The Communion Forest is an exciting new initiative of the Anglican Communion to join together in tree growing and ecosystem conservation, protection and restoration throughout the world.
The Communion Forest is a global initiative comprising local activities of tree growing and ecosystem conservation, protection and restoration undertaken by parishes, dioceses and provinces across the Anglican Communion.
It is a sign of the Anglican Communion’s commitment to the Anglican Fifth Mark of Mission: Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
The Communion Forest was launched on 3rd August 2022 during the Lambeth Conference as one of the legacies of the conference.
The Communion Forest was first conceived in late 2019 when the Lambeth Conference Design Group asked for ideas for a lasting legacy of the forthcoming Lambeth Conference. An Anglican Communion eco group including ‘Eco-Bishops’, the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN), Christian Aid, the Anglican Communion Office at the United Nations (ACOUN) and the Anglican Alliance suggested a “Lambeth Forest”. This formed the basis for the Communion Forest initiative we have today.
The Communion Forest builds on – and was inspired by – the extensive creation care work that is already happening across the Communion.
The aim of the Communion Forest initiative is to significantly increase the number of Anglican tree growing and ecosystem conservation, protection and restoration activities around the world and to deepen care for creation within the life of the Church and its members.
Why a Communion Forest?
We have been gifted a world of breath-taking beauty, astounding abundance and intricate interconnection. It is a world God declared good and loves.
The integrity of creation is under threat and at risk of collapse. The life systems of the earth are under severe strain from the triple environmental crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
The world’s forests and other plant communities are imperilled, along with the great diversity of species which rely on them, and humanity itself. We are in a climate and ecological crisis.
The environmental crisis is an existential threat to millions of people and species of plants and animals across the globe. Slow onset disasters, such as drought and sea level rise, as well as rapid onset disasters, such as catastrophic flooding and wildfires, take lives, destroy habitats and beloved homes, devastate livelihoods, cause food shortages, force migration, disrupt communities and break up families. The impacts of the crisis are costly, both financially and in terms of the trauma they create.
“Humanity is waging war on nature. This is senseless and suicidal. The consequences of our recklessness are already apparent in human suffering, towering economic losses and the accelerating erosion of life on Earth.” UN General Secretary, António Guterres in The United Nations Environment Programme synthesis report Making Peace With Nature
In the face of climate change, biodiversity loss, profound human suffering and social inequality, we need to act urgently and with greater ambition.
The Communion Forest is a practical, spiritual and symbolic response to the environmental crisis, and an act of Christian hope for the well-being of humanity and all God’s creation.
Trees, forests, grasslands and other ecosystems help to:
- stabilise the climate
- protect from flooding
- sequester carbon (remove it from the atmosphere)
- sustain biodiversity
- generate food and livelihoods for communities across the world
How does the Communion Forest work?
The Communion Forest is a global act of hope which involves a wide range of creation care activities. Together, these projects will form a virtual, global “forest”. Over time, these will be made visible through the sharing of initiatives on this website.
Communion Forest activities are determined locally (by provinces, dioceses and individual parishes) so that they are geographically, culturally and environmentally appropriate. The “forest” will therefore look very different in different parts of the Communion. Local expressions might be about trees but could equally be about grasslands, wetlands or coastal habitats.
Churches might choose to take up a project that involves:
- Conservation – helping to look after and preserve a local ecosystem.
- Protection – advocating and taking action to stop deforestation or prevent the destruction of other habitats.
- Restoration – restoring a piece of waste land or other degraded environment.
- Growing – starting a forest initiative on church land or in (and with) the wider community. Protection and restoration should be considered ahead of establishing something new. Where something new is set up, the emphasis should be on growing, not just planting. It is about growing the right kind of tree in the right place and for the right purpose..
- Multiplying – helping others get involved. Churches or dioceses can be ‘multipliers’ by setting up a tree or plant nursery to enable wider participation in afforestation.
The possibilities are endless! See the “Get Started” section for more information and guidance on setting up a new initiative.
Why spirituality too?
The vision is for the initiative to be woven into the spiritual and liturgical life of churches, to deepen care for creation within the Church and its members.
Why? Because the environmental emergency is not just a physical crisis, it is also a spiritual one.
Humanity needs a spiritual and cultural transformation. We must see the world differently: repenting of and rejecting an extractive world view, which regards the earth and all nature as something to be exploited, and embracing instead a relational worldview, espoused especially by Indigenous peoples, who see the profound interdependence of all creation.
This work needs to happen in the Church too. The Church has often had an ambiguous relationship with nature.
How? For example by:
- Encouraging tree growing to celebrate special occasions such as confirmations, marriages, baptisms, birthdays etc
- Holding outdoor services
- Seminaries and leadership development
- Sermons: Preaching for God’s World
- Wider worship materials
- Celebrating the Season of Creation
- Bible studies
- Discipleship materials
See the Resources section for examples of prayers and liturgies.