The first Bible study I was ever specifically asked by a congregation to undertake was on the parable of the “Wasteful” Manager (Luke 16), a famous parable of Jesus which may reasonably command our prayerful attention whenever we seek support and funding for environmental action.
The Ladies’ Fellowship in my first church were scandalised by Jesus’ parable, and felt there must have been something wrong if Jesus himself was coming over so disreputably. How could ‘Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild’ come out with such dangerous stuff?
I certainly haven’t yet got to the bottom of it myself, ,though I’m sure that this is going to be one of the most important Bible treasures to challenge and guide our thinking in the coming years.
Concluding the narrative, Jesus advises the ‘Children of the Light’ - with whom, as his followers, we might reasonably identify - to learn from the craftiness of the surrounding culture. And to make use of ‘dishonest/unrighteous wealth’ to make friends with the [social or other ] environment they need to rely on.
Many assume that this touches on ‘selling your soul’: selling out, ending up promoting an agenda alien to your church, in order to access funding or favourable terms for premises or leased equipment.
Or, perhaps, neglecting the values you profess to stand for in trivial but obvious ways:
Giving minor, but very real and all-too visible examples: Nestlé coffee in a declared fair-trade church, disposable plastic cups used on every social occasion in a registered Eco-Congregation, or even a denominational headquarters. Being seen to back, without engagement or criticism, industries not yet mindful of the Paris targets.....
The story of the crafty manager is not about such things. He hasn’t got “that sort of soul” so it is never on sale. It is his alleged wastefulness, not corruption, that sets in progress a chain of irreversible events. He is given notice.
Are we, globally, in a similar position? The IPCC message of ‘Act now, idiots!’ has set a clock ticking which should concentrate our minds.
The wealth of his master is the “unrighteous” wealth with which he has to deal, and indeed, that’s where the corruption comes in: it’s what he is already charged with looking after, when, accepting the coming disaster of his destitution, he realises he needs to engineer a comfortable transition.
He is well equipped.
His job, and perhaps ours thus far, has been to be “Steward of Dishonest Wealth ”. Propping up the system which exploits. And in this, his bargaining skills, his knowledge of market conditions, have prepared him for the uncertainties ahead. The realism of the wheeler-dealerin him comes to the fore in bargaining and creative compromise as, neither solving nor fleeing the crisis, he makes friends with it. Transforms it.
Our wastefulness as a species, compounded by human injustice, means that we are veering towards environmental crisis. Even 1.5 degrees, the minimum global temperature rise which seems possible, will already involve dramatic changes in our lives. Not just those of future generations. No participant in current society should deceive themselves that they are not contributing to the climate crisis; none are squeaky-clean. So what can we do with the things within our grasp?
How can we subvert the throwaway culture of inequality and endless growth by making friends with the environment which has so suffered from human sharp practice, and on whose hospitality we all of us continue to depend?
There's a lot of pressure on local churches to join the headlong dash to Christmas, and bypass the dark reflective journey of Advent, which, in many traditions, involves an immersion in thoughts and poetry written in and for times of crisis, or times when hope was at a premium. I'm thinking about following the Sunday lectionary through with images and thoughts from our 'green' perspective. A small initiative, and easy to follow... as well as gently reasserting our right, in this forthcoming season, not to be dictated to by Xmas cards or even some 'Christmas' films, how and what we should be considering.
THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND LAND REFORM COMMITTEE
Eco-Congregation Scotland (ECS) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the committee on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets)(Scotland) Bill in advance of appearing on 6 November 2018.
Who are we?
Eco-Congregation Scotland is a Christian environmental organisation that helps local church congregations address environmental issues through their life and mission. There are over 430 eco-congregations in Scotland. 139 of them have the EcoCongregation Award for environmental excellence.
Our programme has three strands:
• Spiritual living: Making the link between environmental issues and the Christian faith
• Practical living: Taking practical action in the church and in the home to reduce our environmental impact
• Global living: Influencing attitudes and taking action in the local or global community on issues like climate change
Encouragement and peer support is provided through 20 local networks across Scotland with two network co-ordinators promoting local activity.
Action on climate change
As a faith driven organisation we encourage congregations to consider in prayer and worship why care for creation is an essential part of Christian faith; and how they should respond to climate change. Creation Time is a new fixture in the church calendar each September and has been widely taken up in Scotland as elsewhere in Europe as an opportunity to explore care for creation in worship.
Practical action to reduce carbon emissions in churches includes working with the Energy Saving Trust and its delivery partners to encourage churches to take advice on energy management in church buildings and in their own homes. Church buildings are notoriously difficult to heat and a project in Cowal churches in Argyll identified air source heat pumps as the most effective low carbon heating for remote churches off the gas grid. The project recently won a Roman Juriga award from the European Christian Environment Network as a leading example of energy management in churches across Europe.
ECS receives funding from the Scottish Government to promote awareness and behaviour change. This has helped deliver a range of activities including carbon conversations with church groups around Scotland. There are signs of significant behaviour change with minsters and other church members installing low carbon heating at home, driving electric cars and promoting community food and other low carbon projects. Many other churches have taken advantage of Climate Challenge Funds and other grants to promote low carbon projects in church buildings of benefit to the wider community.
Activism includes encouragement to church members to get involved in campaigning activity with partners such as Christian Aid, SCIAF, TearFund, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) and others. It is noticeable that, at lobbies of parliament and other SCCS events, church members are prominently represented.
What motivates action?
One of the principal drivers of climate action in churches is the impact of stories from partner churches around the world. Messages from church members in Tuvalu or Malawi or Bangladesh about the loss and damage consequent on climate change have a big impact on church audiences in Scotland, probably more so than scientific reports or statistics. It is worth considering how such stories could be shared more widely across Scotland to increase awareness and promote behaviour change.
That over 400 churches have registered with ECS is indicative of the commitment and concern in churches. In worship and advocacy many churches are actively engaged but there remains concern that members of congregations will struggle with behavioural decisions necessary to achieve the target of a zero carbon emissions Scotland by 2050, whether that is in changes to domestic heating, food, other shopping or travel.
One opportunity of increasing interest is in decarbonising finance. We know that many church members have concerns about investment in fossil fuel companies but the debate is beginning to spread to the role of savings, investments and pensions. Promoting awareness, campaigning and action on fossil fuel finance is likely to be a priority for coming years.
ECS and sponsoring denominations are committed to supporting the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government make the rapid transition to a low carbon economy. We have joined other SCCS members in calling for a net zero carbon emissions (100%) target in the Bill and offer our commitment to support the Scottish Government and others in helping bring about this outcome.
Eco-Congregation Scotland has joined the Church of Scotland and Christian Aid Scotland in sending an open letter to the chairmen of three oil companies, asking them to align their business plans with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
As the Church of Scotland currently invests in BP, Shell and Total, the letter calls on action from each of those companies to keep global warming as far below 2°C as possible.
In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that urgent changes are necessary to achieve climate targets and avoid the dangers of drought, extreme heat, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
Mary Sweetland, chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland said: "We need to drastically reduce our use of carbon fuels as the recent IPCC report shows. Big oil companies promised to clean up their act to meet the Paris commitments; now we need to know how quickly they are changing."
Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council stated: "Oil companies have a critical role in deciding whether or not global warming stays within targets set by the Paris Agreement of 2015. That agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5°C if possible and at most 2°C. I am now writing to ask them to tell us if they are committed to limit global warming and if so what are they going to do?"
Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland commented: "Right now, climate change is eroding life for the most vulnerable in our world and robbing our children of a future. Right now is the only time we have and time is running out. Christian Aid Scotland stands together with the Church of Scotland and Eco-Congregation Scotland in asking oil and gas companies to be leaders and solution-makers, moving intentionally and quickly to a fossil-free future."
Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal causes carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, one of the principal causes of global warming. The Paris Agreement urges a transition toward low carbon energy sources.
Commissioners at the Church of Scotland’s 2018 General Assembly voiced serious concerns about climate change and instructed the Church and Society Council to open discussions with the oil companies and press them to align their business plans with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Its been a few weeks of bad-news stories in the climate action movement.
The UK Government is failing to respond to the overwhelming calls for climate action, which some are calling a failure to govern and unforgivable betrayal.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas and six other MPs, including Labour’s Clive Lewis and former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron signed the letter, which says “pushing policymaking into the long grass of Brexit at this stage represents an abject failure to govern in the interests of the people you are elected to serve.” Read more here:
Others have gone further, calling the Government’s failure a breach of the social contract and cause for the climate action movement to step up a gear. Many, including figures like Rowan Williams, are calling for mass civil-disobedience in protest.
The latest IPCC report a says time is already running out and we need to change now to prevent drastic climate break down. Most of the world’s children are already breathing toxic air
If you’ve been sitting on the fence about taking stronger action in your life and church, maybe its time to hop down on the side of hope?
Theres so much you can do to bring the change we need to see.
Register as an Eco-Congregation and help us make the world a better place. Or let us know what you’re doing at home and in your congregation so we can share it to inspire others.
Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of their treasure what is new and what is old.”
Some years ago, I was at an international church gathering where we were challenged by daily bible studies on neglected parts of Scripture.
These particular ‘treasures’ immersed us in stories of violence and barely believable injustice.
We batted ideas around, but it was noticeable that one of our number, from Burma/Myanmar was very quiet.
Eventually, we were all longing to hear what he might have to say. When he did speak, he silenced us all. “That’s the way it is back home….”
As I’ve begun to get my teeth into Eco-Chaplaincy, at this time of high drama in the news, with a growing awareness of the urgency of action, so too, I’m rummaging around in the treasure-box of Christian scripture and tradition.
What is coming to light, is both how widely Christianity is equipped for catastrophic times…. and how universally that equipment is ignored, disregarded, ridiculed, or completely misunderstood. With Advent in sight, when lectionaries and other traditions entertain apocalyptic Bible readings, these previously quaint or ornamental texts of turmoil are beginning to assert their relevance, with language full or environmental and political upheaval.
When visiting congregations, I’ve been very open, both about the seriously grim prospects for climate change, as well as looking for ways to say, with eyes wide open, and with integrity ‘Halleluyah anyway’. As a movement, we are certainly a work in progress, but with great potential in shaping the witness of the churches in a time of threat without precedent. Because, without action, “that’s the way it’s going to be back home” … for our common home, the Earth.
love & peace,
Rev’d David J.M.Coleman