Theologians warn of 'false gospel' on environment
In an effort to refute what they call a "false gospel" and to change destructive attitudes and actions concerning the environment, a group of theologians convened by the
National Council of Churches USA, today released an open letter calling on Christians to repent of "our social and ecological sins" and to reject teachings that suggest humans are "called" to exploit the Earth without care for how their behaviour impacts the rest of God's creation.
The statement, God's Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States, points out that there is both an environmental and a theological crisis that must be addressed.
"We have listened to a false gospel that we continue to live out in our daily habits ñ a gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our own ends alone," says the statement. "This false gospel still finds its proud preachers and continues to capture its adherents among emboldened political leaders and policy makers."
The statement calls on Christians to take two steps to enable socially just and ecologically sustainable communities for future generations: first, to "repent of our sins, in the presence of God and one another," and, second, to pursue, "with God's help, a path different from our present course."
In its call to repentance, the statement confesses that, "we have abused and exploited the Earth and people on the margins of power and privilege, altering climates, extinguishing species, and jeopardizing Earth's capacity to sustain life as we know and love it." It goes on to identify eight norms to guide us on a new environmental path: justice, sustainability, bio-responsibility, humility, generosity, frugality, solidarity and compassion.
The NCC's Eco-Justice Working Group decided to ask leading theologians to gather in the autumn of 2004 at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, to work on a theological statement to counter arguments that the environment is not an issue that should concern Christians.
"We will begin circulating this statement to all of our member churches and others to stress the importance and urgency to begin to change how we care for God's creation," said the Rev Dr Bob Edgar, NCC general secretary. "From Genesis to Revelation it is clear that God has given us the responsibility to care and seek justice for all of God's creation and we want to make sure that people in the pews are equipped to be ambassadors for this message and good stewards of the environment."