Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Creation Care and Worship

It is fruitless to get caught up in a discussion about the credibility of climate change science. This debate will continue for some time. Yet faith communities do need to be engaged in discussions of creation care.
I am beginning to realize that creation care is naturally lodged within a theology of worship. True worship, encompasses generosity, restraint and compassion. These values are critical to creation care. Indeed it is their opposites – greed, recklessness and apathy – that threaten the health of the earth and its inhabitants. It is people of faith, especially Anabaptist faith, conditioned and committed to live lives of worship by loving God and their neighbour that are most logically positioned to lead the way in seeking climate justice and creation care.

Anabaptism, with its focus on discipleship and service has always resisted a one dimensional understanding of worship. Menno Simons wrote; “True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant. It clothes the naked, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, binds up that which is wounded.”

Such an understanding of faithfulness to God will naturally lead us to express commitment to the other. It is an alignment to the directive expressed by Jesus in Matt 22. When asked which the greatest commandment of the Law is, Jesus replied by saying: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.” If you follow this directive it will be impossible to ignore the compassionate imperative of creation care.

According to a report by Willie Reimer and Bruce Guenther at the 2012 Mennonite Central Committee Canada annual general meeting, every night one billion people – one sixth of the world’s population – goes to bed hungry. The growth of global undernourishment can be largely attributed to the increasing number of people affected by environmental disasters such as drought, flooding and storm surges. An estimated 250 million people are affected by climate related hazards in a typical year, according to Reimer and Guenther, and that is projected to grow by 50% to an estimated 375 million people a year by 2015.

It is difficult to worship God and ignore these dynamics. If there is even a chance that our Canadian lifestyle patterns contribute to the suffering of global neighbours, our adulation and reverence to God will compel us to seek correction and express compassion.
The developed countries of the world hold 25% of the world's population, but consume 75% of all energy, 85% of all wood products, and 72% of all steel produced. (http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/educational/handouts/ethics/wasting_away.cfm)
Canadians are consuming at a pace that is 2.5 times greater than the average global citizen. (http://planetpanels.com/human-consumption-and-the-earth-logged-hours/).
Our love for God obliges us to express generosity, restraint and compassion.
Generosity: because with the Spirit of God in us, we can’t help ourselves from being generous. Restraint: because we yearn for greater surrender to God not a defeat to self-indulgence. With the Spirit of God in us, the discipline of restraint is joyfully embraced. Compassion: because disregard for others is intolerable. Inaction is unacceptable. With the Spirit of God in us we cannot help but push aside apathy and become engaged.

Creation care is neighbour care. And neighbour care is a vital expression of our love for God.


  1. Thank you Willard, I agree it is quite pointless to step into creation care issues thinking it’s all about climate change. My parents are environmentalists and they don’t even know it. They eat locally, drive a small vehicle, reduce, reuse and recycle everything and always have. In short they have lived simple lives with the generosity, restraint and compassion you have described. I thank you for showing leadership on this issue.

  2. one worry I have with some of the language used around Climate Justice is that 'the problem' becomes such a large global issue that people feel disempowered to act on their responsibilities. "How can I change the course of the world's climate? Will my action even make a dint in the global effect?" Those kinds of questions can become discouraging. I prefer the language of discipleship, where creation care becomes a matter of right worship to God who created the earth as a gift for us to Tend and care for.

    For the disciple its not about 'saving the environment' - this kind of claim could be seen as near idolatry. Rather, it is about rightly receiving the gift of God's good earth with compassion, generosity and humility.