More on climate change and the church

by Richard on September 11, 2009

Following on from yesterday’s post, the Guardian has another letter on the subject of the role of faith communities in responding to climate change.

My experience suggests Lord May has a challenge on his hands if he expects most church leaders to play a role in mobilising people to take action against global warming (Report, 7 September). At a local “Churches Together” meeting on Monday, when I suggested that our collective witness could include facing up to environmental challenges, I was firmly put in my place. It seems half the world can disappear underwater so long as a few people locally “turn to Christ” which, apparently, is our true priority. Help!

Rev Mike Claridge
Vicar and Methodist minister, West Bromwich

(As it goes, I know Mike a bit, though I’ve not seen him in years. We trained at the same college. But that’s by the by)

Sadly, I suspect he’s right. There are too many Christians who see mission in purely individual, save-the-soul-nothing-else-matters, terms.

But they’re wrong.

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, famously said that there was ‘no holiness but social holiness’. The simple fact is that climate change poses a significant threat to the well-being of millions of people around the world.

A Christian witness that refuses to take that seriously is no witness at all.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 09.11.09 at 10:57 am

“Wesley identifies our misuse of the earth, our seeing it apart from its existence in God and apart from God’s life in it, as ‘practical atheism,’ a sin and offense against the Creator whom we are called to see ‘in the glass of every creature.’ Not only humanity images God, therefore, but every creature reflects the love and care of the Creator. And the unity of creation is grasped in the way in which God surrounds and sustains us all. When we deal with the earth and its resources, and when we deal with our fellow creatures, we are dealing with God.

“For Wesley, therefore, sanctifying faith can in no wise be divorced from care for the environment. To see things truly, to be ‘pure in heart,’ is to find ourselves again ‘in the family of nature,’ to overcome the ignorance and indifference that have made us ’strangers’ to that which sustains us, and joyfully to take up the spiritual-physical disciplines and sacrifices necessary not only to protect the earth but to keep covenant with generations yet unborn. For ’social holiness’ today includes not only our link to all present inhabitants of the planet but to future generations for whom, as stewards, we hold the earth in trust. There can be no holiness today that is not social holiness shaped by this task, and no spirituality not nurtured and emboldened by the Creator Spirit.”

Theodore Runyon, The New Creation: John Wesley’s Theology Today (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 207.


phillip mutchell 09.11.09 at 1:05 pm

Isn’t dear old Mike missing the point here, let’s assume his West Bromwich crowd are mostly working (though being in the West Midlands more likely non) working class, then they will have imbibed that required scepticism, which as Cioran observed, “is the sadism of embittered souls”, towards any project or scheme emanating from a Government which is keen on continuing Thatcher’s policy of moving the burden of taxation from the very rich to the rest, and one way of ensuring this is to empower local councils to raise their more revenues through other avenues. Is anyone that foolish as to believe this earth is not completely buggered? Is China, Russia and every other country racing to acquire the material wealth of the developed world really going to agree to curtail their emissions, we well know the answer is an emphatic No. So Mike, chill baby, and enjoy the Orchestra on this sublime Titanic while you earnestly hope those fervent Dispensationalists are mysteriously right and planet earth is about to get a cosmic make-over. A short but personal note, will all you bullies who twist up the scriptures for your pet projects learn some humility, it says ‘receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls’ not the earth, which is subject to futility awaiting the manifestation of the children of God.
‘Look with sharp eyes upon this rumpus path:
the affairs of this world are all terminal.” (Hafez)


phil_style 09.11.09 at 1:10 pm

Ignoring the possible vagaries associated with CO2/climate change. Is the attitude still widespread that “saving souls” is the only priority, at the expense even of the environment? How does localised environmental care feature in christian debates? Would these same people that refuse to engage in climate change action use the “environment” argument to protect the pollution of their local swimming spot, or their pleasant views of the English countryside?


DH 09.16.09 at 2:35 pm

Richard, but there is growing number of people who solely focus on climate change and other things without recognizing “Except A MAN be Born Again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Mission is BOTH community AND individual. One cannot deny or diminish the importance of each and every one of us to be in a relationship with Christ and to be as close to Him as possible through personal and social Holiness. One can’t diminish the community and one cannot diminish the individual.

Also mission which includes individual Holiness is not mutually-exclusive toward supporting the environment. Also, one doesn’t have to adhere to the theory of manmade climate change to recognize the importance that society must take care of the environment. Like I have said even though I don’t believe in man-made climate change I do believe that we need to limit harmful gasses into the air. We should care for the air, water, soil and all of creation as best we can and also in such a way that we don’t create more poor people as well. These two things are not mutually-exclusive. Salvation of souls and care for society are not mutually-exclusive and BOTH are important. It seems one is trying to diminish the importance of saving souls when that is important. At the same time people are focusing on saving souls which is good but they need to add in equal focus care for society.


Richard 09.16.09 at 3:29 pm

Welcome back, DH. I’ve missed you. Really.

But I don’t feel like arguing.


DH 09.16.09 at 4:19 pm

Richard, I’m not trying to argue. I’m just pointing out that these things are not mutually-exclusive. Support for the environment and saving of souls are not mutually-exclusive. Therefore those who don’t help the environment but focus on saving souls are wrong in focus and those who focus on the environment without acknowledging the saving of souls are wrong in focus as well. The same goes for individual and community. There is a balance and Scripture states the balance. That isn’t something to argue but goes in line from one of my famous quotes: “It is of great importance for humanity to recognize that one should not react in such a way that the reaction is just as bad as the problem being reacted from. This philosophy, however, should not taken in such a way as to diminish the importance of punishment of the perpetrator.”

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