Theology and the environment

Ideas for Action – Theology and the environment

Some Green Theological Perspectives

Let there be PlantsChristian concern for the environment has become increasingly important in recent years. In part this is a response to the realisation of the detrimental impact that human activity is having on the environment, in part, because of the growing interest in green or eco-theology.

Both the Bible and Christian tradition have some vital and profound insights into care of what the world terms the ‘environment’ but which the Church understands as God’s creation. Approaching environmental issues through Christian ‘lenses’ offers valuable ethical and spiritual dimensions that may contribute to environmental work both within and outside the church. It is also an approach filled with hope. So often, environmental issues are dealt with against a background of fear and threat. We should stop doing activity ‘x’ because otherwise environmental problem ‘y’ will happen. Without minimising the gravity, scale or urgency of environmental issues, the starting point for caring for the Earth for Christians is as a proper response to a loving, creating God. Caring for creation is a key Christian task.

Exploring ‘green Christianity’ can be a positive, enjoyable and fulfilling part of Christian discipleship. As with all theology, Christian care for the environment needs to be rooted in a consideration of the Biblical heritage. This Ideas for Action introduces some of the ideas in the developing area of eco-theology. The ideas are intended to form a foundation on which local churches can base their work to care for God’s creation.

Download the latest version: Theology and the environment

To download a brief outline on a Christian understanding of God and Creation please click on the link: Evolving Christian understanding of God in Creation

Additional resources

Genesis Programme – the A Rocha Churches Programme
The Genesis Programme is A Rocha’s resource to help the church in the UK recapture God’s original commission for mankind to care for all of creation. The Churches programme aims to resource today’s church and impact the next generation of church leaders.

The Environment Sunday packs are available from A Rocha with a variety of themes: 2011 Just Food, 2010 What a Wildly Wonderful World, 2009 Hope for Planet Earth, 2008 Planetwise, 2005 Noah’s Ark: A Tale for our Times, 2004 Jesus and the Earth, 2003 The Bible and Creation and Celtic Christians and 2002 Healing the Land

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation have a good section on Christianity here and sections on other faiths and their commitment to environmental concerns.

The Bible Society has a publication called The Bible in Transmission, a publication distributed free to church leaders.

In the Summer 2008 edition, Chris Sunderland wrote an article called “Sinning against the earth?” examining our attitudes to our actions which impact on earth. The Summer 2006 edition was about sustainability. On their website you can view the Bible in Transmission articles on sustainability, by authors such as Jane Williams, John Houghton, Ian Hore-Lacey, Edward Echlin, Prof John Guillebaud. The Spring 2003 edition of Transmission was about the environment.

The Catholic Conservation Center (US) has a collection of writings about ecology and the environment from a variety of Catholic sources.

Christian Aid’s theological position on climate change is in the document All Creation Groaning:  A Theological Approach to Climate Change and Development by Paula Clifford.

Christian Ecology Link’s Keith Innes produces regular “green pointers for preachers” as a helpful guide to seeing where the lectionary readings point towards our responsibility for caring for creation.

Earthcare is a US organisation promoting creation stewardship within the Christian community. They have a list of books on environmental theology from different perspectives (US bias, and dated 2001).

Eco-Justice Ministries is an independent, ecumenical agency that helps churches answer the call to care for all of God’s creation, and develop ministries that are faithful, relevant and effective in working toward social justice and environmental sustainability. It is a US site linking ecological issues into the life of the church (US orientated, but nonetheless helpful). Peter Sawtell provides some helpful pointers in preaching, worship, education generally in the church and many other topics.

The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion regularly holds lectures and seminars which explore the interplay between science and religion. They publish the papers and other material on their website, including transcripts of the lectures and some in mp3 format.

The John Ray Initiative has a series of articles on the website which deal with some of the basic theological questions about caring from creation by authors such as Prof Sam Berry, John Houghton, John McKeown and Revd Margot Hodson. The briefing papers may be of interest.

Jubilee Centre (Cambridge, UK) has produced one of their Cambridge Papers on environmental issues called A Burning Issue by Robert White.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams gave a fascinating lecture in March 2005 linking ecology and economy, here in a speech on climate change to the Tyndall Centre in 2006, and here a speech to the UN climate talks in Bali in 2007. You can watch his New Year’s Day message ‘God doesn’t do waste’.

Sage Oxford has some helpful resources from Martin & Margot Hodson (Chaplain at Jesus College, Oxford) under the title “Christian perspectives on issues in the global environment

Tearfund’s theological perspective on creation care is available online: Why should Christians care for the environment?

The Theological Studies site has a helpful list of some articles that are available online, and others which aren’t, all linking Christianity and ecology. Ex: Steve Bishop article – Green Theology and Deep Ecology: New Age or New Creation?

Note on using the Ideas for Action

Ideas for Action have been designed to fit into church life and support and enhance church mission. They were designed collaboratively with churches to provide a resource that is not a textbook, but a toolkit, to suit all the different varieties of church life represented in the Eco-Congregation programme.

All congregations using our Ideas for Action should first register, and registered churches can also order printed copies. Find out how to register, or contact us if you’d like to know more.

All our resources may be freely copied and distributed within your church, but please accredit Eco-Congregation.