In his 1985 volume, God in Creation, Jurgen Moltmann wrote: “The alienation of nature brought about by human beings can never be overcome until men find a new understanding of themselves and a new interpretation of their world in the framework of nature.”
The fact is that a fresh and comprehensive insight into God’s involvement with this world needs to be discerned. After centuries of a theology which allowed for the supreme dominance of man over nature and the subsequent ongoing destruction of our ecosystem and our world, only now is the church beginning to be concerned about the environment. Only now, after concrete evidence of a precipitating crisis on this planet-with the melting of solar caps and cavernous holes in the ozone layer, with stagnating pollution and alarming shifts in weather systems-has the church embraced environmental concerns.
At its recent 11th Biennial Convention in Winnipeg, National Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) brought the following motion to the floor: “… we commit ourselves to answer the call to respect the integrity of God’s creation through an environmental stewardship initiative engaging or national, synodical, congregation and individual member expressions.” The council proposal was greeted with a sea of green (yes) cards, indicating an almost unanimous affirmation of the greening initiative.
The approved implementation strategy was clear: 1) To reduce the negative impact the ELCIC, at all levels, has on the environment; 2) To increase the ELCIC’s commitment to and understanding of environmental stewardship; 3) To involve youth in this initiative and create opportunities for leadership development.
A number of the key components included: Web-based resources to act as a guide for how congregations can become “green;” an accreditation process for congregations with recognition of their involvement; and integration with other church-wide programs including the Signs of Hope campaign by the ELCIC’s Global Hunger & Development department and an energy campaign by Kairos, a Canadian ecumenical justice group. The time-line for achieving the stewardship initiative is September 2007 through the summer of 2008.
While the church and its synodical bodies will be in charge of aspects of the program, the real activity takes place at the grass roots. Congregations will be responsible for promoting the initiative to its members encouraging them to practise environmental stewardship. They may seek to become “Green Congregations” by examining their impact on creation and seeking ways to minimize their negative impact and promote positive impacts on creation.
The ELCIC’s British Columbia synod recently joined the Anglican diocese of New Westminster in its “Greening of the Parish” program – now in its fourth year. The B.C. Synod’s seven-step program includes the reduction of energy consumption (for example, changing old incandescent bulbs to energy efficient halogen bulbs); reducing, reusing and recycling, particularly the amount of paper used during worship; changing the church landscape so that drought-tolerant plants are used and the application of chemicals, fertilizer and excessive water are avoided; encouraging members to carpool and utilize public transit; and commit to environmental justice.
Rev. Peter Mikelic pastors Epiphany Lutheran church, Toronto, and writes for various church and secular publications.