Scripture connects environmental destruction with idolatry, says bishop

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald gives the keynote address at the Green Churches Forum at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, May 11. Photo: Art Babych
National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald gives the keynote address at the Green Churches Forum at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, May 11. Photo: Art Babych
Published May 15, 2017

The environmental threat posed by today’s “principalities and powers” is one of the great spiritual issues of our time, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald says.

“We live in a society where greed has become normal,” MacDonald said in a keynote address at the daylong, ecumenical Green Churches Forum at Saint Paul University in Ottawa May 11. “In fact, it’s one of the animating factors in the way our culture and the way our economy works.”

When the apostle Paul wrote about the struggles against “principalities and powers,” he was referring to evil rulers, authorities and dark forces of the day, MacDonald suggested. Today, those are the corporations, governments and the way culture has been structured, he said.

“All these principalities and powers are conspiring against the environment” and are creating a climate of injustice, MacDonald said. “This climate of injustice is something that we, as religious people, have to say is one of the great moral and spiritual issues of our time.”

In his talk on the forum’s theme, Celebrating the Spirit of Creation, the bishop said Scripture connects environmental destruction with idolatry. “It is absolutely essential that we understand this component of our progressive alienation of the environment around us.”

Some Christians say their theology needs to be updated to “make it more green,” he said. “I’m all for that. But what I’m saying is that it fails to recognize the progressive alienation.”

Christians, “with the gifts that the Creator has given us,” are called to “live our lives in a fundamental, powerful, intimate, courageous, compassionate commitment to the world that God has created for us,” he said.

MacDonald has been involved in environmental issues throughout his adult life and has contributed to many publications, including Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation.

His talk was followed by a series of theme-based workshops throughout the afternoon. The forum, which was attended by about 200 people, ended following an ecumenical service.

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna was scheduled to say a few words at the opening of the forum, but was unable to attend due to scheduling. Instead, she appeared in a brief video.

“As you know, Canada is all in when it comes to climate change,” she said. “We know it’s the right thing to do for our children and grandchildren.”

McKenna also said that as a Catholic, she was “very pleased” with Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical calling for action to protect the environment and to combat climate change.

As well, she said, “I think there’s a huge opportunity for churches across the country, for faith groups and faith leaders to work with our government to do what we need to do to protect the planet for future generations.”

The Green Churches Forum was the fourth organized by the Green Churches Network and follows those held in Montreal (2010), Drummondville (2012) and Quebec City (2015).

The Green Churches Network was launched in Montreal in 2006 and includes more than 60 churches of various denominations.

Among its partners is the Anglican diocese of Ottawa, the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa, KAIROS: Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, and Citizens for Public Justice.

Organizers said the National Capital region was the best choice for a meeting site this year since it is an anniversary year.

“We want to celebrate in conjunction with the celebrations taking place throughout the National Capital for Canada’s 150th anniversary,” the group said in a statement.

“As believers, we see Creation manifested in abundance in our home and native land.” The forum event “will also be a testimonial of thanksgiving for the beauty and greatness of God’s work in our country from coast to coast to coast.”

The Green Churches Network is steered by a board of directors with representatives from diverse churches.


  • Art Babych

    Art is the former editor of Crosstalk, the newspaper of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa.

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