the California Public Utilities Commission which voted to allow solar panel owners to sell the excess power they generate back to their utility at full retail rate. The practice, known as net metering, is seen by solar advocates as essential to making solar installations affordable because it allows solar users to get credit for the excess energy they generate in the daytime and draw on that credit during peak usage times when solar energy is not being generated.

The solar installation project is now being reviewed by the City of Berkeley, and CDSP hopes to begin work this spring.

Susanna SingerStudents enrolling at CDSP in 2016 will receive a hefty new summer reading list designed by faculty to prepare them for their studies. Each month between now and the official start of the summer reading season, we'll highlight some titles chosen by our faculty members. 
Professor Susanna Singer chose three books to provide new students "a model right up front of how you integrate theology and practice:"
"This book is ten years old, but I haven’t found anything that is as good," says Singer. "Stephanie really does a good job laying out a theology of welcome in a diverse culture, and also covering the practical stuff so that congregations can actually think through what making solid theology real in practices looks like."
"When this book was first published in 1997, it was an amazing and groundbreaking book in the thinking on forming Christian leaders and communities. It was updated in 2010 and includes a diversity of voices and practices that will help students get exposed to a variety of theological voices, not all of whom are Episcopalians."
"This is a good bridge read for someone who has been an intelligent lay person and is now entering into deeper study. It's a solid introduction to the baptismal covenant for relatively new Episcopalians, and he does quite a good job of articulating Anglican identity--our particular history, ethos, theology and relationship with the surrounding culture--without being rigid. It's a good model of theological writing."

MacDougall headshot

This year, CDSP has a new summer reading list for incoming students. Each month between now and the official start of the summer reading season, we'll highlight some titles on the new list chosen by our faculty members. 

This month, Visiting Assistant Professor Scott MacDougall discusses two books that he hopes will help incoming students understand the purpose of studying theology. “People studying for ordained ministry aren’t training to become a theological Delta Force,” he says. “They’re training to facilitate other people’s theological exploration.”

Fredrica Harris Thompsett, “We Are Theologians: Strengthening the People of God”

“I am convinced that we as a church need to rediscover theology as the work of all people. It’s not optional, it’s a requirement for being a Christian person,” says MacDougall, who, like Thompsett, is a lay theologian. “Those of us who teach in seminaries are not an aristocratic class of professional theologians.

“The way Thompsett frames her case is deeply Anglican. She attends really closely to the ways in which Anglican people through time have done theology and what the concrete results of that work have been, especially the ways in which theologically sophisticated laypeople have led movements for social justice and changed from within the way the church looks.”

Diogenes Allen, “Theology for a Troubled Believer”

“This book is an introduction to systematic theology from the perspective of someone who believes that the task of doing theology should be deeply troubling and painful,” says MacDougall. “He does this in narrative form, using examples from philosophy, literature, scripture and the lives of the saints, and raises thorny theological issues that we will investigate more fully in my courses.” 

Society of Ordained ScientistsWhen members of the Society of Ordained Scientists gathered at CDSP earlier this month, it was to share how they traverse the worlds of faith and science, how those journeys shape their ministries, and how their ministries can influence their communities.

“Everyone in the Society, in some way, has had two careers, has held authority in science and the church,” said the Rev. Lucas Mix, PhD, who is warden for the Society’s North American Province. Mix, an adjunct faculty member at CDSP, received his MDiv from the seminary in 2007 and his PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard in 2004. This year he is a research fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey, where he is investigating astrobiology and society.

“All of us have this language that we have learned from being church geeks and science geeks,” Mix said, “and there is something wonderful about being with people who speak your language. Being able to talk to each other allows us to put things in new ways.”

In addition to Mix, attendees included CDSP President and Dean Mark Richardson and the Rev. Dr. Marilyn M. Cornwell (MDiv ‘06), rector of Church of the Ascension, Seattle. Both were presenters (download Dean Richardson's presentation), as was the Rev. Dr. Ted Peters, research professor emeritus in systematic theology and ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at Graduate Theological Union. Both Cornwell and Peters (from whom Mix took a seminary course in religion and science) were accepted as new members during the retreat.

Also attending was the Rev. Deacon Josephine “Phina” Borgeson (MDiv ‘74), the Rev. Robyn Arnold (MDiv ‘08), the Rev. Barbara Smith-Moran (DMin ‘09), and the Rev. Dr. Robert Russell, director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and professor of theology and Science at Graduate Theological Union.

Founded in 1987, the Society of Ordained Scientists has more than 100 members and holds a yearly retreat in the United Kingdom, where it was founded. Additionally, it meets every two years in the United States. This year’s meeting was the first to be held at CDSP.

I'm always glad when it's time to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe; but it's a celebration that always makes me a little nervous. At its worst, it can be a particularly unpleasant example of "supermarket Christianity," where we simply pick and choose anything that happens to attract us, the more "exotic" the better, without thinking about what it means, to us or to the people whose sacred story it is. It can be a kind of neo-colonialism, or worse; stealing other peoples' sacred stories or borrowing them without asking is probably worse than stealing their property or borrowing their car without asking.

That's why tonight makes me a little nervous. But there are lots of reasons why I am glad to be part of this celebration...and maybe the most important is for the message it communicates to us, here in this our own context...although the setting of the characters in the story was nothing like the one most of us call home  

Juan Diego was a member of the Nahuatl people of Mexico in one of the darkest times for his people. They had been overwhelmed by their Spanish conquerors, their history and traditions distorted, their religion mocked, their treasure stolen, their identity challenged; and their conquerors had done everything they could to turn them into Spanish-speaking Christians. Christ was the victorious King of Kings whose counterpart sat on the Spanish throne on the other side of the world, and his virgin mother was a Spanish queen depicted in jeweled splendor who looked nothing like the women Juan Diego met every day. No people could have been more dispossessed than the Indian people of the Valley of Mexico in Juan Diego's time. Their oppression was profound, and it was complete. 

And at just such a time, Juan Diego has a vision; and the woman he sees looks nothing like the statues of Christ's mother he saw in church. This woman looked suspiciously like the mother goddess his people had revered, to whom they had turned for comfort and support...and yet, she was Christ's mother. And most surprising of all, she spoke to Juan Diego in Nahuatl, which was the language of his own people. And as the legend unfolds, this mysterious figure does amazing things -- roses appear in the middle of winter on a hilltop, her image is miraculously imposed on Juan Diego's cape, and maybe most miraculously of all, the bishop comes to believe in Juan Diego and his vision. The figure he met on that December day in a place his people knew was holy became the symbol of survival, and hope; Our Lady of Guadalupe became the symbol that the Holy One knows who matters, who has value even when those in charge think otherwise.  And Juan Diego discovered that God speaks the language of those who need God most:  the ones whose value is denied, whose identity is under attack, who would seem to be hopeless and lost. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe became the champion of our neighbors, our brothers and sisters to the south who were once the people of this land where we live. She is the patron of Mexico, and even a Church that at first scoffed at the story has come to realize that the love people have for her cannot, and will not, be challenged. 

The descendants of Juan Diego and his people have endured centuries of struggle, and they still do. Their country was pillaged by their conquerors. A church that should have been on their side chose instead to support those conquerors and their descendants who owned most of the land and kept the mass of the people in conditions of  misery. The struggle for freedom, for a sense of identity and self-worth has been a struggle of centuries. But always, in times of suffering and in times of struggle, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been the sign that God was still with them. And in our own time, when the descendants of all the Juan Diegos have made their way north in search of life instead of death, the Virgin has gone with them -- only now she speaks Spanish. When Cesar Chavez led migrant workers in the fields of California to demand a better life, the Virgin of Guadalupe was heir patron, because she still remains the sign that whatever the forces of oppression and death may say, nevertheless -- Emmanuel. God with us. 

I don't suppose there is a more powerful image for the Advent season than the figure of the mother of Christ who is also the patron, the friend, the advocate, the supporter of a people who continue to be mistreated, not least by political demagogues. It's the message of the Magnificat:  God has shown strength with his arm, scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. That's what happens when God comes to be with the people who need God most:  They are vindicated.  The lies that they heard to "keep them in their place" are revealed for what they are -- lies. 

We are walking through a time when the shadow of death seems to be particularly strong  -- shadows of fear, shadows of hate, shadows of discrimination and intolerance are all around us.  But Emmanuel -- God is with us. Remembering and honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe is a way to stand with all those who are suffering tonight as Juan Diego suffered nearly five centuries ago. It is a way to stand with our neighbors from the south who are being vilified for political gain even as they flee for their lives. It is a way to stand with those in our own place and time whose religion is demonized or mocked. It is a way to stand with people whose lives are considered not to matter. It is a way to stand with people whose lives have become a pilgrimage towards safety in the face of awful violence. It is a way to stand with those, whoever they are, who wonder where is God when they need God. It is a way to remember God's own priorities, never more obvious than in the story of Jesus' own birth as homeless, an outcast, a member of a despised minority and a scorned religion, and as Matthew would have it, a refugee. 

Advent is a time of Emmanuel -- God coming to be with us. Maybe it's people like Juan Diego who get to see how true that is:  roses bloom in the mountains in December, and hope is born, because God turns out to speak Nahuatl, and Spanish, and Arabic, and those who tell us the truth about God turn out to look like those who need it most.

A sermon preached at All Saints Chapel on December 17, 2015

From December 5-10, the Very Rev. Mark Richardson, dean and president of Church Divinity School of the Pacific, attended the Conference of Parties, the international climate change conference in Paris. He was part of the official delegation funded to represent the Episcopal Church at the event.


December 5:  A Wound in Paris

I arrived in Paris and there was little sign of extra security, but who knows what is behind the cameras?

Paris memorial with Oakland signAfter getting through security and to the hotel it was early afternoon, with little chance to get to the COP21 pavilion for a session. I walked the streets near the hotel instead and only three blocks away was one of the major memorials for those who died in the attack of a few weeks ago.  Flowers and pictures lined a park wall for at least two blocks, across the street one of the cafes that had been the site of this attack.  It reminded me of living in NYC when memorials popped up all over NYC after 9/11. NYC continued the affairs of daily life but people carried inside a sadness they could not sweep away; it took time. The people of Paris do not seem to be paralyzed: sidewalk cafes still open and bustling, people shopping, but one feels the wound in their presence, and the memorials bear testimony to this.

Tonight our delegation meets for dinner and we will hear instructions about our deployment over the next several days. I heard from Bishop Marc [Andrus] and received his warm welcome. He was up at the conference today right on schedule to gather people for prayer in the heart of the pavilion.  I look forward to joining him and others in the days ahead.

December 6:  How Do We Have Conversations About Climate Change?

Sunday was a great day of being with the church in Paris. Our delegation gathered at the American Cathedral in Paris, first to hear a forum presentation by George Marshall, a social anthropologist who is renowned internationally for his work on public conversation skills especially for discussing issues of great concern. He was there to help us address the question: “How do we have conversations across our deep cultural polarization on the issues of climate change?” This seemed so important to share with our seminary community. Soon we will build into our curriculum at Church Divinity School of the Pacific the learning of skills of conversation.

According to Marshall, we will not communicate with those who hold differing points of view from our own on issues of climate change until we listen deeply to the values and identity issues that motivate them. When we listen for these things we begin to build trust, and this personal and relational level is essential to forward progress. We need to learn from each other those things that will motivate change in us. He had some wonderful anecdotes to illustrate his point.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of Greenfaith, an important player in the climate change conference, preached at the principal service. I loved being back at the Cathedral after my visit with my wife, Brenda, this summer and renewing connection with friends there.  Bishop Pierre Whalon and Dean Lucinda Laird were wonderful hosts.

The Cathedral is impressive for the kind of leaders in the congregation. I met an international lawyer in the congregation who was on his way to meet with theEgyptian representatives at the Climate Change conference who are his clients. Before he left, he shared some fascinating stories and his hopes regarding the activities at the conference.

Paris group

This afternoon, the delegation was left to some leisure, and to prepare material on specialized topics we have been assigned for our participation tomorrow in the “green zone,” the location of non-legislative bodies. It is where important networking and learning goes on, and bottom-up organizing that has impact we cannot measure on those who must sign the agreements.  In my leisure I enjoyed the company of John and Julia McCray Goldsmith, and Grace Aherne, who formerly lived in California and is now chaplain at the University of Virginia. A very good day for this jet lagged dean and president!

December 7:  Learning About Renewable Energy

Our day as delegates from the Episcopal Church to the Climate Change conference began with early morning edits of an official letter from the Church to the representatives in the legislative sessions. It had to go from our hands back to NYC for approval and then return before delivering this afternoon.  It is in response to some goals already set, and encouragement of certain actions yet to be taken.

We arrived for our first day at the Pavilion, the gathering place of thousands of non-legislative delegates from many organizations. I attended a meeting on “North American climate collaboration” with an interdisciplinary group attempting to integrate efforts across a wide range of science, technology, and business.

Then at noon, Bishop Marc Andrus gathered us in a public space under “the prayer umbrella” for singing, prayer and meditation. We are centering our mediation on one of the four themes each day:  reverence, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation. Our goal in this short time is to fill the space with this prayerful spirit which really comes from many people back home as well as within this huge space. Imagine singing with all kinds of activity and chaos around you, hundreds of people walking by wondering who you are and what you are doing. (A parade of people dressed as penguins came marching by with their own tune at one point.) Some stopped in curiosity to listen to our singing, others to joined the circle.

IMG 1455In fact, in just five minutes I met with two who stopped: Mohammed El-Hadi Khalifi, president of an investment bank in Sudan, who came solely to connect investment funds with groups pursuing green technology solutions in sub-Saharan Africa; and Vincent Powlowski from Arizona, who founded the Association for the Tree of Life, dedicated to organizing in response to climate change.

Since we at Church Divinity School of the Pacific are new participants in solar energy, in the afternoon I attended a panel presentation on “Renewable Energy and Intermittency.” The idea of intermittency is that in the diverse menu of renewable energy sources--hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, ocean currents, wind, and bio-mass--there will be fluctuations and times of unpredictable fluctuation. Solar is a case in point: it is a very powerful source, but there are times when it is not easy to predict excess production on the one hand, or insufficiency in meeting demand on the other hand (in contrast to geo-thermal, for example, which is constant). 

The point is that we are headed toward an era when societies will cooperate in producing a variety of renewable energy integrated into a single system. This really took me out of a certain kind of isolation in my attitude about producing solar at CDSP: “we'll produce for ourselves and sell a little to the grid.” What if we began to think of our production as fitting into a larger system where diverse sources of renewable energy were feeding into a public grid to meet the public demand?

Mind-opening meetings like this are happening all over the pavilion all day, every day, for two weeks. It is not only a privilege to hear these presentations; it is also impressive to encounter very bright engineers, social psychologists, city planners, ecologists and others who have dedicated lifetimes to realizing outcomes that are essential to our future on this planet.

I discovered in the evening that this is truly not the work of heroic individuals, but of collaborating communities and leaders. At a concert event in downtown Paris, we paid tribute to heroes from all over the globe who were saving forests, protecting communal lands and being leaders in global adaptation. In each case, it was communities, not individuals, being honored, and communities accepting those honors. It was quite a moving event, emceed by Alec Baldwin.

December 8:  The Inner Dimension of Climate Change

Today I met today with a pastor in the Swedish Church who wrote that church’s document titled “A Bishops’ Letter About the Climate.” Sweden is largely regarded as a world leader in the march toward a carbon neutral economy. By contributing their share to a global fund to support island peoples and other poorer nations, they are also leading in the effort to assist the people most vulnerable to climate change. Compared to the United States, their per capita contribution is staggering.   

Traveling to the pavilion, I had a chance meeting with Bill McKibben among the hundreds loading onto buses. We talked on the way to the conference. I'll hearMcKibben him speak tomorrow. Once we arrive, we pass through a checkpoint that is like those at the airport. Bags are x-rayed, belts come off, and all the rest.

At our Episcopal worship today, we marched with musicians around the pavilion singing hymns before going to our gathering place for reflection and prayer. This offends my natural shyness about such things, but I must admit it drew some to join us.

Would you ever expect to hear Inuit rap music? Today at lunch I heard it for the first time. It has kind of had an Arctic Indian twist to it.  

After our prayer gathering today, I attended a session on "Adaptation in urban contexts worldwide,” which included health experts, city planners and others who have attempted over the years to prepare cities for fatalities from heat or floods in light of the inevitability of climate change. These climate extremes first impact the most vulnerable people: infants, elderly, the poor. Proactive urban planning, education, and communication have achieved remarkable results; for example, a record heatwave in Ahmedabad, India in 2010 killed 1300 people.  After coordinated, proactive planning, the next heat wave of comparable duration and temperature killed 20.

In this same session, it was interesting to hear from Governor Brown's top planning official, Ken Alex, who made a case for why California is so far ahead of most states in the U.S. in planning for climate change and in initiating mitigation of carbon emission. Since 1970, particulate pollution in California has been reduced by 95% and by 2030 the goal is 98%.  This success, Alex said, is due to the time and expertise that California devotes to identifying the problem and providing a regulatory response. The state regulatory bodies press the business community to meet higher standards, and eventually business innovation follows. From there, requirements to meet environmental standards tighten in increments.

Many remember Los Angeles of the 1970s as the Beijing of today. You couldn't see more than a block on bad days. I remember competing in a track meet at UCLA then and having to adjust warm ups to avoid sickness before the competition. So California has changed. Today, whereas many states in the U.S. are very anti-government and anti-regulation, California is not afraid of regulation, and is a case study in why it matters.  (Okay, that's as political as it's gonna get in this communication!)

The point from this panel was that climate change resilience is “win-win.” Change does not mean sacrifice, which is the great fear of those who resist. Change toward renewable energy sources and lifestyle change lead to better quality of life, better health, money savings, and in many cases, job creation.

The next panel, led by Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu leaders, was titled, "The Inner Dimension of Climate Change.” Their question: "What is the Connection between Social Violence and Violence Against Nature?" The message shared among the speakers was that change in technique, finance and governance in response to climate issues will change nothing—mere band-aids—if we do not motivate a spiritual change of heart in all of us toward others and the natural world. We are in pain and we are inflicting pain, creating deserts of the heart as we create natural deserts globally, to paraphrase Pope Francis.

The message was consonant across all the traditions represented on the panel. The internal root of this violence is separation from ourselves, from others, and from the natural world. We are attached to our subjective ideologies and attached to our desires, and things that threaten this insular individualism lead to violence. But this alienation is a trap. The message of all the traditions is that we need compassion, reverence for the ground of our being, and reconciliation. Our Episcopal worship this week has centered on these three themes, among others. I was moved by the clarity, depth, and common voice coming from many religious traditions of the world. It reminded me of the richness of our context in the Graduate Theological Union.

I ended the day by traveling back downtown to the American Cathedral for interfaith prayer, singing and testimony which took the message of the session I’d just attended and placed it in the context of prayerful practice. We ended in music led by a group of pilgrims who had walked the 1500 kilometers from Rome to Paris for this conference. Their goal was to leave the message of love and hope with each step, and they discovered along the way that it was they who were given love and hope by those who received them. You could feel in their words, in their music, that this had been their experience. This was a wonderful prayer of gratitude to end the evening.

December 9:  Prayer, Debate, and a State Department Briefing

I am impressed with the chance meetings and unpredictable conversations at events like this climate change conference involving thousands of people. As I traveled by train to the day's events, I conversed with Arif Rahman in the Pakistan government's delegation on environment and development. He shared a momentary doubt about the value of the conference: "I think of the investment Pakistan made to send its delegation. We could have built a school. We must be serious about what we are doing." 

We talked about family, and he lit up telling me about his children and how his parents who live in the same village in northern Pakistan were doing in old age. Basic human and personal things linked us. We both were reminded of the loves and longings that bind us,reminded of the simple but deep needs that make life on this globe so precious. We were ready to go to work.

ens 120815 popupworship mainRight on time, our noonday prayer group gathered, marched and sang accompanied by accordion, clarinet, string instrument, and drum. Yes, you read it correctly. Quite a combination! As we marched through the pavilion, more began to join us: participants from the Micronesian islands threatened by inundation as the globe warms and waters rise, a Kenyan reporter, young people from the U.S. who are religiously unaffiliated, and more. Bringing prayer to a space of debate and technical discussions was uniquely moving. Later, the Kenyan reporter interviewed me, and in tears stated that he needed this time to pray with others in the midst of serious and frightening challenges.  

Each day, the noonday prayer ends in a lunch gathering, and I have enjoyed this time with friends and fellow delegates before launching into our several paths for the rest of the day.  In my case, the afternoon began in a meeting on “free trade and climate change” that examined some of the ways in which international trade agreements are apparently at cross-purposes with new directions needed to face climate challenges. It was essentially an urgent plea for a re-balancing of interests and power and for regulatory measures that protect against the excesses of a fossil-fuel based economy.

There is debate over differences in this pavilion. Should nuclear power be in the energy future or not? Is carbon trading the best method toward a policy of a carbon neutral future, and, if so, what should the caps be? Is a multinational agreement worth anything without enforcement? What are the developed world's obligations in the face of loss and damages experienced in the developing world?

Late in the afternoon, Jessie Young, a State Department representative, visited our delegation to brief us on the status of the climate change negotiations and timetable for reaching an agreement. Our conversation with her lent perspective on issues including the complexity of bi-lateral discussions with India, whose interests run counter at times to near-term carbon reduction; transparency among nations and the monitoring of their commitments; how to determine developed-world contribution to adaptation in the face of current climate disasters; setting goals for the future; and the unpredictable path toward meeting them assuming the will, intelligence and commitment is in place to do so. 

To learn more about the Episcopal Church’s presence at the Paris conference, read Episcopal News Service coverage.