Church leaders

Have you read the report of the St Pauls’s Institute on Value and values?  I bet you haven’t, even though it has been in the news quite a lot.

Archbisop Rowan Williams’s foreword contains the following words;

An ethical approach to economics requires us to move away from the illusion that
economics can be considered separately from questions of the health and wellbeing
of the society we inhabit. It also involves recognising that we exist in a world
of materially limited resources, so that environmental degradation has to be taken
into account in any assessment of the cost of projects or transactions.

I suspect that getting this right would in itself introduce into the language of
economics a sense that it couldn’t be only about the mechanics of generating
money and might help keep issues of ethics, justice and trust in perspective.
So I welcome the continuing focus that St Paul’s Institute brings to these issues
by providing a challenging and well-resourced space for conversation and I wish
the Institute every success in this new phase of its work.

The report is worth a read.

Will the St Paul’s Institute prepare a report on the Assisi legacy?

Where is the voice of the Church on the damage that we are doing to the world around us?

Searching the Church of England’s website for anything on the natural environment I find the following, also from Archbishop Williams:

“For the Church of the 21st century, good ecology is not an optional extra but a matter of justice. It is therefore central to what it means to be a Christian”

…which sounds jolly good, very good indeed,  but I can’t find much else.  It’s odd, isn’t it, that many of us regard the protection of other living things on Earth as a moral imperative but we rarely see the Church of England saying anything similar in the same places or any other places.  I can’t find the Church of England responding to government consultations on biodiversity anywhere on Defra’s website.  Where is the Church’s moral position on the reduction of life on Earth?

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17 Replies to “Church leaders”

      1. I thought Hoopoes were what Vicars knocked their croquet balls through! (sorry Mark, couldn't resist)

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  1. I looked on the Catholic Churches web-site (England and Wales) and there is not much there either although a document was published several years ago ('Call of Creation') which argues for a more caring attitude towards the environment including bodiversity. Nice sounding words but, as with the CoE, not that much evidence of them being put into action in defence of biodivesity (although a bit better with regards to climate change to be fair).
    Although major players, the Catholic Church and the CoE are but two of many Christian denominations and I suspect that some evangelical groups may even be 'anti environment'. Certainly in the US, I think, there is a strong association between the 'evangelical right' and climate change denial, resistance to federal wildlife protection laws and so on. I am not a theologist but perhaps this comes back to Genesis and the idea that God gave us dominion over the beasts of the earth?
    Clearly religion informs the lives and opinions of huge numbers of people around the World including many political leaders, so there is perhaps a great need to influence the views of the teachers and leaders of these religions (Christian, Moslem, Hindu...) towards a greater understanding of the value of biodiversity (moral and economic) and the need to protect it.

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  2. I support what you say Mark. The "church" and that includes most of the main denominations, is to me, terribly introspective. It should be "up there" ahead of the politicians, providing leadership on the great issues of our time namely the future of this planet. This includes in particular the steady degrading and disappearance of our natural world and biodiversiy, the ever increasing human populaltion and the rich versus poor debate which has recently been brought to its attention.

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  3. By The Church do you mean the Church of England or Christians of all denominations and none? There are Christian organisations and initiatives that care for the environment 'A Rocha' and 'Eco Congregations' are the first to spring to mind, but they are generally ecumenical. Some Christian development charities, notably 'Tear Fund' also play an important role in highlighting environmental issues. I do, however, agree that it is no easier to engage Christians than the rest of society and, being a Christian myself, I do try. I find this sad because as care for the environment is so bound up with fighting poverty and injustice I feel that it should be a priority for every Christian. In defence of the Church in the UK they do not have the attitude of the American Religious Right who seem to think that environmentalists are the spawn of the Devil!

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  4. Two difficulties in trying to put the environment on the Church agenda are 1] Vicars are pretty much autonomous within their Parishes and 2] the Church as a Parish institution is run by volunteers. Unless the Vicar or a substantial number of the PCC have a personal interest in the environment, its unlikely that the subject will ever be on any agenda. For some bizarre reason many of those involved in the running of the Church at a grass roots level [no pun intended] appear not to see any connection between christianity and the natural world. I had first hand experience of this and my saga was published in Natur Cymru No 18 Spring 2006, and also in the Western Mail. I hoped by sharing my experiences I might improve the future for wildlife – oh so optimistic!

    There are some Church Guidelines for managing Churchyards as wildlife friendly places but they are now very old and I suspect few Parishes even know they exist. A rather ground breaking scheme in Shropshire and Herefordshire called The Living Churchyard had many successes – but as with any initiative it needed constant attention and drive, plus constant access to funding. Some Wildlife Trusts run projects involving Churchyard wildlife. And there were several other [national] schemes – mostly concerned with managing cemetaries in cities.

    Although there is no doubt that direction from the top is almost totally lacking and more guidance/directives from Diocese down would shake a few cages, it is equally important to recognise the practical difference that could be made by influencing PCC’s and Vicars

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  5. Worth remembering that Adam was a conservationist, put in the Garden of Eden by God to look after his created world. It was only after the fall of man chronicled in the book of Genesis that we got gamekeepers!

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  6. You should read an excellent book by my friend Rev Dave Bookless, 'Planetwise' http://www.arocha.org/gb-en/resources/1663-DSY.html. Informed sources tell me that some prominent US evangelical leaders are starting to get the message on creation care. For my forthcoming sabbatical I'm planning to review the contribution of faith communities to saving nature.

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    1. Simon - interesting thank you. Write a Guest blog here when you have done your sabbatical, and thanks for the book recommendation.

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