Christian Disciplines, Climate Prayer, Extractives Transparency: 29 Jan 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Christian Disciplines in Changing Times
  • Praying about the Climate
  • Transparency in Extractive Industries
  • Coming up in February

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Christian Disciplines in Changing Times

If you haven’t read Corrie Ten Boom’s ‘The Hiding Place’ (in which case you are in for a treat when you do), it tells the story of the ten Boom family’s life in Haarlem in the years leading up to the Second World War, then of their hospitality to Jewish friends – and gradual involvement in the Dutch underground – after the Nazis invaded, their arrest and internment in Nazi concentration camps – where they continued with faithful lives of love and hope and experienced miracles despite the bleakest circumstances – and eventually Corrie ten Boom’s release and ministry of reconciliation and healing after the war.Many have been inspired by the family’s courageous and loving witness under the Nazis and by God’s faithfulness to them during their persecutions. But some years ago a convert to Christianity who had herself offered loving witness in the face of opposition, said what might appear a surprising thing – that what interested her was not the section of the book that dealt with the time of the Second World War, but the opening chapters, with their establishment of the family’s gentle patterns of prayer, study, hospitality, integrity, and joyful love. That, she then explained, was what was truly important – the rest of the book flowed from it.

We live in changing times. It’s not just a question of the tumultuous changes of the past few years – though their brutal conflicts, growing recognition of the issues around inequality, movements of people, natural disasters, and shifting political landscapes (from the UK to the US to the Middle East to China to India) have shaken many people’s certainties. The pace of change over the past few decades in how societies around the world, including ours, think and act, the challenges and opportunities they face; the technologies they use, the work they do or no longer do, the ways in which they do or don’t relate to each other, and the ways they and the individuals within them define themselves are massive. Some of those changes appear positive; some not. And there is more to come: buried in the recent news have been (to take some examples) stories about risks to future UK, US, and global food security from climate change, extreme inequality and capture of political processes, concerns about not only new forms of asymmetric and cyber warfare but also conventional wars in Eastern Europe and Asia, ethical issues arising from such developments as the creation of human-animal hybrid fetuses and the rise of artificial intelligence and automation (should robots have legal personhood?),  and debates about whether, in a potentially increasingly automated society, a ‘universal basic income‘ should be created, in recognition that should such a society emerge, many people could be unable to find work.

How do we respond well to present and future challenges? How do we grapple – ourselves and alongside others – with the questions around what it means to be human? What a ‘good society’ and a ‘just world’ look like? What steps we are prepared to take to care for the planet that is our common home?  How do we discern what it means to love God and neighbour here, now, today – and live that out in the choices we make daily, from what we eat to how we work to how we build relationships and where we spend our non-working time?

These are questions of discernment for each of us individually, as well as for us together in our churches at all levels. But one thing is certain. We can do nothing unless we, like the ten Boom family, acknowledge our dependence on God and ask for the grace to establish in our lives rhythms of prayer and Sabbath, study of Scripture and its interpretation, interrogation of our lives and the issues that confront us in the light of that prayer and study, joyful love, hospitality, and humble service. This may at times be painful, but it need not be overwhelming – it’s about doing ‘different’, not doing ‘more’. And it isn’t about retreat from the world’s challenges. It’s about making ourselves open to God so that we can be guided by the One who created, redeemed, loves and sustains our challenged world.

“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the LORD and relies upon his God?” the readings from morning prayer asked earlier this week. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” say this week’s Revised Common Lectionary reading from the Old Testament. “Blessed are the poor in spirit … those who mourn … the meek … those who hunger and thirst for righteousness … the merciful … the pure in heart,” say the Beatitudes.

Please pray for a deepening of the spiritual life for all who seek to follow Christ – and that  Christian lives, rooted and grounded in prayer, may be a witness to all people of God’s love and mercy.

Praying about the Climate

Attached are this month’s Pray and Fast for the Climate prayer points. These cover a number of areas of concern – and of hope. There’s a beautiful prayer from the Northumbria Community, and some very encouraging news on divestment, new developments in energy storage, and ambitious carbon-cutting proposals from countries near (Scotland) and far (Costa Rica).

There’s also information on concerns in the US. As noted last week, there are worrying developments at federal level (and some more under-the-radar ones potentially on the way via Congress as well as the presidency) – but there are also encouraging developments at state level, which it’s also good to keep in prayer. In addition to the California proposals, New York State is also taking strong action, including a major commitment to offshore wind. At the federal level, we’d particularly encourage prayer for the federal government to respect and maintain the integrity of federal scientific agencies’ research, grants and data. These may not be the most exciting sounding activities – but they constitute an area where federal-level changes could have a very strong negative impact, not just for the US but globally.

If you’d like more information on this, take a look at the work of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, its faculty director Michael Gerrard, and climate journalist Andy Revkin: you can follow them and get links to their work on Twitter at @Columbiaclimate @michaelgerrard and @revkin. 

Transparency in Extractive Industries

While President Trump’s actions in the first week of his presidency have been gaining all the attention, there are some proposals expected in the US Congress which also urgently require prayer.

One of these is an attempt to use something called the Congressional Review Act to get rid of vital legislation on transparency. Over the past several years, countries around the world have been working on legislation that requires extractive industry companies to publish what they pay to governments in exchange for natural resources rights. Such reporting of payments helps people in resource-rich countries to hold their governments to account and to fight against corruption.

The US law – the bipartisan Cardin Lugar provision in the Dodd Frank Act – was actually the first of its kind, passed by Congress in 2010. It’s since been followed by similar regulations in 30 other countries, including the UK, Canada, Norway, and many members of the EU – with the result that, according to transparency coalition Publish What You Pay, such provisions apply to “80 percent of the world’s largest publicly listed oil, gas and mining companies, including state-owned companies from Russia, China and Brazil.” In the US, though, a lobbying group called the American Petroleum Institute (API), of which Exxon Mobil was a prominent member, lobbied against the bill, and then sued the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to prevent its implementation. Thanks to their opposition, the provision wasn’t implemented until June 2016.

The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to stop recent regulations by a simple majority vote. The long delays in establishing the final ‘rule’ for implementing the  Cardin-Lugar provision make it vulnerable.

If the Cardin Lugar provision is overturned, US listed companies will no longer be subject to the regulations, making transparency efforts far less effective, giving corrupt regimes an incentive to deal with US businesses over those that are more transparent, and potentially leaving the citizens of resource-rich countries with far less funds for vital services such as education, healthcare and infrastructure.

Daniel Kauffman, a leading transparency expert who heads the National Resource Governance Institute, stated: “We are deeply concerned at the attempt to gut this trailblazing U.S. law, which deters corruption and improves governance in the notoriously opaque natural resource sector. Legislators in both houses should abandon this plan immediately. Failure to do so would essentially be an endorsement of the kind of corruption and secrecy found in resource-rich dictatorships … It would make a mockery of the tough talk on fighting graft which we heard throughout the recent presidential campaign.”

Pray that transparency campaigners will be able to put their case clearly and effectively, and to mobilise a constituency for this issue at a time where there are many other concerns. Pray that a sufficient number of members of Congress will understand the damage this move could do and be willing to uphold the Cardin-Lugar provisions on principle.

Coming up in February …

1 February – Pray and Fast for the Climate

5 Feb 2017 – BMS Day of Prayer: Materials from BMS World Mission

5 Feb 2017 – 1st Anniversary of Eco-Church: A time to give thanks for God’s creation, and to commit to caring for it. Could your church join in? There are full   Materials for a ‘Green Communion’ from A Rocha, and we’ll be sending out a creative worship powerpoint on Friday.

12 Feb 2017 – Racial Justice Sunday

12 February Red Hand Day: Campaign/pray for an end to use of child soldiers. Materials from Child Soldiers International

13-19 Feb 2017 – People and Planet ‘Go Green Week’ Nat’l week of climate action for schools, colleges, universities. Info: People and Planet.

14 February (and surrounding period) – Green Hearts Campaign Campaign to protect what you love from climate change. The focus is on using a ‘green heart’ – in a Valentine, worn as a brooch, placed as a bookmark –  as a conversation starter. Could you pray in church – and perhaps do something creative with green hearts?  Resources from For the Love of

20 February – World Day of Social Justice: Info from the UN; opportunity for prayer and action on a range of social justice issues. Suggestions: Joint Public Issues Team, National Justice and Peace Network

26 Feb 2017 – Freedom Sunday: Against modern slavery – see also 25 March, 30 July, 23/24 August, 18 October. Materials: Church of England, CTE, Tearfund, Stop the Traffik

26 Feb 2017 – Church Action on Poverty Sunday: Theme: ‘Poor church, transfigured church” Materials from Church Action on Poverty

27 Feb to 12 March 2017 Fairtrade Fortnight: Materials from the Fairtrade Foundation, Traidcraft and CCOW.