Church of South India statement
||"We need to recognise that what we do with God's creation around us will have a tremendous effect, for good or ill, on the lives of our grandchildren and on the generations of their children and grandchildren."
By Bishop Thomas Samuel
Madhya Kerala Diocese, April 2008
One of the reasons for the present ecological crisis is greed. It is greed that causes people to exploit resources. It is greed that means there is not enough. And the over-exploitation of resources is causing imbalances in nature. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “The earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.”
We believe that environmental problems are more spiritual than technological. And we believe that God calls us now to confess and repent of attitudes which devalue creation. Forgetting that "the earth is the Lord's," we have often simply used creation, while forgetting our responsibility to care for it.
Our aim is to keep this beautiful world beautiful, and not to turn it into a wasteland.
In the Bible there are covenants and laws and statutes to be observed if the earth and its inhabitants are to experience oneness and harmony. And the most important covenant is between God and humanity. We are God’s gardeners, and when we forget this, then not only does the earth suffer, but all creation suffers, because all things are connected.
The Bible says the Earth is the Lord's and that God is the owner of this universe.
We believe that God loves creation and wants its life to flourish. No creature is different in God’s sight. Every creature has its own dignity and its own rights, because all are included in God’s covenant.
So it is said in the story of Noah: “Behold”, says God, “ I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and every living creature” (Gen 9: 9-10).
The fundamental human rights come from this covenant “with us”. The rights of future generations come from the covenant “with us and our descendants.” The rights of nature come from the covenant “with us and our descendants and with every living creature”. Before God, the creator, we and our descendants and every living creature are equal partners of God’s covenant. Nature is not our property.
Instead, all living beings must be respected by humanity as God’s partners in the covenant. Whoever destroys nature, destroys him/herself. Whoever injures the dignity of the animals, injures God
The Role of Faith
Our actions and attitudes toward the earth need to proceed from the centre of our faith, and be rooted in the fullness of God's revelation in Christ and the Scriptures. We seek carefully to learn all that the Bible tells us about the Creator, creation, and the human task. In our life and words we declare that full good news for all creation is still waiting "with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God," (Rom.8:19).
In Hinduism there is no separation between the Divine and nature. Both are the same aspects of the same reality. Like the ocean, Brahma the Creator is the unmanifest depths of the sea. Everything is Brahman, or as it is said; “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.“
Everything is the very aspect of the same reality, and everything is sacred. Christians too can share in this Vedic vision of unity which is the basis for an ecological approach, in which human beings can honour the entire universe. There are many sacred places to Hindus. Christians too sing of the beauty of the earth but seem to have no difficulty in polluting that which is holy. We should not ignore our high calling. All things are connected.
The Importance of Hope
We refuse to succumb to despair: remember Abraham who hoped against hope. There is hope for the future. If we can live out this vision in our daily lives and can communicate it to others in word and action then we can play a powerful role in creating an attitude of reverence for the earth. Attitude is very important n ecology: it effects everything, including, perhaps most importantly in this debate and issue, how we see things in this world.
John 3:16 is probably the best known verse in the New Testament: "God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life".
Have you noticed that the verse does not say: "God so loved humans ...", but "God so loved the world"… the whole cosmos? John proclaims that God's love is not restricted to the human race; it extends to all aspects of life. And this verse may be seen to contain considerable implications for our attitudes to the environment.
We need to recognise that what we do with God's creation around us will have a tremendous effect, for good or ill, on the lives of our grandchildren and on the generations of their children and grandchildren. By our attitude to God's creation now, we determine the nature of the society that will be inherited later this century by the children of our children.
Will it be a society that has to contend with – to be content with - pollution of the air, the earth, the rivers and the seas? Or will it be a society which retains the fullness with which God has endowed it and to which the psalmist refers when he proclaims: “The earth and its fullness are the Lord's”?
How We Can Help
Here are some of the ways in which we in the Church of South India can help.
* We can learn to eat lower on the food chain: reducing the animal products in our diet is perhaps the single most-effective step we can make
* We can practice energy conservation: let us use less heat, less light, less airconditioning.
* We can plant trees.
* We can change our driving habits.
* We can influence the government.
* We can develop our thoughts on eco-spirituality.
* We can participate in recycling.
* We can volunteer in local cleanup programmes.
* We can join environmental groups.
* As church leaders and church members we can take a leadership role in persuading others to do the same.
* And perhaps most important of all, we can evaluate our own life styles, our desires, our aims, and our relationships with creation. We can help lead others to think about what is most important in their own lives: what do they really value?
A Parable for the Environment
There was a wise man, a hermit in the Himalayas, and people used to go to him to find answers. One day a little boy thought of an idea for tricking the hermit. “I’m going to get a small bird and hold it in my hand,” he told his friends in the village. “And I will say: is it dead or is it alive? And if he says it is dead then I will release it, and if he says it is alive then I will crush it.’
So the boy went to see the wise man, and he did what he had boasted. But the hermit looked into his eyes and could see what he was planning.
“It will be,” said the wise man, “what you want it to be.”
And this story illustrates what we can do about the environment. It will be what we want it to be. If we can have a vision and communicate it to others, then we will have a powerful role in transmitting a sense of reverence for this world.
This is an adaptation of the concluding address of Bishop Thomas Samuel at the end of the Seven Day International Ecological Conferences organized by CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese in February 2008. The conference was attended by 500 delegates from Kerala State as well as 40 delegates from other states in India and 12 overseas delegates including one representative from ARC. We discussed different aspects of Climate Change and Water crises, Sustainable agriculture, Religion, Ecology and Sustainable development. The statement reveals the vision and aspiration of the conference, following which the CSI made a pledge with ARC to work together to help the natural environment.
NOTE: The Church of South India is the result of the union of churches of varying traditions: Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, and Reformed. It was inaugurated in September 1947, after protracted negotiation among the churches. Organized in 16 dioceses, each under the spiritual supervision of a bishop, the church as a whole is governed by a synod, which elects a moderator. or presiding bishop every 2 years. The Madhya Kerala Diocese has been leading the urge towards environmental awareness, but many of the other bishops are watching its work in this area with active interest.
Link here for the CSI's eco-audit list.
Link here for more information about the Madhya Kerala diocese.
Link here for more information about the diocese's ecological work.
Link here for general background to the Church of South India.
Link here for the original Christian statement on the environment launched at Assisi in 1986.
Link here for a Catholic theological statement about the environment.
Link here for an Orthodox statement about the environment.
Link here to learn more about ARC's work with the faiths developing seven year plans to make generational changes on the issues of climate change and the natural environment.