What are Christians doing to protect the natural world?  It is a question that secular environmental organisations and concerned individuals have asked regularly over the past decade or so.  It is a fair question but also an ironic one given that it is Christians who see the created world as God’s work. Over time there have been Christian groups such as Christian Ecology Link and A Rocha working and campaigning but their influence has been limited.  And of course our own Bath & Wells diocese has had a comprehensive environment policy since 2007 although I suspect few people have read it.

Humans are an integral part of the natural world.  But only recently it seems, as a result in particular of Christian charities like Christian Aid and Tear Fund, has the impact of its destruction by man and weather and climate change become generally realised by church people. So it is good to see the seriousness of the situation is sinking in and the church taking notice.

Today it is Christians who are beginning to influence the wider world, with some powerful voices leading the way.  The most influential in recent months has been Pope Francis with his ‘Laudato Si’ (Praise be) encyclical, sub-titled ‘care for our common home’ issued back in May last year.  It is very long (40 000 words) but full of wise words, warnings and sound spiritual advice. (www.W2vatican.va): Most Papal encyclicals are meant for the attention of fellow Catholic bishops.  But this one has been aimed, very successfully, at ‘every person living on this planet’.  I have lost count of the times I have seen reference to it.  Not just the Christian media but the secular too; from The Washington Post to the Guardian to Youtube.

Commenting on the encyclical the Church of England’s leading voice on the environment the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam said:

"The Papal Encyclical is a substantial development of themes very much in line with statements made by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Churches, the Letter on Climate Change from the Swedish Lutheran bishops as well as by the Church of England and the Anglican Communion's Environmental Network and others.”

So what did the Pope say that caught everyone’s attention.  In its analysis The Washington Post identified ten key aspects of this very long document.  Here are just four I think particularly important (www.washintonpost.com):

Climate change has grave implications.  Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plants and animal species which our children will never see.

Rich countries are destroying poor ones.  The earth getting warmer as a result of huge consumption on the part of rich countries is having repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, in particular Africa where temperature rise together with drought is proving devastating for farmers.

Christians have misinterpreted Scripture and must reject the notion that we are given absolute domination over other creatures.

Technocratic domination leads to destruction of nature and the exploitation of people.  The market cannot guarantee human development and social inclusion.

‘Yes, but that’s the Catholic Church.  What have the rest of the churches been doing? And what can we do?’ Well quite a lot actually on both counts.  And Anglicans have been taking a major role in this.  One leading voice has been Rowan Williams who during his time in office as Archbishop of Canterbury played a prominent part in highlighting the role the church should be playing.  More recently he said:

‘I think it is for the church to show the world around that there are things that can be done.’

In January he helped launch a new scheme that rewards churches for being environmentally friendly.  Called Eco Church and devised by the Christian sustainability charity A Rocha, (the organisation that gave us our 3-year eco-congregation award back in 2011) the scheme aims to help churches tackle climate change through a points based award system.

Churches complete a survey covering five areas to assess how ‘green’ they are. These cover aspects such as worship and teaching, management of buildings and land, community and global engagement and lifestyle. At the launch in St Paul’s Rowan Williams spoke of people in the green movement referring to the church as a ‘sleeping giant’.  But, he said, churches have huge potential to inspire wider society to take firmer action to preserve the environment.  Equally they could not expect to mobilise the non-Christian world unless they were putting their own house in order too.

So now the question for us at Christ Church, with our eco congregation award behind us, is what could we be doing to help put the Christian church’s house in order?

 

Brian Kellock - (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The Summer 2015 Creation Care Newsletter contains inspirational and interesting articles that will encourage all who are concerned about preserving the environment.

 

Download Here

 

No 3. July 2015

Saved by Grace.

Grace Sodzi is determined to prove that recycling is anything but rubbish. Here she explains graciefullymade – the gift company with a difference.

‘graciefullymade is a gift company that uses a mixture of new and recycled materials to make handmade gifts that are meaningful, quirky and original.

Rowan William challenges Bristol Christians on Global Care

Back in January Rowan Williams visited Bristol, European Green Capital 2015, to give a key note speech with the title Global Awareness is living in a world we don’t own. He told his audience:

“Bristol 2015 offers churches and faith communities in the city an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to caring for people and planet.

No 2. April 2015

Solar panels: The Milsom experience.

David and Jane have fitted solar panels to their new home.  David tells us how they are liking it.

‘Why Solar?
I have always been interested in solar energy, but until we moved house last year, it was not possible. Last summer, I began to reconsider, and after some investigation, we made the decision to go ahead.

South West dioceses create joint eco initiative

The six dioceses of the South West of England have come together to form a partnership to help churches, congregations and schools reduce their carbon footprint. Eco Church Southwest  has now launched a website of that name giving resources to help churches tackle the problems associate with carbon emissions. These  currently include a number of case studies showing what churches have already done.

Christ Church launches Creation  Care

No 1. January 2015

Our eco-congregation award ran out last year so we have been looking at ways at continuing our environmental concern initiative at Christ Church.  The proposal is for a new programme of encouragement which we will call Creation Care.