Bishop of California Mark Andrusa national leader in the Episcopal Church in the fight against climate change, says growing up in Roane County, hiking in the Smokies and attending the University of Tennessee set him on his career path to care about the spiritual and material aspects of our planet.
His advocacy work has taken him to public places in Paris and other countries and Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations in Standing Rock, North Dakota.
At a recent Lambeth conference of Anglican communities in England, he helped launch a Communion Forest on the grounds of London Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The initiative was planned by a small team from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network and the Anglican Alliance, of which he was a member.
The simple act of planting trees until they become groves helps remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, Andrus said.
UN Climate Change Conference
In November in Sharp El-Sheikh, Egypt, he will lead the Episcopal Church delegation representing the Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the 2022 United Nations climate change conference. It’s officially called the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP27.
“COP27 gives us the opportunity to work in partnership with interfaith representatives around the world – learning from each other and amplifying voices of faith on climate change and environmental degradation,” he said. he said in a statement released by the Episcopal Press Services.
He later said in an interview with this columnist that everyone considers the land sacred. “It will take many actions – millions – to heal the planet. It seems that Episcopalians should be (at climate change conventions) on the side of scientists and policy makers.
The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California spoke about his views on climate change and his life in East Tennessee in a Zoom interview Aug. 25 in San Francisco and in some chat of emails. “Growing up in East Tennessee (offered) so much beauty,” he said.
The 61-year-old Bishop was born in Oak Ridge and raised in Kingston. His father, Francis “Andy” Andrus, worked for Union Carbide on the business side, and his mother, Frances, was a teacher. A sister, Barbara Foster, lives in Farragut.
Swimming in a toxic mercury dump
His memories of the area include swimming in the Clinch River, where tons of mercury, a heavy toxic material, is now known to have been released. His father died of cancer when he was 14, and Andrus says it was because of problems with radiation exposure.
Hear more voices from Tennessee: Receive the weekly opinion bulletin for insightful and thought-provoking articles.
“Looking at this beautiful water, we were swimming in this river with all this mercury,” he said.
And this type of situation is happening all over the world, with decisions on environmental issues influencing outcomes that affect race, poverty, economy and nations, he said.
Andrus went to UT to study soil science and plant nutrition in agriculture and majored in religious studies. “They were both great departments,” he said. He also met his wife there. She is dr. Sheila MooreAndrus, a native of Maryville, who has had a career as an environmental scientist, including with the US Forest Service, where she led the agency’s insect research. The two appear frequently in programs together on the environment.
After earning his bachelor of science degree from UT in 1979, Marc Andrus earned a master’s degree in social science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Blacksburg State University, Virginia, and a master’s degree in theology from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. He was a regional planner and served several episcopal institutions as priest or rector. He was Bishop Suffragan for the Episcopal Diocese in Alabama before moving to San Francisco as bishop in 2006. He announced he would retire in 2024 and eventually move to Staunton, Virginia.
Andrus likes to talk about his activist role in his work for eco-justice.
In Paris in 2015, where nations gathered at COP21 at the Parc des Expositions and reached an agreement to set voluntary targets for reducing global warming, Andrus was part of an interfaith group that advocated for the policy.
What he described as a ‘pop-up’ worship service, complete with umbrellas, featured ‘musical offerings, time for reflection, meditation and sharing in the public square – a beautiful start for the Episcopal Church of the COP”.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement in 2020, but President Joe Biden returned to it.
Similar support for climate change initiatives was organized at UN climate conferences in Morocco, Germany and Poland in subsequent years. In Katowice, Poland, many residents are moving away from coal mining as a profession and need help finding new jobs while older miners need pensions, he said .
Supporting the efforts of miners has shown how bringing clean energy also fosters new opportunities, he said.
The importance of simply planting trees
Just planting trees is really like planting a new community, he says. Once the trees are planted and remain there, the environment is cooler. In developed areas, this allows for fewer cars and less parking, helping to reduce carbon emissions.
THE LATEST NEWS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
Get the latest local news, sports scores and more straight to your phone. Download the free Knox News mobile app.
“In Knoxville, when it’s over 100 degrees, the majority of Knoxville residents in low-income areas are warmer than those in high-income areas. The reason is all these trees,” he said.
At the recent Lambeth Conference, the Communion Forest was started in the palace gardens which had been gardened or cultivated for over 1000 years, but the grass was now brown and withered from the heat and the drought,” Andrus wrote in a message to his diocese.
“Not only has the Communion Forest initiative been well received by Bishops and Spouses, but I have also witnessed that across the Communion, Bishops and Spouses recognize the climate emergency as one of their top concerns. Finally, I believe that the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, while climate action will be very diverse, I believe that we will continue to focus on eco-justice, how environmental degradation and climate change weigh disproportionately on already vulnerable populations,” he said.
Georgiana Vines is a retired associate editor of News Sentinel. She can be contacted at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Vines: Episcopal Bishop attributes education to environmental concern