Let me draw your attention to this article from the Lutheran School of Theology – Chicago
http://currentsjournal.org/index.php/currents/article/view/20/41. It serves as a foundation for the following three blogs suggesting new directions in the missional mandate of the church.
The article is A Beloved Earth Community: Christian Mission in an Ecological Age, written by David M. Rhoads, Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Barbara R. Rossing, Professor of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
NOTE: This essay was first published in Mission after Christendom: Emergent Themes in Contemporary Mission, Ogbu Kalu, Peter Vethanayagamony, and Edmund Kee-Fook Chia, eds. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2010), 128–43.
Professors Rhoads and Rossing have set before the church five mandates for “Christian Mission in an Ecological Age.” This blog presents the second mandate: to “embrace a Christian ethic that acknowledges the interrelationship between ecological conditions and issues of human justice.”
We have imagined St. Peter Lutheran Church on the Lake beginning to plan the fall ministry program. Much of what is taking shape on the calendar is a familiar routine of Fall start-ups, leading into the festival season and Advent to follow. But looking closely at the calendars, there is little if anything that acknowledges or addresses the global environmental crisis and the stewardship of creation.
Perhaps the same could be said for our own congregations.
So, the first step is to become aware of the crisis and the degradation of God’s creation. There are many sources for such information, many community partners, faith-based and secular, available for involvement. (See the suggested resources in the MNO Eco-Reformation website)
Earth-care is much more than recycling plastic and paper, conserving water and shutting off lights. Earth-care is a pattern of justice-making.
Earth-care is about the environment; its creatures, great and small; and people. The awareness we are discovering and promoting involves the inter-connection of all things.
Earth-care begins with my lawn and my neighbors’; but circles of connection extend to the water quality and air quality and waste management of my city; and then the foods we consume and the clothes we buy intersect with communities in neighboring and distant countries. It’s not just the carbon footprint in harvesting, manufacturing and shipping. It involves the decision-making of who provides what, where and why. And how people are living with the consequences.
Is it an accident that a greater percentage of people of color live near polluting factories, waste incinerators, and dumping fields of our cities? Professors Rhoads and Rossing cite the 2006 hurricane Katrina as an example of a natural disaster compounded by human activity. Marginal wetland property, normally a buffer between the land and the sea, had been developed, exposing to the elements the poor and people of color. It was the sick, the elderly and people of color, those with the least resources to cope, who were most affected.
Rising ocean levels, deforestation practices, dumping toxic waste, impact most those in developing countries. Drought and soil degradation, replacing subsistence crops with cash crops, affect food sources where there are few alternatives.
Actions that exploit natural resources are also exploiting our human neighbors. Corporate policies seek the most efficient production, at the cheapest costs with lowest wages, affecting health, well-being and personal autonomy.
Professors Rossing and Rhoads cite the example of the difference between commercial coffee production and fair-trade production. Which coffee does your church use in its fellowship? Is the cost of fair-trade coffee, when measured by the community rather than the cup, so outrageous?
The second mandate for the church’s mission calls for committing to social justice and environmental care. These are not separate issues. The decisions and the actions are inter-connected. The decisions in the board room affect the network in the biosphere and the economics of the developing community and the well-being of families living on the land and beside the factories and along the coastlines and riverways.
It’s a new way of thinking. It makes buying a shirt or a pint of strawberries a bit more complicated. It means that a seniors’ Bible study on “the kingdom of heaven in Matthew” might include consideration of the kingdom of heaven in Guatemala, and the kingdom of heaven in Antarctica and the kingdom of heaven on the bald prairies of Canada. Maybe the youth activity this month changes from an afternoon of paintball to an afternoon of roadside clean-up. Maybe the fowl supper shifts from feeding the community to feeding the homeless in the community. This requires a re-orientation, a metanoia, a transformation in what congregations, and their members, do.
How do we make these decisions? The third mandate addresses this. The third mandate for mission is that “the Bible presents care for creation as fundamental to our human vocation and mission.”