It has been a learning experience reflecting on our ecological situation while watching the succession of cyclones, floods and drought beset our state of Queensland.
As an observer of our ecological dilemmas and often guilt-ridden citizen I have spent too little time theologising about my relationship with the earth in which I live and it has only been in researching for this issue of Journey that I have begun to understand there are a variety of eco-theologies.
While Christians have traditionally assumed that we are the divinely appointed stewards of creation and alone the bearers of the image of God, Jason John’s contribution has helped me see that there are less familiar approaches which describe us as an integral part of the “web of life”, one species amongst many, different only in degree from the other animals, rather than being the pinnacle of creation.
The dominant stream of eco-theology in the western church including our Uniting Church is “stewardship” theology which accepts the understandings of Genesis 1-3, regardless of the historicity of the accounts of creation.
The emerging “biocentric” theologies emphasise that people are a part of creation and that while we may be the most self aware species, and the best able to relate to God, we are none-the-less creatures, genetically related to all other creatures.
Like so much of the diversity in our Uniting Church it can be challenging to hold stewardship and web of life theologies in tension but both have a strong theological basis and can equally be seen as valid, coherent systems.
Both approaches are inherent in the Uniting Church’s commitment to eco-justice, the practice of extending our concern for other people to a concern for the whole of creation.
Again I thank Jason John for reminding me that our Uniting Church is officially an eco-justice church, and has been since 1988 when the Assembly released a Statement to the Nation which said, “We affirm our belief that the natural world is God’s creation; good in God’s eyes, good in itself, and good in sustaining human life … We will seek to identify and challenge all structures and attitudes which perpetuate and compound the destruction of creation.”
The Queensland Synod is also an eco-justice Synod having acknowledged in 1990 that “the Synod’s responses to environmental destruction are imperative to its proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ in the 1990s” and urged all parishes to choose, implement and support at least one environmentally responsible activity within the church.
I pray we might actually do so.