Churches’ “inaudible whisper” against environmental destruction
CHRISTIAN ECOLOGY LINK PRESS RELEASE 6 March 2011.
The churches have offered no more than an “inaudible whisper” against the destruction of the natural world, according to the Anglican vicar from Sussex who presented the BBC ‘s ‘How to live a simple life’, and ‘Around the World in 80 Faiths’. Speaking at a day conference in London on 5 March, organised by Christian Ecology Link ( CEL ), Peter Owen Jones said that “the greatest issue of our age” was largely being ignored. He felt rich creation-centred theology material was available “but it has not reached the pews or the house of bishops”. He told an ecumenical audience of 150 people from around England at St John’s Anglican Church, Waterloo , that CEL is “a community living out of deep ecological respect” and “I admire each and every one of you”.
Owen Jones suggested “we need to jump the fence we have built between ourselves and the natural world”. He was critical of the “ruthless anthropocentrism” which kept the churches fixated on human concerns, and of “the damaging and outmoded model of authority”, making it difficult to “put new wine into old wineskins”. He particularly criticised the notion that Christians should be stewards of the natural world, a role which made no room for love. “Placing ourselves above the natural world is madness” he said, “and it is in communion with our brothers and sisters in the natural world that we will realise a dazzling future”. In comparison a focus on the ‘communion of saints’ is largely irrelevant to addressing the “greatest issue of our age”.
Suggestions Owen Jones made for action included developing church festivals – such as harvest festival – which “synchronise our lives with the life of the planet”. He described Lent as “one of the most counter-cultural festivals we have”, where abstinence stands against consumerism. He felt that sacred sites in Britain ‘s countryside could be identified and cherished, and was a founder of the Arbory Trust, the first Christian charity to offer woodland burial. He supports a move towards vegetarianism and grows his own vegetables.
The CEL day also explored green economics with Tim Cooper, a former Chair of CEL and now Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption at Nottingham Trent University . He felt that Christian ethics challenge the assumptions of traditional economics, that more is better and that existing market structures are adequately dealing with environmental problems. At grassroots level, he pushed for more Fairtrade churches, Christian alternatives to consumerism at Christmas, and restraint during Lent.
CEL ‘s current chair, Paul Bodenham, called for more Christians and Christian churches to become CEL members. He felt that various CEL initiatives, such as ecocell – a ‘journey in carbon-free discipleship’ – were prophetic opportunities for green Christians. ” CEL is a movement”, he said, “which has a sense that the Christian gospel has something important to say about the state of the world” and this “has not really been articulated by the churches”.
“CEL has been a seed for 30 years, but maybe the time has come to truly start to grow and to bear fruit.” Peter Owen Jones
“We need to jump the fence we have built between ourselves and the natural world.” Peter Owen Jones
“CEL is a movement which has a sense that the Christian gospel has something important to say about the state of the world and this has not really been articulated by the churches.” Paul Bodenham
“Traditional economics doesn’t really deal with generosity and tends to assume that more is better.” Tim Cooper
THE TEXT OF THE TALK GIVEN BY OWEN JONES : Has anyone seen a butterfly yet