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D016 – Makes Room in God’s House for All God’s Creatures
The following resolution was adopted by the Episcopal Church's General Convention in 2003 - Resolution D016
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 74th General Convention recognize that responsible care of animals falls within the stewardship of creation; and be it further
Resolved, That the Episcopal Church encourage its members to ensure that husbandry methods for captive and domestic animals would prohibit suffering in such conditions as puppy mills, and factory-farms; and be it further
Resolved, That the Episcopal Church's Peace and Justice Office identify existing guidelines to educate its members to adhere to ethical standards in the care and treatment of animals; and be it further
Resolved, That the Episcopal Church, through its Office of Government Relations, identify and advocate for legislation protecting animals and effective enforcement measures.
The Episcopal Church's Response to the Anglican Church's Position
By Dorothy H. Hayes
Churches can no longer ignore the suffering of animals on factory farms and Puppy Mills, or can they?
You can’t imagine how optimistic I was when I delivered a copy of Resolution D016, to the assistant pastor of my Episcopal Church in Connecticut.
The six year-old document directs all Episcopal churches to prohibit its parishioners from eating animal products produced in factory farms, which of course means 98 percent of animal parts sold in your general supermarkets. It even went further. D016 instructed parishioners to promote legislation to end factory farming and puppy mills.
I am a devout Christian and vegan. But I’d given up on churches adhering to Genesis 1:29, “God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in it’s fruit; you shall have them for food.‘”
Yes, I was willing to settle, for D016, for now at least. I’d be satisfied if my church stopped tacitly promoting factory farmed products by “ignoring” the suffering and failing to take a leadership role on behalf of animals. Such “food” is served within the church at most all gatherings.
On this early, bright January Monday, morning, I ran to my church with the official document; The Anglican Church’s Position on factory farming and puppy mills in 1998, and the Episcopal Church’s response to it in 2003. I was ignorant of these proclamations up to this point. I thought there was no official room in God’s house for God’s creatures.
During my ten years at my local Episcopal Church, I’d sent graphic materials to the pastors; photographs of the balding, terrified sick hens in battery cages who never see the light of day or fresh air, who are born without a mother or father, who suffer to death by electrocution, stabbing, hanging upside down, with some living through all that trauma and pain to finally be boiled to death in a spinning vat, which they try to escape.
Vegan Outreach, a well-established organization, offers pamphlets with such brilliant colored photographs of the suffering. Calves in veal crates, pigs in cement pens, petrified, wide-eyed cows slowly dying on slaughterhouse floors. The atrocities are juxtaposed with photographs of healthy beautiful animals – the animals God created.
Though thousands were converted by these pamphlets, they failed to usher a response from my pastors. I never heard back from them.
During my ten years, I was the one vegan role model; I’d brought vegan food to our many feasts. I’d offer the vegan alternative and often at bible study I spoke of God’s love for all of God’s creatures.
I have faith in the people. Common ground could be found, none of them, I am sure would want even one animal to suffer, never mind 10 billion each year in our country alone! But I couldn’t get a conversation going.
A few weeks earlier I participated in a focus group, whose mission was to identify the needs of the church for our perspective new pastor. I brought up animal suffering but was rebuffed. The church must look ahead on behalf of the animals, the people, and the planet, I noted. Factory farming contributes more to green house gasses than all transportation, according to a United Nations November 2006 FAO report.
What I needed was leadership at the top! This January day, things would be different. I’d go straight to the assist pastor of my Episcopal church with this Episcopal document in my hands. I’d show him that the church must condemn the serving of factory farm foods in its buildings, at least, that would be a start. That the parishioners must support legislation local or national to end animal suffering that would be a start. I’d be a happy churchgoer.
At the time, an interim pastor was heading our church, and it was he who actually gave me a copy of D016. He was leaving for another assignment that day. Our regular pastor left more than a year ago, and our assistant pastor was retiring, but for now he’d be carrying the full burden of running the church. Fair to say the church was in an organized upheaval. After only a few minutes of conversation, I realized, it wasn’t the time to consider animal suffering.
There was never an opportune moment to consider animal suffering when we had two pastors working full time. In the last ten years there was never the right time to consider the animals no matter how much graphic information I sent.
I realized that January day that most church doors are shut to animals for they reflect the population’s chosen blindness to animal suffering. A church friend crystallized the position with a few words, “Church is for people.”
Biblically speaking, there’s no room in the inn.
One day all churches doors will open and the beloved animals will again surround Jesus. Until then, I’ll say my prayers in the sunlight, gazing at God’s beautiful creation.
The World Wide Anglican Response, 1.8 Creation, of 1998: “…Creation is a web of inter dependent relationships bound together in the covenant which God the Holy Trinity has established with the whole earth and every living being.
The divine Spirit is sacramentally present in creation, which is therefore to be treated with reverence, respect and gratitude.
Human beings are both co-partners with the rest of creation and living bridges between heaven and earth, with responsibility to make personal & corporate sacrifices for the common good of all creation. The redemptive purpose of God in Jesus Christ extends to the whole of creation.
Rev. D.R. Deinsen put it into his own words, which was attached to the document:
The church has spoken. All creation is imbued with God’s Spirit and must be treated with reverence. We are called to make personal and corporate sacrifices on behalf of creation. It is no longer an option for members to ignore the suffering of our fellow creatures. We are called to “ensure” that the suffering that occurs for animals in conditions such as factory farms is prohibited. We must take actions to that end educate others, and seek to advocate for legislation that will protect animals. Such action will included making wise and merciful choices about what we buy and what food we eat, choices that will sometimes be difficult. This is a necessary step in following the persistent call to mercy and justice.
Dorothy H. Hayes is a long-time vegan activist and author of Animal Instinct, A Novel.
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