Lester Mackenzie

[The Episcopal News] The Rev. Lester Mackenzie, rector of St. Mary’s Church, Laguna Beach, is among 21 delegates representing the office of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the upcoming 2023 United Nations climate change conference.

It is the ninth year the presiding bishop has convened Episcopalians in the urgent work of climate change advocacy in the global forum.

The 28th session of the Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as COP28, will be held Nov. 30 through Dec. 12 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This year’s hybrid platform again allows for a wider representation of Episcopalian delegates, who will participate virtually and in person in daily events, working closely with Anglican Communion delegates.

“The Episcopal Church has had a nine-year history of active representation at the premier global climate gathering, the U.N. Climate Change Conference,” said Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California, who chairs the delegation. “The delegation is a very diverse group of deeply committed people who bring their strong gifts to the multi-sector ‘whole society’ approach to healing the planet.”

Mackenzie will be a second-time Episcopal Church delegate; he attended COP24 in Poland in 2018. He will arrive in Dubai next week to attend this year’s conference.

“I’m particularly thrilled about being present with my fellow delegates,” Mackenzie told The Episcopal News. “It’s an opportunity to enrich our conversations with prayer, hope, and love. Having had the enriching experience of attending COP24 in Poland, I am eager to contribute to this global dialogue.”

He plans to bring a local angle to the discussion. “I’m excited to share updates from our local community,” he said. “Our Episcopal Church priorities, some diocesan priorities, and our local congregation, St. Mary’s and the City of Laguna Beach are making significant strides. The latter is in the initial stages of formulating a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

“I look forward to engaging how we, as a faith community, can actively participate in and contribute to these vital initiatives.”

Mackenzie has been rector of St. Mary’s since 2016, and previously served at St. Matthew’s Church, Pacific Palisades, and St. John’s Cathedral, Los Angeles. He was a three-time deputy to General Convention from the Diocese of Los Angeles (2012, 2015 and 2018), and was chaplain to the House of Deputies in 2015, 2018 and 2021. He is secretary of the diocesan Standing Committee, and has also served on the Corporation of the Diocese and as an examining chaplain. A native of South Africa, Mackenzie is an accomplished musician, public speaker and executive coach. Prior to seminary and ordination he was part of the 2002 Hands in Healing pilgrimage led by the late Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno.

Lester Mackenzie leads a Tanzanian praise song at the diocese’s 2023 Juneteenth service. Photo: Janet Kawamoto.

In addition to Andrus and Mackenzie, the delegates, who will complete in-depth advocacy training and host public reports, discussions, and events throughout the process, are:

  • The Rev. Richard Acosta, Diocese of Colombia
  • Canon Barbara Okamoto Bach, Diocese of New Jersey
  • The Rt. Rev. Cathleen Bascom, Diocese of Kansas
  • Destinee Bates, Diocese of New York
  • Logan Crews, Diocese of Missouri
  • Coco de Marneffe, Diocese of New York
  • Justin Dehnert, Diocese of New York
  • The Rt. Rev. Carol Gallagher, Diocese of Massachusetts
  • The Rev. John George, Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast
  • Seán Hansen, Diocese of Chicago
  • Delia R. Heck, Diocese of Southwestern Virginia
  • John Kydd, Diocese of Olympia
  • Esther Mathieu, Diocese of Utah
  • Kara Lyn Moran, Church in Connecticut
  • Stephanie Peramas, Diocese of Tennessee
  • Katie Ruth, Diocese of Central Pennsylvania
  • The Rev. Anna Shine, Diocese of Western North Carolina
  • Matthew Strange, Diocese of Lexington
  • The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, Diocese of Olympia
  • The Rev. Christine Trainor, Anglican Diocese of Cyprus & the Gulf

Delegates will report back on their experiences during an online closing event at 12 p.m. PT (3 p.m. ET) Dec. 15. The event will be open to all; learn more and register here.

In its policy priorities for COP28, The Episcopal Church urges stakeholders to embrace the following priorities in the work for environmental justice, ending environmental racism, and solving the climate crisis:

  • Accelerate ambition.
  • Increase support for communities experiencing loss and damage.
  • Protect human rights and affirm environmental justice in addressing adaptation and mitigation.
  • Fulfill climate finance commitments and strengthen mechanisms.

The churchwide Covenant for the Care of Creation invites individuals, churches, dioceses, and Episcopal institutions to commit to deeper formation, public advocacy, and mitigation. According to a release from The Episcopal Church:

  • “Over 2,000 households and congregations are measuring their carbon footprint via the Carbon Tracker.
  • We have set and are working toward churchwide goals for achieving net carbon neutrality by 2030.
  • We support rainforest protection in the Amazon and the Anglican Communion Forest initiative.
  • We are planting “Good News Gardens” and partnering locally to improve access to good, affordable food.”

During its recent October meeting, The Episcopal Church Executive Council approved a resolution endorsing a proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The resolution notes, “The Executive Council recognizes that the treaty is calling the people of the world not just to make technical adjustments to negative impacts on the planet, but to transform lives by phasing out fossil fuel production and the reliance on fossil fuels by the parties to the Paris Accords.”

In addition to the delegates, all Episcopalians are encouraged to participate in and promote global climate justice during and beyond COP28, as well as to join the delegates in intentional prayer prior to and during the conference.

“For us, as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, it is a joy to join with other faith bodies, with governmental bodies, with business, with the whole of the planet to work to save the precious creation,” Andrus said. “Because we are Christian, we know that the healing that will come is not the work of collective will alone, important as that is, but of prayer to a loving Creator. Let our work be fundamentally the work of prayer.”

The delegation is guided and supported by The Episcopal Church offices of Global Partnerships, Government Relations, and Creation Care. Follow Episcopal Church COP28 updates online.

For more information, email Phoebe Chatfield or Lynnaia Main.

Adapted by Episcopal News staff from an Episcopal Church news release.