While churches around the world live in very different contexts and may be separated by different doctrinal teachings, they do have one concern in common: will planet earth still be a fit place for their children to live?
How should churches reflect theologically about creation? What can churches do in their specific context?
Thirty-one participants from 20 countries at a seminar on “Green Churches – Ecology, Theology and Justice in Practice” discussed these questions from 23 to 27 June at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland.
The seminar was organized by the WCC’s programme on Care for Creation and Climate Justice, represented by its coordinator Dr Guillermo Kerber, in collaboration with the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, represented by its faculty members Rev. Dr Dagmar Heller and Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus. The event was co-sponsored by the YMCA in Cameroon, the Pacific Conference of Churches, the National Council of Churches in India and the European Christian Environmental Network. These organizations were represented by Dr Alain-Douglas Wandji Kamga, Peter Emberson, Prof. Christopher Rajkumar, Rev. Dr Peter Pavlovic and Rev. Henrik Grape.
During the sessions participants shared about projects in which they are involved, including a small production of ecological coal in Cameroon, idea of an eco-diploma for the churches in Finland and a River of Life-project for solar energy applications among others.
Different approaches to eco-theology were presented and discussed. A highlight was a visit to the WCC offices in Geneva, where the participants were informed about activities and programmes in this area within the WCC and the Lutheran World Federation. Another emphasis was on spirituality and its role in making people of faith aware of being part of creation and not being the creators.
New initiatives, inspiring visions
The participants also developed ideas for action and came up with a rich variety of practical proposals from developing a stronger green profile for the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, the publication of a global handbook on green churches, for sharing and translating resources and creating a website.
In addition, the participants committed themselves to actions such as “embarking on a pilgrimage” to the upcoming Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, theological education on eco-theology and networking.
A joint statement by the Asian participants of the seminar summarized the discussions:
“Creation is endangered. In the face of the urgent and unprecedented ecological crisis demonstrated through climate change, critical loss of biodiversity and dwindling natural resources, we, the Christians in Asia, respond in humility and obedience to the biblical injunction to preach the gospel to all creation.
“We rejoice with all of creation in the celebration of life, its diversity of expression and its unity in the one Spirit.
“We are bold in our affirmation that light overcomes darkness, and that the promise of life prevails over the forces of greed, exploitation, ignorance, destruction and death. We call upon governments, corporations and civil society to join us in the concerted process of healing, radical change and renewal.
“We unite in our service to the marginalized, the oppressed and the exploited, and resolve to redouble our efforts to restore and nurture our relations with each other and with the rest of creation.
“In all this, we recognize that we must read the Bible with new eyes and listen to our neighbours of other faith traditions and indigenous spiritualties in challenging notions that legitimize the human domination of creation. We reach out to, and with, our brothers and sisters around the globe in our common endeavour.”