In February, Bishop Andrew Asbil met with the diocese’s Creation Matters committee as it was finalizing the Diocesan Policy Paper on Environmental Issues. The paper was received by Diocesan Council in March. In it, the Creation Matters committee connects creation care with the Church’s mission, highlights the urgency for action, and proposes a direction for making creation care a priority across the diocese. The following is a synopsis of the paper.
God’s care for creation, and God’s call for humankind to participate in care for creation, is woven throughout scripture, from Genesis onward. Moreover, both Old and New Testaments present us with a vision of not only human life, but the life of all God’s creatures, as mutual and interdependent. This biblical emphasis on the interrelationship of the created order is echoed in traditional Indigenous understandings that describe land, water, plant and animal life as “all my relations.” The redemptive work of Christ’s death and resurrection is extended through and beyond humanity to encompass the whole of creation. The Biblical vision never considers humankind as separated from the rest of creation – whether in the original creation, in our life here on earth, or in the ultimate fulness of God’s kingdom.
Sadly, as a Church, we have largely lost this sense of connectedness and care for the wider creation. We are disconnected from each other and from the land and its creatures. The Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford calls for a “theological reset” that recovers our place in creation, our understanding of what it is to be made in the image of God and realigns our consumption patterns and lifestyle choices in faithfulness to God, creation and our neighbour.
The world is at a strange and awesome tipping point, what Christians since ancient times have termed a kairos. On the one hand, with only 12 years to transition to a zero-emissions economy, the need for massive change could not be more urgent, as the IPCC report (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) of October 2018 indicated. Climate change, pollution and habitat loss are all critical factors. Biodiversity is dropping precipitously, erosion of agricultural land has made feeding the world’s people less and less possible, and our social and political systems are wholly inadequate to resolve these problems. In this apocalyptic present, the Church cannot preach the Good News of Christ while ignoring the imminent end of the planet as our habitat. None of our activities can continue without mindfully considering our opportunity to model God’s commandment to care for creation.
On the other hand, there are voices rising to end conventional thinking and align our present with a viable future – voices of defiance and courage.
The Diocese of Toronto has an opportunity to speak with a voice of faith in this dark time. We have an opportunity to model a theology that recognizes our connectedness with creation, and to align ourselves with Indigenous peoples seeking to respect the land on which we all live. We must model a world in which consumption is minimized and relationships are nurtured, in which we stop burning carbon and spreading pesticides, in which we offer places for people to gather and organize structures of promise.
Anglicans in our diocese are already responding to the call to care for creation in a variety of ways. Yet, despite all that has been accomplished over the past decade, much of our progress has been piecemeal. Creation care is still all too often considered an “add-on” to the work of the Church instead of an integral part of God’s call to us. Nor do our current efforts match the urgency of the environmental situation facing us.
The Creation Matters committee has identified several priorities for action moving forward, some of which we can accomplish on our own. Others will need the collaboration of other departments of the diocese. They include:
- Building a network of “Green Anglicans” across the diocese for sharing information, activities and best practices, and creating volunteer congregational consultant teams to assist parishes.
- Improving awareness and accessibility of resources for parishes to reduce their environmental footprint, perhaps adopting a “Green Parish” accreditation program similar to that used in the Diocese of Niagara.
- Adopting a creation care lens for all decisions taken at the diocesan level, including decisions made on property, investment, event-planning, travel, and formation of clergy and laity.
- Encouraging and equipping Anglicans in the diocese to join with other dioceses, faith and community groups and Indigenous peoples in advocating for robust environmental policies at every level.
These entail significant changes cutting across all our activities as Church and as individuals. In adopting them, we have an opportunity to bring people together to respond to a situation of real urgency, and to make a real difference. The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.