With the power out and slush and freezing rain, only 3 people showed up for the early service. Happy New Year. Just in case you weren’t planning to come either due to it being New Years Day or on account of the weather here is an exercise that you might find enjoyable and honouring to the Lord.
Many have seen 2016 as a year of Great Loss and uncertainty. It is easy to say good Riddence to the year that was. There were however many unsung things that happened in 2016 that we should give thanks for. Here below is a list of 99 of them. At the end of the list is an instruction for prayer.
Happy new year and Give thanks to the Lord.
Some of the biggest conservation successes in generation
1. British Columbia protected 85% of one of the world’s largest temperate rainforests, home to the wonderfully named ‘Spirit Bear.’ Reuters
2. In February, Peru and Bolivia signed a $500 million deal to preserve Lake Titicaca. HNGN
3. In March, the US government abandoned its plan for oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters, reversing its decision from a year ago. Guardian
4. After nearly 13 years of difficult negotiations, Malaysia established a 1 million hectare marine park that pioneers a mixed-use approach to marine conservation. Guardian
5. In 2016, more than 20 countries pledged more than $5.3 billion for ocean conservation and created 40 new marine sanctuaries covering an area of 3.4 million square km. Reuters
6. That included a new record holder for the world’s biggest marine reserve, off the coast of Antarctica. National Geographic
7. New research showed that acid pollution in the atmosphere is now almost back to the level that it was before it started with industrialisation in the 1930s. Science Bulletin
8. In 2012, the US and Mexico embarked on an unprecedented binational project to revive the Colorado River. By 2016, the results had astonished everyone. Audubon
9. In November, the Obama administration followed up its March announcements by banning offshore exploration and drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic until 2022. Politico
Huge strides forward for global health
10. The World Health Organisation released a report showing that, since the year 2000, global malaria deaths have declined by 60%. WHO
11. In 2016, some of the world’s biggest diseases, like colon cancer, dementia, and heart disease, started declining in wealthy countries. New York Times
12. A new study from the world’s leading health journal reported that the number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved since 1990. Guardian
13. Fresh evidence showed that public smoking bans have improved health in 21 nations. Wiley Blackwell
14. Uruguay won a major case against Philip Morris in a World Bank ruling, setting a precedent for other small countries that want to deter tobacco use. CS Monitor
15. Malawi achieved a 67% reduction in the number of children acquiring HIV, the biggest success story across all sub-Saharan nations. Since 2006, they’ve saved 260,000 lives. Al Jazeera
16. Child mortality rates came down by 12% in Russia. Article
17. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, thanks to improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control, and expanded access to ARVs. Quartz
18. Mobile phones made significant inroads in the fight against rabies, a disease that kills more people annually than all terrorists combined. Ars Technica
19. Thailand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. World Health Organisation
20. Harvard scientists created a new platform for antibiotic discovery that may help solve the crisis of antibiotic resistance. GEN
21. Liberia was officially cleared of Ebola, meaning there are now no known cases of the deadly tropical virus left in West Africa. Vanguard
22. The WHO announced that measles have been eradicated in all of the Americas, from Canada to Chile. It’s the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region. NBC
23. The proportion of older US adults with dementia, including Alzheimer’s, declined from 11.6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012, a decrease of about a million people. Scientific American
24. The number of cigarette smokers in the US has dropped by 8.6 million since 2005. That fall will be accelerated by a tobacco tax just passed in California. NPR
Political and economic progress in many parts of the world
25. In 2016, for the first time ever, the amount of money it would take to end poverty dropped below the amount of money spent on foreign aid. Vox
26. World hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years. New York Times
27. In February, Ontario announced a $100 million initiative to curb violence against indigenous women. The Star
28. Myanmar swore in its first elected civilian leader in more than 50 years. BBC
29. Black incarceration rates fell in the United States. Not fast enough, but certainly something worth celebrating. Washington Post
30. In 1990, more than 60% of people in East Asia lived in extreme poverty. As of 2016, that proportion has dropped to 3.5%. Vox
31. Homelessness in the United States declined by 35% since 2007, and Los Angeles committed to $1.2 billion to help get more people off the street. CS Monitor
32. Taiwan is on the verge of becoming the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. New York Times
33. The Gambia and Tanzania banned child marriage, following sustained lobbying by civil society groups. Independent
34. In June, after years of wrangling, the drive to end female genital mutilation in Africa made a major breakthrough, when the Pan African Parliament endorsed a continent-wide ban. The Wire
35. Germany took on rape culture, introducing a law to broaden the definition of sex crimes by zoning in on the issue of consent. Catalogue
36. Two weeks before Brexit, the African Union announced a new single African passport that permits holders to enter any of the 54 AU member states without a visa. Washington Post
37. The United States now feeds healthy lunches to more than 30 million children, is about to ban trans fats, and has enacted one of the biggest overhauls of nutrition labels in decades. Vox
38. Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions in 2016, following a long-running battle by campaigners. Independent
39. Denmark became the first country to no longer define being transgender as a mental illness, and Canada announced a ban on transgender discrimination. Telegraph.
40. 2016 marked the 24th year in a row that teenage pregnancy rates declined in the United Kingdom and the United States.
41. In December, the Gambia became the latest African country to show that voting does count, and dictators do fall. Daily Maverick
We finally started responding seriously to the climate change emergency
42. The Paris Agreement became the fastest (and largest) United Nations treaty to go from agreement to international law in modern history. CBS
43. Global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels did not grow at all in 2016. It’s the third year in a row emissions have flatlined. Scientific American
44. Thanks to rapid technological innovation and political support from around the world, renewables now account for more installed capacity than any other form of electricity in the world, including coal. Gizmodo
45. The Chinese government placed a ban on new coal mines, created new rules for grid access, and doubled its renewables targets for 2020. WRI
46. India announced it won’t need any new coal plants for the next three years because it’s flush with generation capacity. Times of India
47. In April, the UK’s Chatham House released a report saying “Big Oil is screwed.” Chatham House
48. In the same month, 25% of European countries announced that they had quit coal. EcoWatch
49. The BRICS New Development Bank approved $1 billion in renewables investments in China, Brazil, South Africa, and India. RT
50. In 2016 Costa Rica ran solely on renewable energy for over 100 days. Now it’s aiming for an entire year with no fossil fuels. The Independent
51. In July, the US, Mexico, and Canada committed to getting 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2025. Their leaders also nailed the awkward handshake thing. Time
52. A new report showed that China reached peak coal in 2014, a landmark moment in the fight against climate change that was reported by every media outlet on the planet. Right? Guardian
53. China installed 20GW of solar in the first half of 2016, three times as much as during the same period a year ago. Reuters
54. In October, the International Energy Agency reported that half a million solar panels were installed each day around the world in 2015. It also drastically increased its five year growth forecast for renewables. IEA
55. In the same month, 197 countries agreed to drastically reduce their use of HFCs, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation agreed to measures to combat the impact of flying on greenhouse gas emissions. Scientific American
56. The world’s biggest offshore wind farm received the go ahead for its second phase. Guardian
57. Mexico announced $6 billion in renewables investments, Argentina$2.7 billion, Scotland connected underwater turbines to its grid for the first time, and solar energy generated more power than coal in the United Kingdom. Independent UK
58. In November, India unveiled the world’s largest solar-xpower plant, and revealed that it is now on track to be the world’s third biggest solar market in 2017. Al Jazeera
59. And in the same month, the United Kingdom agreed to phase out coal by 2025, France said it would get there by 2023, and Germany promised to reduce emissions by 95% by 2050. Guardian
The world got less violent
60. Following the end of conflict in Colombia in 2016, all of the war in the world is now limited to an arc that contains less than a sixth of the world’s population. Associated Press
61. ISIS quietly started preparing its followers for the eventual collapse of the caliphate it proclaimed with great fanfare two years ago. New Yorker
62. In April, a new report revealed that for the first time ever, the death penalty has become illegal in more than half of the world’s countries. Article
63. Juarez, in Mexico, used to be the world’s most dangerous city. In 2016, crime came down and residents started losing their fear. National Geographic
64. Crime rates in Holland plummeted, with total recorded crime shrinking by 25% in the last eight years. One third of the country’s prison cells are now empty. Dutch News
65. Three years ago Honduras was the most dangerous place on earth. Since then community crime programs have achieved a remarkable reduction in violence. New York Times
66. Hellholes? Not according to US mayors, who in 2016 celebrated years of positive gains in US cities. Politico
Signs of hope for a life-sustaining economy
67. Good science and simple economics have started a reversal in overfishing in the United States. New York Times
68. Norway became the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation. The Independent
69. In June, a new survey showed that the ozone hole has shrunk by more than 3.9 million square kilometres since 2006. Scientists now think it will now be fully healed by 2050. Sydney Morning Herald
70. In July, more than 800,000 volunteers in India planted 50 million trees in one day. The country is planning on reforesting 12% of its land. National Geographic
71. Later that month, Israel revealed that it now makes 55% of its freshwater. That means that one of the driest countries on Earth now has more water than it needs. Ensia
72. McDonalds announced it would be removing corn syrup from its hamburger buns and removed antibiotics from its chicken months ahead of schedule. CNBC
73. By August, every major grocery and fast-food chain in the US had pledged to use only cage-free eggs by 2025. Washington Post
74. The average number of large oil spills around the world has been drastically reduced, from an average of 24.5 per year in the 1970s to just 1.8 a year in 2015. ITOPF
75. The citizens of Mumbai conducted the largest beach clean-up in human history, removing more than 4,000 tonnes of rubbish. Washington Post
76. Plastic bag use plummeted in England thanks to the introduction of a 5p charge in 2015. BBC
77. The Italian government overwhelmingly backed a new set of laws aimed at cutting down the vast amounts of food wasted in the country each year. Independent
78. In December, four of the world’s biggest cities, Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City, agreed to ban diesel cars from their centers. Guardian
Endangered animals got a some well-deserved breaks
79. At this year’s CITES conference, 183 countries agreed to the strongest protections ever for endangered animals, with big wins for parrots, rhinos, porpoises, rays, and elephants. Washington Post
80. In February, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the global manatee population is no longer endangered. Scientific American
81. Wild wolves started coming back to Europe, and for the first time since the American Revolution, wild salmon began spawning in the Connecticut River. Al Jazeera
82. In March, Yellowstone’s grizzly bears passed a major milestone, completing one of the greatest wildlife comeback stories in history. National Geographic
83. Fifty years ago, the Columbian white-tailed deer population was 450 animals. This year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service took it off the endangered list. CS Monitor
84. Green sea turtles in Florida and Mexico were taken off the endangered list. Huffington Post
85. Sea World agreed to stop breeding captive killer whales. NPR
86. Humpback whales were removed from the endangered species list, having fully recovered in the last 46 years. Science Mag
87. The US finalized new regulations to shut down commercial elephant ivory trade within its borders and stop wildlife crime overseas. WWF
88. Mongolia created one of the world’s largest protected areas for snow leopards. Snow Leopard Trust
89. In September, giant pandas became the latest species to be taken off the endangered list. Guardian
90. And in 2016, for the first time, we heard that the number of tigers in the wild rose for the first time in 100 years. National Geographic
The world got more generous
91. At the beginning of the year, we heard that global spending on aid and development increased by 7%, and spending on refugees has doubled. OECD
92. In April, Pony Ma Huateng, the chief executive of the Chinese internet giant Tencent, donated $2 billion to charity. South China Morning Post
93. 2015 was America’s most generous year ever, with charitable donations from individuals, estates, foundations, and corporations reaching record highs. 2016 is on track to be even bigger. Associated Press
94. In 2016, charitable giving in China rose to $15 billion, a 10 fold increase from just a decade ago Bloomberg
95. Online crowdfunding raised almost $1 million for the kids of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile to go to college.
96. Warren Buffett gave $2.9 billion to charity, again. And his son, a farmer and environmentalist, quietly continued to spend his billion dollar inheritance on sustainable agriculture and hunger eradication. The Atlantic
97. The Gates Foundation announced another $5 billion in charity for Africa. They also tweeted this video about progress on malaria.
98. Germany took in an additional 300,000 refugees in 2016, despite growing concerns about integration and a backlash from populists. Guardian
99. In Canada, hockey moms, poker buddies, and neighbors took in Syrian refugees, one family at a time. New York Times
Write a prayer based on one of the good news stories that you have selected.
Include the following.
Thanksgiving for what was achieved
Any connection with the commandments of God
Any connection with the promises of God.
A prayer for going further.
Select someone from the group to come forward and read (Pray the prayer) and then place it on the Lord’s Table
Thankyou so much for coming out last night to our discussion. Your input was valuable to me and also to Bishop David. It was valuable to me because it showed me the range of thinking and feeling for the parish, which is likely not much different for the Diocese. Some want and need more information. Some continue to struggle with what they will do either in the near future or in three years time. Some have worked out a way to deal with the issue. Some have remained silent.
David’s message to us was clear. He is the bishop of the whole diocese, the mission of Christ is the most important thing and we need to continue to listen to each other and process this. It has wide ranging effects that have not been fully considered.
There will be more to come. In two weeks time the Delegates to Synod will meet meet in fredericton to do much the same thing that we did. Out of that will emerg some kind of way to process all of this. I urge your full participation as we go forward. Surely our parish is worth this effort.
David has Called us to remain in unity for the sake of the Gospel and I call you to that as well.
I would also commend to your reading the work that Chris Smith did in commenting on the report “This Holy Estate”. If you would like to read it then email me or Chris and we will send it to you. There will also be a copy in the church narthex.
Both documents are available below
To the faithful Members of St. James the Less Church in the Parish of Renforth
This Thursday we meet with Bishop David to talk about the implications of the actions of General Synod. General Synod has passed the 1st of 2 required readings of this motion. The motion redefines marriage by removing the traditional prescription of one man with one woman and restating it as simply two persons. The problem that I have with this action is that the definition that we have accepted for thousands of years has come through the scriptures not through synods. It has never been up to us to define or redefine marriage. It just is as the scriptures say that it is. By doing what they did General Synod has down graded its view of scripture. This is not a trivial thing. They have also in their so called debate preparation taken liberty with methods of bible study and with the nature of the Holy Spirit. I listened to several of our delegates talk about this at our recent clergy conference. The document that was given as the report of purposed change is also deeply flawed and offers no real theologically sound argument. In other words the whole thing was rigged and manipulated from the beginning. Perhaps a better thing would have been to simply remove the cannon on marriage altogether.
To some of you this will not be a big deal. So what? The Church is becoming more and more like society and generally in harmony with the laws of the land. Can’t we just all get along and be fine with it?
Wait a minute; I made a vow before my bishop and God and the gathered public at my ordination: Here is what it says: Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word; and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations, as well to the sick as to the whole, within your cures, as need require, and occasion shall be given? .. and I said: I will, the Lord being my helper.
And so I have to say here in my blog that I believe that General Synod has erred grievously in what they have done. I warn you as people of God to not accept this change in doctrine. Examine the word of God and your on conscience. I would be out of compliance with my ordination vows if I did not say this.
On the other hand… and there is another hand… how do we proceed? How do we proceed as Christ’s hands and feet, light and truth in the community that we are planted in. Should we advocate that we simply return to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” position. That will not work now and was also always sub christian in its values set. This is a real time to ask the very important question What would Jesus do? The world that we live in today is much more complex than the world that Jesus lived in, yet he still walks with us today in this world. The world we live in is much more sexualized and given over to human and individual rights and expressions. This stuff is enshrined in our laws and acceptable practices. You can be shocked by this or ignore it personally if you like, but as a community church that would not be an acceptable position.
I was briefly encouraged this spring when the house of bishops could not find support for the motions and the primate indicated that perhaps a legislative solution was not the answer here, but that direction did not come to any fruition. They were able to create a few more liberal bishops that would turn the vote. Was this sneaky and dirty politics? If only they would have struggled with the scriptures and talked with the rest of the Church around the world.
I believe that there is a way forward for us. It begins with prayer and it begins with Jesus. What do you think we should do? Bring your thoughts and your prayerful self to our meeting this Thursday.
Rector of Renforth
David Edwards Letter
Click for our Bishop’s letter