Environmental Stewardship Commission

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

 

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Resolutions:

Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds


Resolution on Creation Season

 

Environmental Stewardship Resolution

Note: 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 The Spirituality of Food Production" passed at the 144th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota (October 26-27, 2001)

WHEREAS we believe that in God, Creator of all that is, and Jesus Christ, our teacher, and the Holy Spirit, our Counselor, lie the source, the reason, and the support of all that is contained in our lives on our Earth Home; 

The Bonding of Humanity, World, and God
by John G. Gibbs, PhD

Humanity, the material world, and God are closely inter-connected within biblical literature. Those bonds of interaction are the context and basis for "the spirituality of food production." Indeed, the claim that food production is a "spiritual" undertaking expresses several of those bonds of interaction.

Have you observered, for instance, that there is only one "image of God" within all creation? Only humanity was made to "image God," and that immediately carries the responsibility (not privilege) to live within the creation in a way that mirrors God's purposes for the creation. Our collective behavior within the world is "in the likeness" of Creator God if it "nurtures nature," so to speak, rather than tyrannizes over it. No fit gardener destroys the garden with domineering care-less actions. Ecological care-less-ness does not "image" the Creator's relationship to the creation. [Genesis 1:26 (and 1:26-28); Psalm 8:6-8]

So then, we need (and the ecosystem needs us) to produce food in accountability to God.

Careful stewardship of the material world is what "having dominion" means. It both respects the creative relation of God to the world, and nurtures our human "imaging" of that relationship. As the son is "in the likeness" of the father, so humanity's caring stewardship of the physical world is "in the likeness" of God the Creator's nurturing relation to the world. [Genesis 1:26; Genesis 5:3]

A second expression of the humanity-world-God interaction is to say: "The earth is the Lord's, and all that is in it" [Psalm 24:1]. There is only one ultimate "dominion" over the material world, and that is the sovereignty of God over the earth and all that is in it, including us. Whatever "dominion" humanity exercises is subordinate to the Lord's "dominion." We have no warrant for producing food in ways that damage or even destroy any part of the creation, ways that defy the Creator's will for harmony between humanity and the created order.

A third statement of these linkages comes in the Lord's Prayer. [Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4] If we pray "give us today our daily bread," we acknowledge our dependence upon both the God to whom we pray and the food/water (combined in bread) on which we depend, and which come ultimately from God. If we also pray that God's purposes be accomplished "on earth as it is in heaven," we acknowledge that God's purposes reach into earth no less than into heaven. People who pray to God are not authorized to get their "bread" just any old way, looking only to the bottom lines of food production companies, while forgetting long lines of malnourished or even starving humans, lines that stretch from a genetically modified now into a genetically depleted future of grave vulnerability.

A fourth set of interactions emerges in the picture of Christ as fulfilling the promise of Adam by being "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." [Romans 5:12-21; Colossians 1:15] The phrase "being only human" misses the point. The phrase forgets that humans are created in the image or likeness of God, but remembers only what the sequel to the second creation story shows [Genesis 3]: namely, that humanity's (Adam's) promise was frustrated by non-fulfillment.

When we look to Jesus, on the other hand, we see what it means to be fully human, we see our destiny fulfilled, and at the same time we see as much as we can who God is. The Jesus of the gospels is at home with birds and fields and trees, also with fish and seas. For Matthew, Jesus both preached hi great sermon and issued his Great Proclamation on a mountain rather than in a house of worship. [Matthew 5-7 and 21] The God of creation and covenant is Jesus' "Father." This set of images, expressed in this kind of language, combats dualisms between matter and spirit, between superior humanity and inferior material world, between human and Christian, between creation and Christ. That brings us to another set of relationships.

Fifth, the Holy Spirit is the Creator Spirit who moves us to be creators for God and neighbor in this world. The same Spirit who moved over the face of chaos at the start of it all [Genesis 1], was "poured out on all flesh" [Joel 2:28], was present also at Jesus' baptism [Mark 1:8], was present at the birth of the Church [Acts 1:8; 2:4ff], is present when we are being formed into "new creations" [II Corinthians 5:17], and is known as the Spirit of the Lord who brings both transforming freedom [II Corinthians 3:17-18] and the spiritual "fruits" of love, joy, and peace [Galatians 5:22]. However we produce our food, it needs to be somehow congruous with love, joy, and peace.

Creation and new creation are bound together in continuity by the one Spirit. The spiritual life is our life in community, not only in the Church (though God through the Spirit creates and sustains the Church), but also in other communities (political, social, economic, ecological) wherein the Creator Spirit is the indispensable Presence among us. The Spirit, like the "wind" (both sharing the same word in both Hebrew and Greek), is unseen. But there is a way to tell whether our lifestyles and methods of production express the will of the Creator, evidence the presence of God's Spirit, and thereby stand within the true (rather than false) prophetic tradition: "You will know them by their fruits [Matthew 7:16, 20].

Sixth, "eco-justice" is a term that links together land and labor. Eco-justice expresses the interactions discussed above. It thereby challenges all false dichotomies between labor and land, between people and place, between economy and ecology, between developed and developing worlds, or between immediate economic needs and long-term ecological balance. It is beyond the purpose of this article to discuss labor-management relations, central as they are to eco-justice. Suffice it now to say that the servant leader whom we meet in Philippians 2 is the paradigm of eco-justice between managers and laborers, betwen rich and poor, between empowered and disenfranchised peoples, between human actors constructing their history and the material world that was created to be a reminder of the Creator and not only a stage for the human story.

This can only be an introductory outline of interconnections between God, material world, and humanity, for there is more to explore. We conclude by returning to "the spirituality of food production." "Spirituality" presupposes and expresses God's Spirit. The Creator Spirit conjoins humanity, humanity's labor, food, and all the God-given prerequisites of food (such as land, water, air, and atmosphere). When we begin with that Spirit, we end up in a very different place that if we had started with the so-called "spirit of the times."

Because the material world is our home, given to us by the Creator, and because this home evidences in telling wordless ways "the glory of God" [Psalm 19:1-4], we can neither plan, nor harvest, nor produce, nor eat as if God, material world, and humanity were not bonded together at the creation. All our productions, including food production, affect the material world upon which they depend. All our productions also either fracture or confirm the image of God in us, and either dishonor or honor the Creator who brought all that is into being. [One of the oldest Christian confessions of faith (I Corinthians 8:6) affirms connections between God the Father, the Lord, Jesus Christ, God's people ("we"), and "all things." From the outset our faith has seen the bonds between God, Christ, Spirit, and material world.]

Copyright Statement


To other resolutions of the
Environmental Stewardship Commission
To the Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds
To the Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds


John G. Gibbs is a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN. He originally wrote these thoughts in 2004. A longer version of this essay is available online as "From Creation-Faith to Ecological Responsibility," posted at the NACCE website. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:


MEESC
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA


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This page last updated 2006-11-15.

 

 
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