Church in Minnesota
Environmental Stewardship Reports
The following report was provided by the Rev John G. Gibbs of the Environmental
Stewardship Commission. John attended as the commission's representative.
STRANDS IN THE WEB OF LIFE
Montreat, NC - August 8-12, 1998
With deep gratitude to our Episcopal Environmental Stewardship Commission
for underwriting part of the costs of my participating in this conference,
I want to bring back to you some of the emphases of, and resource materials
for, this informative ecumenical gathering.
I. Emphases: Three
major strands in our caring for "the web of life" were emphasized,
namely: ecology, peace, and justice.
Commitment to stewardship of our fragile environment requires our participation
in all 3 of these complicated areas of work and study. Underlining the
long-term nature of such a commitment, one speaker commented: we are planting
acorns, not Zucchinis.
Ecology is a recent science
that coordinates findings of separate scientific disciplines to formulate
a unified view of life processes and their interdependence. That is complicated
enough, one might say. But ecology does not in fact stand alone. What we
do or fail to do in areas of peace and justice impacts the environment.
Human community or lack of it is part of our world's ecology.
Given the complexityboth
of the web of life and of any effort to care for it, we in the Church can
become effective only when we think and act cooperatively
with other bodies in society: political, social, economic; both official
and independent foundations and societies. That
was the most persistent theme of the conference, repeated
in one workshop after another and by one plenary speaker after another.
There is correspondence between
the complexity of ecology and the complexity of responsible ecological
Our ecological faith can
bear fruit only as we work and
research in concert with fellow human beings who share ecological commitments.
one hand, our faith is to be nourished through meditation,
biblical studies, and other practices of spirituality. What is distinctive
in the Church's ecological theology and Christology is to be emphasized
as our unique contribution to ecological ethics. (My own lifework has majored
in this.) And on the other hand,
to the extent that "faith without works is dead" our faith reaches out
to others beyond the Church in order to become effective partners with
them in ecological caring for the web of life.
In accordance with this understanding the conference included expertise
in areas beyond spirituality and biblical/theological studies.
Among the plenary speakers was an advisor to the World Bank on issues of
"environmentally sustainable development." Another is a Congresswoman who
serves on Agriculture and Budget Committees in the United States House
of Representatives. Another was a delegate to the Kyoto =
Environmental Summit. A workshop on toxic waste was led by the Coordinator
of a Tri-State Environmental Council (OH,WV,PA), and she has received awards
from Greenpeace, Mother Jones, and Time magazine for her advocacy work
with local groups. A workshop on energy efficiency ("Win-Win Solution for
the Global Warming Threat") was led by a retired Professor of Electrical
Engineering. The workshop "Ecology 101: Scientific Facts and Perspectives"
was led by a PhD in Biology who also has become an ordained Presbyterian
pastor. Another workshop was led by an American Indian co-founder of a
Center for Community Action.
Our EESC cannot, then, practice ecological ethics by confining its goals
to spirituality and education within congregations and judicatories of
the faithful. Creation cannot be restored only by prayer and a spirituality
that is "safe" from opposition. If we heed the main thrust of this conference,
which was sponsored both by Presbyterians for Restoring Creation and by
the Eco-Justice Working Group of the National Council of Churches of Christ,
then we in the Episcopal Church will also be thoroughly interdisciplinary,
ecumenical, and community-oriented in our "environmental stewardship."
We will welcome partnership with all stewards of the web of life, whether
inside the Church or also beyond it.
Unfortunately I could not buy out the bookstore and bring it back with
me. They did not have a list of books included. So I scanned through the
displays, and surfaced for air with a few items that seemed to me most
useful. Some items fit neatly into only one of the following 4 categories,
others fit well into more than one category. To these findings I have occasionally
added materials from my own library.
A. Spirituality and Worship Resources.
B. Climate Change (or
Belden C. Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert
and Mountain Spirituality (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998). This is the
book that I most want, once I can buy it at 20% off at a seminary bookstore.
He is both a fine story-teller and a backpacker who lives in St. Louis.
There he is Prof. of Theological Studies and American Studies at St. Louis
University. "Being saved by the things that ignore us," and thereby learning
apatheia, is one of his themes. Another is his caveat against fantacizing
or romanticizing desert or mountain. But a therapy may occur there "that
doubles as worship." He can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com.
Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (NY: Ballantine, 1981).
This excellent introduction to desert spirituality has for years been a
prized book in my collection.
Larry L. Rasmussen, Earth Community, Earth Ethics (Orbis,
1996). Winner of the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in 1997, and thus a second
Ron Sider, Cup of Water, Bread of Life (Zondervan). Sider
is President of Evangelicals for Social Action (10 E. Lancaster Ave., Wynnewood,
PA 19096-3495; FAX, 1-610-649-8090; 1-800-650-6600), also author of Rich
Christians in an Age of Hunger. I found his view of evangelism to be
problematically aggressive. But he has gathered stories of life-changing
ministries led by Christians around the world who have overcome one-sided
faith and thus have combined evangelism and social action.
Richard Cartwright Austin, Baptized Into Wilderness: A Christian
Perspective on John Muir (PO Box 331, Abingdon, VA 24210: Creekside
Press, 1987; E-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org);
also: Beauty of the Lord: Awakening the Senses (same, 1988), which
explores the aesthetics of Jonathan Edwards. Austin's Environmental
Theology includes 2 more volumes. I recommend all 4 volumes highly,
having been editor for these. Austin has been a Presbyterian pastor in
ravaged coalfields of Appalachia, and he organized Citizens to Abolish
Strip Mining to get federal control over strip mining of coal. He participates
in an organic farming network. Also he organized the Coalition of American
Electric Consumers for conservation and utility rate reform. In him spirituality
and social action are admirably conjoined.
Biblical studies that explore creation, time and space, even "trees." Belden
Lane, "The Tree as Giver of Life: A Metaphor in Pastoral Care," Journal
of Pastoral Care (Spring 1991), 15-22. See also R. C. Austin,
for the Land: Nature in the Bible.
Theological studies, conversations between theologians and scientists,
and some autobiographical statements by scientists:
David & Eileen Spring (eds.), Ecology and Religion in History
Torchbook, 1974), 174pp.
Ian G. Barbour at Carleton College (ed.), Earth Might Be Fair:
Reflections on Ethics, Religion, and Ecology (Prentice-Hall, 1972),
168pp.; also a book he authored, Issues in Science and Religion (Prentice-Hall,
all books by Loren Eiseley (The Immense Journey, The Unexpected
Universe, Night Country, and others).
Rene Dubos, The Torch of Life: Continuity in Living Experience
(a Credo Perspectives book; Simon and Schuster, 1962), 140pp.
William. G. Pollard (an Episcopal priest and physicist), Physicist
and Christian (Seabury, 1961), 178pp.
Hans Kueng (Roman Catholic theologian), Global Responsibility:
In Search of a New World Ethic (Crossroad, 1991; Preface by HRH The
Duke of Edinburgh, KG !), 158pp.
Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations
(Harper Torchbook, 1971), 257pp.
books by William Temple, Anglican.
C. Sustainable Development
& "Simple Living"
Climate Change: State of Knowledge (October, 1997; 19pp.) Published
by the Executive Office of the President's Office of Science and Technology
Policy, Washington, DC 20502; 202-395-7347.
U.S. Global Change Research Program
(established in 1989).
In 1990 the UN General Assembly established the Intergovernmental
Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC),
and the agreement there reached was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1992.
In 1988 the UN established the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Vera K. White, It's God's World: Christians, the Environment
and Climate Change (A five-session study for congregations published
by The Eco-Justice Working Group of NCCC). $1.00@, no date. (Order from:
Environmental Justice Resources, NCCC, PO Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515; 1-800-762-0968
"The Coming Climate," Scientific American, May 1997, pp. 79-83.
Authored by 3 scientists who are members of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change.
Environmental Justice Notes, free 4pp. Resource List from the Eco-Justice
Working Group of the NCCC at Elkhart, IN address above.
Ross Gelbspan, The Heat Is On (Addison-Wesley, 1997)
D. Community Actions.
Alternatives for Simple Living (Equipping people of faith to challenge
consumerism, live justly and celebrate responsibly since 1973). 1-800-821-6153;
Fax 712-274-1402. E-mail: AltSimLiv@aol.com. Alternatives, PO Box 2857,
Sioux City, IA 51106.
Earthkeeping News, a newsletter published by the North American
Coalition for Christianity and Ecology, PO Box 40011, St. Paul, MN 55104;
612-698-0349. The 3-person editorial board includes 2 Minnesotans: Elizabeth
Dyson who is Episcopalian, and Leslie Reindl who is Presbyterian.
Richard Cartwright Austin, Reclaiming America: Restoring Nature
to Culture, 243pp. (Creekside Press, PO Box 331, Abingdon, VA 24210)
"To reform a society that is overwhelming the natural environment, Austin
proposes constitutional rights for species and living systems, land reform
to assure access to the earth, revitalized agriculture to support more
people and conserve ecosystems, and a Christian communion that embraces
all creatures loved by our Lord."
Sallie McFague, Super, Natural Christians: How we should love
nature (Fortress, 1997)
Ron Sider's books and articles
Community, Earth Ethics (Orbis, 1996).
Earthaven, an Ecovillage, PO Box 1107,
Black Mountain, NC 28711; e-mail to: email@example.com
a. Clean Water Network,
A Prescription for Clean Water: How to Meet the Goals of the Clean Water
Act (1200 New York Avenue NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005), 29pp.
with Appendix of "State Specific Fact Sheets", (October, 1997; CWN). CWN
is a national alliance of 1,000+ organizations working together for cleaner
b. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Citizen Lake-monitoring
Program needs volunteers to help sample quality of lake water. See MPCA,
520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155-4194; 1-800-657-3864, Jennifer
Klang who is coordinator of the lake monitoring program.
a. Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Inc.
(150 S. Washington Street, Suite 300, PO Box 6806, Falls Church, VA 22040;
703-237-2249). The Executive Director of this group is Lois Gibbs, of Love
Canal fame. They publish Everyone's Backyard, of which the Summer
1998 issue featured an article on "The Clean Air for Children's Health
Campaign" in North Carolina.
b. Lois Gibbs, Dying From Dioxin: A Citizen's
Guide to Reclaiming Our Health and Rebuilding Democracy (pub. by CHEJ,
which formerly was CCHW, Citizens
Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste). E-mail: CCHW@essential.org.
3. Other Political Action:
The above sources instance community organizing for political action
on behalf of the environment. See the climate change strategy packet
from the NCCC's Eco-Justice Working Group (address above, or 1-800-762-0968).
League of Conservation Voters, 1707
L Street NW, Suite 750, Washington, DSC 20036;email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
LCV has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since
POCLAD, Program on Corporations,
Law & Democracy at PO Box 246, South Yarmouth, MA 02664-0246.
The Rev. John Gibbs, a retired
theologan, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN.
wrote this report in 1998. He and we welcome your comments.
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