Press release: Primates and Bishops Juneteenth statement on environmental racism

Posted on June 19, 2020. Updated on June 19, 2020



Friday, June 19, 2020

Stephanie Martin Taylor
Working Group Head for Communications
Tel: 415.271.2441

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California, worked with an international group to produce the following statement calling attention to environmental racism. Bishop Andrus is Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Bruce Curry's representative to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN).

The Diocese of California (the Episcopal Church in the Bay Area) is in its second year of a concentrated intentional process of honoring, listening to, and learning from indigenous voices. The diocese is a leading voice in climate change and environmental ministries, as well as having a long history of being advocates for human rights and justice.  This statement, which more Primates and Bishops are expected to sign following today's Juneteenth release, brings together all these concerns and accords with our central justice priorities.


Black lives are disproportionately affected by police brutality; COVID-19 sweeps through crowded vulnerable communities unable to  socially distance; toxic dump sites are placed next to poor communities of Black people; indigenous people are forced off their land.

The world is slow to respond to climate change, hanging on to an increasingly precarious and unjust economic system. It is predominantly  Black lives that are being impacted by drought, flooding, storms and sea level rise. The delayed global response to climate injustice gives the impression that #blacklivesdontmatter. Without urgent action Black lives will continue to be the most impacted, being dispossessed from their lands and becoming climate refugees.

We stand at a Kairos moment - in order to fight environmental injustice , we must also fight racial injustice.

In the words of Archbishop Tutu  “If you are neutral in times of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

The Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) calls attention to environmental racism. We issue this urgent statement today, June 19 2020, a day known as Juneteenth in the United States, marking and remembering the official end of slavery in that country in 1865.

We call attention in particular to the impact of environmental racism on indigenous peoples decimated by the effects of colonization.Tribes of people were enslaved, and annihilated by harsh conditions and by diseases for which they had no immunity in the first decades of colonization. Later indigenous groups such as the Taíno in what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic were replaced by enslaved peoples from Africa. 

From the Gwich’in in the Arctic Circle to the many tribes in the Amazon River Basin, indigenous people continue to be subjected to intense, sustained racism.

Unjust economic structures and extractive industries subject indigenous peoples and traditional Black communities to forced, violent removal from lands with which they have been integrally connected for centuries. Prominent indigenous leaders - defenders of the land - from tribes such as the Guarani in Brazil, have been murdered and  tribes terrorized . 
For example in  Panama, the Guna and Embera were granted land rights under the Comarcas (Reservation).  However, land grabbers - non indigenous farmers - seize this  land for their own farms,  leading to escalating levels of violence from house burnings to murders.

ACEN also witnesses the growing and alarming rise in the number of people becoming refugees due to climate change. It is estimated  that there are 40 million climate refugees in the world today, and by 2050 that number could reach one billion. Communities are being forced from their traditional lands due to drought and sea level rise. Climate change can lead to increased conflict as farming communities are forced off their land into cities. 

In Central America thousands of indigenous people have been made climate refugees. Upon reaching the United States, they are often subjected to double discrimination, firstly for being refugees and then as people whose first language is a tribal language rather than Spanish.

Pacific islanders in places such as Tonga and Fiji face the destruction of their homes and cultures due to sea level rise.  

Even in the midst of the wealthiest countries Black people bear the brunt of environmental racism. Dumpsites for toxic chemicals are situated near poorer Black communities. These communities become food deserts — lacking both access to nutritious food and safe water.

Take action for climate justice to show #blacklivesmatter.

June 19, 2020
God of love and peace,
God of justice and fire,
when the order put in place disorders your grace with bullets and bullies,
hear those who shout, "I can't breathe."
In the midst of corporate control and the conspiracy of lies,
we plead, "I can't breathe."
As a virus raids a slum and insidiously tracks a migrant camp,
have mercy on those caught who cough and struggle, "I can't breathe."
As the cars return and the airlines receive huge government subsidies,
listen to the earth gasping, "I can't breathe."
The waters rise, God of sea and sky, but dominions do not rest from their wrecking power.
Heed the world as it cries, "I can't breathe."
When we continue to inhale and exhale
as if the suffocation did not matter,
as if our breathing were somehow separate from the struggles of others for air,
align our lives with our prayer.
Forgive us all that does not honour your love,
all that does not live gratefully from the gift of your grace,
all that restricts the communion that your Spirit extends far and wide.
Alongside all those who can't breathe,
we seek the fresh wind over the chaos of our lives,
setting us free,
setting all your people free
to breathe,
through Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Sunday Prayers Service of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva (English) , Terry MacArthur and team)
As the Anglican Communion Environmental Network we commit to :

Listening to voices of indigenous people. 
Recognising and challenging white privilege in society and the Church.
Recognising the colonial past of the Anglican Communion, its ongoing Euro-centric values and the dominance of English.
Identifying the need for further study and active listening around issues of racism. 
Recognising and challenging theological ideologies and social norms that perpetuate racism
Acting in solidarity with vulnerable populations experiencing eco-injustice by actions such as: advocacy for policy change at national and regional levels; nonviolent protest; boycotts. 
Acting as  a mediator between  indigenous people and farmers or  extractive industries, understanding the legal frameworks involved.

Archbishop Julio Murray, Primate, Anglican Church of Central America 
Archbishop Mark Macdonald- National Indigenous Archbishop of Canada 
Archbishop Naudal Gomes, Primate, Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil
Archbishop Don Tamihere Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia.
Archbishop Philip Richardson, Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia.
Archbishop Winston Halapua, Retired Primate of Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church
Archbishop Ian Ernest, Director of Anglican Centre in Rome 
Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, Diocese of Swaziland
Bishop Marc Andrus, Diocese of California, USA
Bishop Nick Holtam, Diocese of Salisbury, UK
Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Suffragan, Diocese of Canterbury, UK
Bishop Geoff Davies, Patron SAFCEI
Bishop Francisco Duque- Gomez; Bishop of Colombia
Bishop Bertin Mwale Subi - Diocese of Katanga , Democratic Republic of the Congo
Bishop Bill Mchombo.  Diocese of East Zambia
Prof.Dr.Mathew Koshy Punnackadu, Hon.Director, CSI Synod Department of Ecological Concerns  
Bishop Lloyd Allen, Diocese of Honduras
Bishop Dave Bailey, Diocese of Navajoland, USA
Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick, Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii and the Episcopal Church in Micronesia
Bishop Marinez Bassoto, Diocese of Amazon, Brazil
Bishop Philip Mounstephen, Diocese of Truro, UK 
Bishop Andy Dietsche, Diocese of New York, USA
Bishop David Rice, Diocese of San Joaquin, USA
Bishop Doug Sparks, Diocese of Northern Indiana, USA
Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, Diocese of Long Island, USA
Bishop Mark D.W. Eddington, Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe
Bishop Jane Alexander, Bishop of Edmonton
Bishop Patrick Bell, Diocese of Eastern Oregon, USA
Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori,  XXVI Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church USA
Bishop Gretchen Rehberg, Diocese of Spokane
Bishop Philip Huggins President , National Council of Churches of Australia
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, Diocese of Washington
Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple, Bishop Suffragan, Diocese of North Carolina
Bishop Eugene Sutton, Diocese of Maryland, USA
Bishop Karowei Dorgu, Diocese of Woolwich, UK
Bishop Steven Benford, Diocese of Dunedin, New Zealand
Bishop Karen Gorham, Diocese of Sherborne, UK
Bishop Keith Joseph, North Queensland, Australia
Bishop Geoff Quinlan, Retired Regional Bishop of Cape Town, South Africa 
Bishop Oswald Swartz, Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman, South Africa 
Dr Rowan Williams: Honorary Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Ely. (Former Archbishop of Canterbury) UK
Bishop Eric Pike, Retired Bishop of Port Elizabeth South Africa 
Bishop Peter John Lee Retired bishop of Christ the King Diocese , South Africa 
Bishop Steven Croft, Diocese of Oxford, UK
Bishop Guli Francis-Dheqani, Diocese of Loughborough, UK
Bishop Sam Rodman, Diocese of North Carolina 



The Episcopal Diocese of California serves a diverse community of faith encompassing the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Approximately 24,000 people form 75 congregations in six counties. More information about the Diocese of California can be found at

If you’d like more information about this topic or to schedule and interview with Bishop Andrus, please contact Stephanie Martin Taylor at 415.869.7820 or email her at