The week before last I was fortunate to be invited to the Lausanne Movement’s Consultation on Creation Care and the Gospel in Jamaica, and to have the privilege of being involved in editing the book that will be published as a result.
The Call to Action has been published. It, together with the future documents coming from the consultation, have the potential to make a significant difference in the Christian evangelical world, largely because of the prestige of the Lausanne Movement. It was founded in 1974 by Billy Graham and others to encourage evangelicals globally to worldwide evangelisation, and has held three big meetings, the most recent being in Cape Town 2010. The Commitment made then included a call that creation care was both an integral part of the Gospel, and an urgent priority for the worldwide Church; the Consultation which has just happened was tasked with exploring what this meant in more detail.
Why this isn’t just another creation care conference is that it is being backed by a major world organisation in the mainstream of Christian faith: unlike (say) our Sustainability in Crisis conference, what it says cannot be simply dismissed as the views of a special-interest minority. It was definitely exciting to talk to those working in creation care issues worldwide and hear their stories and passion, and feel renewed in my own work too (it can feel lonely at times). I’ll post some of them here as I work on the book, but it’s the overall message to the church that I feel is most important.
The first of the two primary conclusions is worth quoting in full.
Creation Care is indeed a “gospel issue within the lordship of Christ” (CTC I.7.A). Informed and inspired by our study of the scripture—the original intent, plan, and command to care for creation, the resurrection narratives and the profound truth that in Christ all things have been reconciled to God—we reaffirm that creation care is an issue that must be included in our response to the gospel, proclaiming and acting upon the good news of what God has done and will complete for the salvation of the world. This is not only biblically justified, but an integral part of our mission and an expression of our worship to God for his wonderful plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. Therefore, our ministry of reconciliation is a matter of great joy and hope and we would care for creation even if it were not in crisis.
Perhaps the most important part of this is at the end: we are not caring for creation just because it is suffering, trying to get it back under some arbitrary bar of quality necessary for our human comfort. Creation is worthy of love and redemption in its own regard as part of the reconciliation of all things to God in Christ. This brings creation care into the mainstream as part of integrated mission, and also helps avoid the problem of interpreting (or ignoring) the science of climate change and associated environmental issues.
Given this, what is the Consultation calling to be done? Some of the more significant to my eyes are:
- A renewed commitment to a simple lifestyle, looking back to a 1970 Lausanne paper.
- More leadership from the church in the Global South, recognising that they are the most affected by the current ecological crisis and have been very underrepresented in debates to date.
- An economy that works in harmony with creation, and a challenge to prevailing economic ideologies which generally undervalue it, together with robust theological support.
- Recognising that this is a spiritual issue, one affected by human sin, so calling for prayer, prophetic speech and symbolic acts appropriate the local culture.
It’s worth reading the whole Call and reflecting on it, and it will also be interesting to see the reaction from the annual meeting of the (US) Evangelical Theological Society in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this week. Their theme is Creation Care, with a range of keynote speakers ranging across the whole spectrum of opinions on climate change. Their description notes the Lausanne Consultation, so expect some speakers to reference it directly.