Newsletter 19 (Winter 1994)
The Environment and The Church's Mission
Rt Revd Hugh Montefiore
Mission is a word derived from the Latin verb 'to send.' The Church is sent into the world. Its role is to preach the Kingdom of God, so that the world may be brought to acknowledge and to live under God as King of the whole of life. So far as our relationships with each other and with God are concerned, preaching is bound up with the Good News of Christ, for through him God as acted to enable us to be our true selves, and so to be in a right relationship with him and with one another. This applies not only to us as individuals, but also as members of groups and structures in the society of which we are members.
How does the environment fit into this? The ecological structure of nature is interdependent, resulting in a dynamic balance. The myriads of genuses and species which comprise the nonhuman life of the planet have, by a process of natural selection, established and maintained themselves within this overarching interdependent structure. God has not intervened in the process. But animals and plants have all evolved through the interplay of chance and natural law. The latter together with the constants of nature derive their origin from God. Although the natural world enjoys a degree of freedom, it obeys the laws of its Creator and Sustainer, and so it can rightly be called a form of the Kingdom of God. Its interdependence shows that it constitutes a form of community.
It follows that if Christians have been sent into the world to preach and to live the Kingdom of God, this must include a respect for this world of nature, as well as for our relationships with God and with one another. Here lies the theological basis of a Christian concern for the environment. This concern is sometimes erroneously described as stewardship, erroneously, because a steward acts with the authority of his master. The complexity of nature is such that no one as yet fully understands it, and humankind is certainly not qualified to act as nature's steward in God's place. Made in God's image and given dominion over nature, men and women may certainly cultivate the natural world and enjoy it and use it for their good purposes. While they have power to kill individual animals, they have no right to obliterate whole species of animals or plants. They have no right to deprive future generations of a particular resource unless and until some comparable resource has been found. They have no right to tamper with the ecological structure of an area in such away that they cause climatic change or permanent marine or soil or atmospheric degradation. To do these things, far from promoting the Kingdom of God, in fact interferes with it in the name of humanity. It is to overturn the good providence of God which has kept the planet for millions of years comfortable for life.
Apart from one or two small pressure groups, it has been very difficult to interest the Church as a whole in environmental matters. In the Roman Catholic Church this has probably been influenced by that Church's opposition to artificial contraception affecting its views on world overpopulation.
Why has there not been more concern in other churches? It may be partly due to ignorance. Two major factors however are involved. In the first place, there is little to be found in the Scriptures which is of direct relevance to environmental issues. We have already noted the limitations of the concept of stewardship. The command to populate the earth (although not to overpopulate the world) was conceived in an age when human life was nasty, brutish and short, and when many, perhaps most, died before the age of puberty. The assertion of humankind's dominion over all creation belongs to an age when there was no
question of human beings exterminating whole species: their efforts were addressed to remaining alive and escaping death at the hands of wild animals. Cultivation was on a comparatively small scale and there were no artificial fertilisers or pesticides, no nuclear generators or large scale deforestation to threaten the natural environment. The scale and ability of modern technology to alter, the ecology of the world was undreamed of in biblical times. And so, while we may distinguish a few important principles and commands from the Scriptures, there is no theology of the environment to be found in them, except that 'the earth and the fullness thereof' belong to God. People have been chary of putting great emphasis on a theology of the environment which seems to owe so little directly to the Scriptures.
Another major factor has been that the environment seems to have no connection with Jesus Christ, and there has been a tendency to focus on him rather than on God the Father. A recovery of the doctrine of God should stimulate increasing concern for a theology of the environment. If Christians shifted their concerns from the Church to the world, and focused as much on the Kingdom of God as on Christ the King, a very different agenda might appear, which would include both human rights and the sacred obligation to preserve the environment in the way indicated in the previous paragraph.
Once one begins to think in terms of basic biblical principles instead of direct scriptural commands, and to substitute a doctrine of God for a primarily Christocentric theology, matters of the environment immediately become relevant to mission. Here I cannot do better that to quote at length from the report `God and Man' from a working party which I chaired on the Theology of the Environment set up in 1971 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury:
'To accept God as the Creator of all things implies that man's own creative activity should be in co-operation with the purposes of the Creator who has made all things good. To accept man's sinfulness is to recognise the limitation of human goals and the uncertainty of human achievement. To accept God as Saviour is to work out our own salvation in union with him, and so to do our own part in restoring and recreating what by our folly and frailty we have defaced or destroyed, and in helping to come to birth those good possibilities of the creation that have not yet been realised. To 'renounce the world, the flesh and the devil' is to turn from grasping and greed and to enjoy people and things for their own sake and not because we possess them. To accept the Christian doctrine of the resurrection is to persevere in the face of setback and disaster, to resist the temptation to slip into a mood of fatalistic resignation, to believe that success can be attained through failures, and so to live in hope. To accept God as the sanctifier of all things implies a respect for all existence, which is upheld by his Spirit and . . . with his energy. To accept our nature as created in God's image and likeness and as destined to grow toward him involves responsible use of those godlike powers over the natural environment which God has put into our hands. To hold that God has created the world for a purpose gives man a worthy goal in life, and a hope to lift up his heart and to strengthen his efforts. To believe that man's true citizenship is in heaven and that his true destiny lies beyond space and time enables him both to be involved in this world and yet to have a measure of detachment from it that permits radical changes such as would scarcely be possible if all his hopes were centred on this world. To believe that all things will be restored and nothing wasted gives added meaning to all man's efforts and strivings. Only by the inspiration of such a vision is society likely to be able to re-order this world and to find the symbols to interpret man's place within it.'
I would not perhaps word the quotation exactly the same if it were being written today (it was penned, for example, before the days of inclusive language); but it does at least show the ecological relevance of basic Christian beliefs. There is a further point here which is more directly relevant to a Decade of Evangelism. If Christians were to give a lead in environmental concern, and back this up by the practical example of their lives, it would be apparent that the Christian faith, far from being irrelevant in today's world, has a very practical relevance to some of our major environmental problems. People perceive unconsciously (without conceptualising it in words) that life is sacramental in that the way in which we treat our environment shows up our basic attitudes and beliefs.
Is Stewardship Enough?
Robert Vint is the administrator of the Religious Education and Environment Project which runs courses to help teachers of RE to explore the environmental dimensions of their subject.
a. An ecological ethics requires an ecological spirituality
It is, supposedly, a central concept in Christian thought that God is both immanent and transcendent, both present in His creation and beyond it.
The concept of stewardship is based on the steward, a servant who looked after the land of his absentee landlord. It is thus based on a transcendent conception of God, a God who has created the world and then left it in the hands of His people with a set of instructions for caring for it.
While this is an important understanding and forms the basis of an ecological ethic, it is only half the picture.
The recognition that God is also immanent in His creation brings us to the other side of the picture. The presence of God in the natural environment and the possibility of encountering Him there forms the basis of an ecological spirituality.
The Old Testament prophets and the Christian mystics met God in nature, in the wilderness and in the mountains. However, for a Church competing with indigenous European paganism and pantheism, the idea of 'God in nature' was uncomfortably close to the idea that 'God is nature'. The consequence was an overemphasis on the perception of God as transcendent, a tendency to present God as dwelling in an other-worldly Heaven up there, totally separate from a satanic Earth down here dominated by a Devil derived (hooves, horns and all) from Pan, the Hellenic nature god. This development has been particularly strong in recent centuries in the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, but was much less extreme in early Celtic and Orthodox spirituality.
Without a recognition of God's immanence, an ethic of ecological duty towards a transcendent God is reduced to a dispassionate system of guilt and obedience based on punishment and reward.
Without a recognition of God's transcendence, a spirituality of celebration and communion with an immanent God through His creation is reduced top a vague and inconsequential mysticism.
Only through a recognition of both together can we see our responsible and caring participation in nature as prayer, communion, celebration and thanksgiving, rather than as an onerous duty.
In bringing together these two aspects we have to do some careful balancing. Deism, an overemphasis on transcendence, leaves us feeling that we are masters of nature and that it is our sole responsibility. Pantheism, an overemphasis on immanence, leaves us feeling that we are helpless recipients of God's acts in nature. There is, however, a third and more traditional way, a recognition that we neither dominate nature nor are subservient to it but are active and responsible participants in it - giving and receiving.
b. The integrity of creation and the Fall
The creation, as described in Genesis, emerged as an integrated Whole, a Unity in Diversity, with all creatures and elements in the 'Garden of Eden' acting in harmony in accordance with God's will.
The Fall is a consequence of man's ignorant decision to act independently, to put his own separate will before God's all-embracing will and so to act in dissonance with the Whole. Such a decision requires conscious choice-a choice that God has given to humans alone. The remainder of creation, devoid of this choice, acts inevitably in accord with God's creativity. The capacity to fall is a sole prerogative of conscious humans.
The ten billion years of physical and biological evolution of matter and life preceding the emergence of man is the manifestation of God's immanence and creativity in His integrated world. It is the unique privilege of humans to be given the choice - to fall or to be redeemed: we can follow our own ego, acting in discord with the creation. Or, we can open up to God, who acts through nature, so that He can also act through us and allow us to work and celebrate as an integral part of His creation.
Evangelical Christianity and The Environment
World Evangelical Fellowship Theological Commission Unit on Ethics and Society/Au Sable Forum: Summarizing Committee Report
This report seeks to summarise the substance of the discussions at the Au Sable Forum, 26-31 August 1992. The Forum comprised 60 individuals from 8 countries and 5 continents. They had a wide variety of expertise, academic disciplines and current professions, but all were closely concerned in different ways with the natural environment.
The report identifies the many points on which there was substantial agreement between the participants. A few points are however identified separately either because it was agreed that further consideration was desirable or because there was substantive disagreement within the group (these areas of disagreement are noted in the text below).
The discussion was undertaken against the background of the creation in the northern part of the lower Michigan peninsula and instruction on the flora, fauna, geography and geology of the area, and on seven specific degradations to which creation is currently subject:
(1) alteration of the Earth's energy exchange with the sun that results in global warming and destruction of the Earth's protective ozone shield. A specific example: Ozone loss each spring over Antarctica based upon 25 years of nearly continuous measurements by the British Antarctic Survey station at Halley Bay detected slight ozone declines in the 1970s, greater declines in the 1980s, with 30% depletion by 1984 and 70% of the total column ozone content in 1989. [J Anderson, D Toohey & W Brune 1991: 'Free Radicals Within the Antarctic Vortex: The Role of CFCs in Antarctic Ozone Loss' (Science, 251, 39-46)]
(2) land degradation that reduces available land for creatures and crops by 'adding house to house and field to field' and destroys land by erosion, salinization and desertification. A specific example: Infiltration of rain water in eroded soils may be reduced by over 90%; in Zimbabwe water run-off is 20°/ to 30% greater than on non-eroded soil, with resulting water shortages even during years with good rainfall. [D Pimentel et al 1987: 'World Agriculture and Soil Erosion' (BioScience, 37, 277-83)]
(3) water quality degradation that defiles groundwater, lakes, rivers and oceans. A specific example: In Europe and the US between 5% and
10°/ of all wells examined have nitrate levels higher than the recommended maximum of 45 milligrams per litre. [J Maurits la Riviere 1989: 'Threats to the World's Water' (Scientific American, Sep 1989, 80-94)]
(4) deforestation that each year removes 100,000 square kilometres of primary forest and degrades an equal amount by over-use. A specific example: In Thailand, forest cover declined from 29% to 19% of the land area between 1985 and 1988. In the Philippines, undisturbed forests have been reduced from 16,000,000 hectares in 1960 to less than 1,000,000 at present. [R Repetto 1990: 'Deforestation in the Tropics' (Scientific American, Apr 1990, 36-42)]
(5) species extinction that finds more than 3 species of plants and animals eliminated from Earth each day, A specific example: In Ecuador since 1960 the original rainforest has been almost totally eliminated and converted to cash crops; a small remnant at Rio Palenque of less than one square kilometre is the only remaining site for 43 plant species and the adjacent Centinella Ridge that once supported 100 endemic plant species was cleared between 1980 and 1984. [D Given 1990: 'Conserving Botanical Diversity on a Global Scale' (Annals of the Missouri Botanical Gardens, 77, 48-62)]
(6) waste generation and global toxification that results in distribution of troublesome materials worldwide by atmospheric and oceanic circulations. A specific example: DDT is found in the fatty tissue of penguins in Antarctica and pesticides are found in a remote lake on Isle Royale in Lake Superior between the United States and Canada.
(7) human and cultural degradation that threatens and eliminates longstanding knowledge of native and some Christian communities on living sustainably and cooperatively with Creation, together with the loss of longstanding garden varieties of food plants. A specific example: A 1975 study of the Hanunoo tribe of the Philippine Islands found that an average adult could identify 1,600 different species-some 400 more than previously recorded in a systematic botanical survey; for Nigeria and elsewhere in the two-thirds world there are similar findings. [N Awa 1989:
'Participation and Indigenous Knowledge in Rural Development' (Knowledge, 10, 304-16)]
I. THE BIBLICAL THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK
God in creation
1.1 All creatures are deeply intertwined with and dependent on each other, and humans have no right to destroy or despoil other species. However, since Evangelical Christians have affirmed that God is distinct from creation and has given humans a unique status among creatures, some environmentally conscious people have felt that Christianity has given humans licence to exploit other creatures. Some such people feel that the earth ought rather to be identified directly with divine powers (symbolised by Gaia, the earth goddess) or regarded as God's 'body'. We affirm that God is indeed distinct from creation, yet deeply involved in it. This involvement arises not from natural necessity (as though the earth were God of part of God) but from the triune God's free love and grace; God the Son, as the eternal Word, gives form to all creatures and became human flesh with which all creatures are interconnected; while God the Spirit breathes energy into all.
1.2 We affirm the value of the Gaia hypothesis (that the earth, or its living creatures, form one interconnected system) for scientific research. While we reject the religious implication sometimes drawn-that the earth is a divine being-we recognize that many are attracted to it as a result of the spiritual hunger prevalent in secularized industrial societies and of the church's failure adequately to proclaim its living, triune God as both clearly distinct from and intimately involved with the creation.
1.3 Some critics of Evangelical Christianity feel that its frequent use of masculine God-imagery, in contrast to feminine imagery, heightens a sense of God's distance from the world. At the same time, many feel that feminine imagery implies an identity between God and creation. While we did not discuss specific constructive responses to these concerns, we recognize their importance. We also affirm that adequate imagery for expressing God's 'masculine' and 'feminine' characteristics are to be found in Scripture, and that the Bible's main concern in this area is to communicate that God is personal.
The Goodness of Creation
1.4 We wholeheartedly affirm that the universe, as created by God, is good.
1.4.1 We experienced some uncertainty and disagreement as to the nature and presence of evil in relation to creation. We did not attain clarity as to whether death as experienced before humankind's fall should be regarded as natural or evil, or as to exactly what the `curse' brought with this fall, or how it operates.
The Fulfilment of Creation
1.5 In the Old Testament, the creation account begins by showing the threefold relationship between God, creation, and humanity. This relationship is later exemplified by the covenant with Israel, which includes the people of Israel, the gift of the land of Israel and their responsibility for it to God. The well-being or despoliation of the land was connected with their obedience or disobedience. In the New Testament, this triadic relationship of God, people of Israel and land of Israel is reaffirmed and extended as the triad of God, the new people of God and the liberation of all creation. God's call to faith in Jesus Christ includes the call to care for and work towards the transformation of all creation.
1.6 God's purposes for creation include the development of urban areas. Concern for creation should not compete with, but should include and enhance, the development of healthy urban environments.
1.7 God draws all creatures towards a final fulfilment, the bodily resurrection of redeemed humanity and the liberation of all creation. The resurrected Jesus is the `first fruit' of this liberation. The resurrection enlivens our responsibility for involvement in environmental matters, since it indicates how highly God values material reality, and arouses our hope, giving energy for the task.
1.8 The Sabbath rest is both a replication of God's rest in creation and an anticipation of creation's final perfection when it participates with the people of God in their rest. In both cases humanity is to trust that God will provide what is needed for life.
Humanity and creation
1.9 Although all creatures receive life ultimately from God, human beings are intertwined with all other creatures, and in this sense dependent upon them for life. Yet humans are also called to a special task of caring for creation in a shepherdly manner, since they reflect God's image in a unique way. Many felt that the traditional term `stewardship' adequately describes this task. Others cautioned that it can convey the mistaken notions that God is an absentee landlord, and humans may therefore manage creation in any way they see fit.
1.10 We affirm that all God's creations are valuable in and of themselves, apart from their usefulness to humans. Though humans may at times use other creatures in the attainment of legitimate purposes, they are (so far as possible) to support the well-being of other creatures.
1.11 Where mankind has significantly damaged creation, the motivation for its restoration comes from our stewardship responsibilities, our hope for the liberation of creation and the sufferings inflicted on particular groups of people, especially the poor (in the context of the fact that Jesus shared humanity's sufferings and proclaimed good news, especially to the poor).
1.12 Humans participate most fully in God's purposes for creation through personal appropriation of the benefits of Jesus Christ's life, death and resurrection, which become present, participatory realities through the Holy Spirit. Essential for this participation is spirituality focused on Jesus's teaching and his cross, enlivened by the Spirit who moves through creation and connects our yearnings with those of all other creatures.
1.13 While we do not entirely understand how they operate, we affirm that supernatural forces of evil seek to block the accomplishment of God's purposes for creation. We therefore expect our participation in these purposes to involve struggle with these forces, and sometimes to involve suffering, which we will overcome through reliance on the triune God.
Sections II and III below assemble points for consideration and action by the Christian and wider communities. They should not be read as a complete manifesto, but as points which arose in the course of inevitably time-limited discussions: there were many relevant matters which were not touched upon.
II. THE PRAXIS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
2.1 We affirm the concept of sustainable development, as that which seeks to provide and environment that promotes a life of dignity and well-being compatible with the continuation and integrity of supporting ecosystems. The concept includes the concern that material blessings should be available to successive generations as a fundamental God-given right. We note that beneath this concern lie absolutes of justice, equity and human responsibility which are not always expressed. Sustainable development cannot depend on the changing values and aspirations of succeeding generations, which may be in conflict with each other and with the divine wilt.
2.2 We noted the importance of the issue of population as part of care for the environment. This is an issue of culture rather than technology. Current methods of assessing the value of the environment fail to make adequate allowance for the value of the environment where it provides livelihoods. We would urge a culture specific approach of promoting child-spacing, with due regard for the sanctity of human life, rather than the one-solution approach (of contraceptive technique or abortion) advocated by some. We welcome the suggestion of providing for new parents noncontributory old age pensions, or life insurance for their progeny, to remove the incentive to have many children to provide for old age.
2.3 Over-consumption in the North can have a debilitating impact on countries of the South. Consumption of non-renewable resources in the North should be significantly reduced, by increasing recycling and reuse of materials, and by encouraging transition to less material intensive technologies.
Poverty and degradation of creation
2.4 The evidence of growing numbers of poor people in the world is unmistakable, as is the evidence of the worsening condition of the creation contributing to and in part caused by poverty. We recognize that a fundamental cause of poverty is the sinful nature of humankind which manifests itself through violence, greed and self-interest overriding the God-given mandate to meet the needs of both the human and natural creation, and specifically of the poor. Human beings are interdependent with the rest of creation but distinctly unique in that they are made in the image of God. We believe that it is of equal importance when addressing the needs of creation to deal adequately with the needs of the poor, and specifically to address world hunger.
2.5 In poor countries, sustainable development requires first and foremost addressing the following interrelated tasks: the establishment of a just and stable political power; economic development to provide jobs and alleviate poverty; capital investments in human development to stabilize populations and enable people to improve their well-being and their livelihoods; protection of God's creation, in large part by providing poor and landless peoples with alternatives to the over-exploitation of marginal lands; and support for improved development practices that are both appropriate within the culture and to the task.
2.6 We recognize the need of low-income countries, communities, and economies in transition to receive technological, educational and financial assistance to meet the incremental costs of caring for the creation while promoting economic development.
2.7 The enormous disparities that exist between opportunities and rewards for men and women, and the disproportionate burden, on women, of poverty and the degradation of creation, mean that expanded opportunities for women can result in substantial gains for them, their families and their communities. Increases in the status of women's education and earnings, along with the availability of maternity and child health care, are also significant factors in improving child nutrition and health, as well as tending to reduce family size and its impact on creation (see Population, 2.2).
Mission and culture
2.8 Christianity is distinctive in not being bound to a particular cultural context. Both Christian mission and development work need to be properly sensitive to the cultural context, while affirming the active role of Christians within all cultures whether representing minority or majority viewpoints. Churches must be aware of and sensitive to existing sustainable patterns of development and indigenous stewardship practices in terms of self-reliance and equity, since Christianity is not an expression of any one cultural pattern. Where there have been situations of dependence and cultural imperialism, steps need to be taken to redress the wrongs of these situations. There needs to be reciprocity and respect between all Christians and cultures. Cultures interact and change. Missions and development activities are agents of change, and should work with national churches where they exist. The impact of these on the environment-positive and negative, intended and unintended-cannot be ignored, and are of great concern.
2.9 Lessons for the care of creation and methods or practices of Christian stewardship were drawn from the practices of Christians worldwide. An example was given from recent mission history where the outcome of Christian compassionate mission was to remove the hindrances to child survival, without compensating activity to relieve subsequent pressure on the environment. A more positive model is the church in Bali, a Christian community formed in the context of a community with a lively relationship to the surrounding creation. The revelation and love of Christ has been expressed in the context of this concern for creation by building churches amid gardens and water, establishing experimental farms, and setting up credit unions and employment-creation programmes. These innovations have been made without either compromising the uniqueness of Christ's revelation, or obliterating the many positive aspects of the Balinese culture.
Technology and culture
2.10 Technological possibilities must be in a framework of Christian understanding, the socio-cultural context, and the natural environment. Uncontrolled development of technologies can ultimately threaten the very existence of humanity.
2.11 Agriculture. Modern methods of agriculture with inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides may lead to pollution of groundwater and other problems. Such pollution can produce health problems for human and animal populations. Chemical fertilizers fail to sustain the natural nutrients in the soil, resulting in reduction of crop productivity and eutrophication of surface waters. Often, in past agriculture, pests were controlled and nutrient status of the soil was maintained by practices such as crop rotation, inter-cropping, multiple cropping, etc. However, in some cases, as in Ethiopia, traditional practices have resulted in loss of soil fertility and soil erosion. It is necessary to identify successful traditional practices and upgrade them as appropriate in order to develop (or recover) appropriate site-specific technologies which enhance crop productivity without degrading the environment.
2.12 Livestock. When animals or birds are domesticated to provide food or other products or services, attention should be paid to their proper care and welfare. Modern biotechnology techniques have made it possible to introduce changes in animals and birds to enhance the quality and/or productivity of products derived from them like milk, meat, leather, etc., but such changes affect their natural lifestyles and may sometimes cause them considerable discomfort. The ethics of introducing such changes in living creatures needs to be examined in the light of scriptural teachings.
2.13 Wildlife. When animals in the wild are affected or used for human purposes, attention should be paid to ensure their proper care and welfare. Animals in the wild must be recognized as having certain needs for maintaining their life, their "creatureliness" as willed by their Creator, their habitats, and their kinds. Destroying the animal world upsets clot only the animals but also the ecological balance. Such destruction results from poaching, abusive use in entertainment, animal sacrifices, and pollution and destruction of their homes and habitats. Abusive use always takes place when cruelty is involved and/or the species is over-exploited. Trade in animals and animal parts must always be done in accordance with strict ethical criteria.
2.14 The principle that the "Polluter pays" and that "one person cannot exploit or pollute another person's source of living" must take account of who the polluter is-he/she is often the actual consumer on whose behalf the producer acts. Shaping technology so as to prevent pollution and/or reduce it at source can often be much cheaper than cleaning it up later.
Military preparations and war
2.15 Wars (including terrorist activities, military preparations and some forms of training) degrade the environment. The Bible insists that the environment be protected in case of conflict (for example, olive trees may not be destroyed). If even a small percentage of the resources devoted to armaments research and development were diverted to environmental conservation, substantial improvement could be achieved in the state of creation.
111. TASKS FOR THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY AND INDIVIDUALS
The kingdom community
3.1 The church's task is to take part in and give expression to the present and future kingdom of Christ. When the kingdom arrives in its fullness, creation will be set free from its bondage to decay.
Care for creation and evangelism
3.2 Many people in the environmental movement are in an intense religious search even though they explicitly reject Christianity. As Christians articulate a Biblical view of creation and model loving care for its wellbeing they will have significant evangelistic opportunities. Christian environmentalists should take eagerly these opportunities to point people to Christ.
3.3 When people come to Christ and churches are formed, then in the process of obedient discipleship, care for creation frequently emerges. This care needs to be more consciously and systematically taught and sought as a mark of Christian discipleship, both for the individual Christian and for the Christian community, in place of expressions of discipleship which are limited to the life of the individual. Caring treatment of non-human creation will enhance our care for the crown of creation, men and women.
3.4 Because they will be around the longest, young people should (and often do) have a special interest in the care of creation. This special interest of the young requires the development of a robust environmental apologetic to be made available to youth and youth ministries. A commitment to evangelism is integral to efforts to care for creation and vice versa. Young Christians need not only to be equipped with evangelistic materials, but to be given practical teaching on issues of lifestyle, as well as opportunities to express their care of creation in a meaningful way. "Whose Earth", the Spring Harvest initiative in association with TEAR Fund, is a model which has attempted to meet these goals in the United Kingdom.
The Sabbath Rest
3.5 God rested at the end of the Creation week; he exemplified what "Sabbath" should mean. In addition, the fourth commandment requires us to honour the Sabbath. Observation of Sabbath may take many forms; however, it should fulfil the purposes of worship, rest and recreation. More thought is needed to develop ways in which Christians in differing cultures should observe the Sabbath, for the Sabbath is for creation.
Political engagement and Education
3.6 The Christian community, which follows the one who is the Truth, must dare to proclaim the full truth about the environmental crisis in the face of powerful persons, pressures and institutions which profit from concealing the truth. Such recognition of hard truths is a first step towards the freedom for which creation waits. 3.7 The Christian community needs to develop practical policy approaches to the environment and environmental issues, based on Biblical principles and sound analysis.
3.8 Christians need to form and join environmental organizations that apply explicitly Christian principles to environmental problems. In addition, they have an important witness as participants in secular organizations.
3.9 The Christian community must be willing to identify and condemn social and institutionalized evil, especially when it becomes embedded in systems. It should propose solutions which both seek to reform and (if necessary) replace creation-harming institutions and practices.
3.10 Churches should seek to develop as creation awareness centres in order to exemplify principles of stewardship for their members and communities, and to express both delight in and care for creation in their worship and celebration. They should particularly aim to produce curricula and programmes which encourage knowledge and care of creation.
3.11 The Christian community must initiate and support the process of education (for all its members) on the Christian approach to environmental ethics. In particular, Christian colleges and seminaries should provide teaching in this area. The church's goal should be the growth of earthkeepers, both in the habits of everyday life, and in the provision of leadership for the care of creation.
3.12 Many other issues which may be the root cause or proximate cause of environmental problems, may require similar political and educational initiatives, such as those identified in paragraphs 2.2 to 2.7 above (population pressure, over-consumption, poverty, international financial transfers, and the status and role of women). We welcome dialogue with all who are concerned with preserving and enhancing our environment (which is God's creation). We pray that these reflections may provide a positive contribution towards achieving the goals which we share.
The Earth is the Lord's. He [Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
One practical outcome of this Forum was the formation of an International Evangelical Environment Network. For further information, see below.
This report was first published in the journal Transformation and is reprinted here with permission.
Christians Caring For Creation
In his article, Bishop Hugh painted a bleak picture of Christian responses to the environmental crisis. While this is, by and large, true of the churches, it must be balanced by the existence of a number of interdenominational and ecumenical groups which are seeking to make a constructive Christian response to the crisis.
The Au Sable Forum described in the above report has led to the formation of an International Evangelical Environment Network. Its task is to disseminate information and share insights and experiences amongst the worldwide Evangelical family in the field of care for the creation. Further details are available from either of its secretariat offices: The Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, PO Box 70, Oxford, 0X2 6HB, UK (tel: 0865-56071; fax: 0865-510823) or The Au Sable Institute, c/o 731 State Street, Madison, WI 53703, USA (tel/fax: (608) 2550950).
Christian Rural Concern encourages individuals and churches to address rural and environmental issues from a Christian perspective. Its secretary is Dr Ken Wilkinson, 2 Curborough Rd, Lichfield, Staffs, WS13 7NG (tel: 0543-264074).
The Green Theology Group exists to explore the relationship between theology and ecological issues. Further details from the convenor, Revd Jonathan Clatworthy, Denstone Vicarage, Uttoxeter, Staffs, ST14 5HF (tel: 0889-590263).
The main Christian group in the UK addressing environmental issues is undoubtedly Christian