Shield of the Episcopal Church of the United States Environmental Stewardship Commission
Shield of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota
Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota

Environmental Stewardship Resolution

The following is offered for your information and comment.  On this and similar pages the Environmental Stewardship Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota intends to offer thoughts and ideas on how any congregation or individual with a congregation can implement portions of the Resolution.

From "A Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds, and Church-Related Activities"
passed at the 143rd Annual Convention (October 27-29, 2000)

WHEREAS we believe in God as the Creator, Source, and End of all things, who forms the Earth and calls human beings to be created co-creators in harmony with the Earth's well-being, and
WHEREAS environmental degradation and global warming threaten the Earth's well-being, and
WHEREAS our structures and activities are a reflection of our awareness of Creation, our sense of a peaceful and serene world and our feelings of mutual respect with and for our brothers and sisters, and
WHEREAS our church buildings, grounds, and related activities are outward and visible signs of our inward and spiritual grace of commitment to God’s purposes in harmony with all Creation,

Thoughts on this Preamble
by John Gibbs, Ph.D.

There is only one ultimate "dominion" over the created order, and this is it: "The earth is the Lord's, and all that is in it" (Psalm 24:1).  The singular sovereignty of Creator God over all the creation is a constant given throughout biblical literature.

For that reason all we humans bear special responsibility for the fate of the ecological creation-community to which we belong. We were never given a blank check by the Creator to plunder earth as if its only value would be "resources" for our use.  Whatever "dominion" humanity exercises is always subordinate to the sovereignty of the Lord "in all the earth" (Psalm 8; Genesis 1). We are called to live "in the image of God" at the very moment that this special responsibility for the earth is laid upon us (Genesis 1:26).  There is to be no "dominion" that mars that "image."

In particular the Church community and all Christians personally are accountable for the effects of their life on the physical earth.  Anybody who prays the Lord's Prayer has to know that God's will is not confined to heaven, nor to our inner individuality: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.".  Once God had brought a universe into existence, made humans, and got Christians, God's will did not take flight into airy realms beyond tangible reach, while leaving earth to its own devices. Earth remains object and interest of God's will, for that will energizes "on earth as it is in heaven."

The good news of our faith addresses relationships-not only within families, nor only within communities, but also within the whole creation. No less than birth, new birth is impossible for one person alone. No less than creation, new creation establishes relationships within the cosmic context that God made

"All real living is meeting," wrote Martin Buber.  "Personal reality is social, not atomistic," says Daniel Maguire,  for: "By relationships are we individuals made, and by relationships will we be saved." Buber and Maguire both emphasize particularly the intimate bonds between God's people and God's earth, their home.

Creation-community and Church-community are bound together.  As the apostle Paul saw it, Creation and Church are conjoined in the labor pains of redemption (Romans 8:22-23). Christ does not work through individualistic vacuums toward "pie in the sky by and by."  The cosmic Christ accomplishes personal redemption only within the dual context of  humanity being redeemed and world being recreated.

Consequently the fate of the earth and all its creatures, and the issues of climate change and the extent to which it may be caused by human activity – such matters are at the core of Christian responsibility.  Environmental ethics is not a dispensable option – not for those who believe that "the earth is the Lord's, and all that is in it."

Copyright statement

John Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologan, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN.   He originally wrote this report in 1998.  He and we welcome your comments.
Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the web site.

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