Bishop Eaton Issues Statement on Our Calling to Care for Creation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) members pray and care for God’s marvelous creation every day. We also join the global Christian community each Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 to mark the Season of Creation. This season starts with a World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, an invitation to focus our worship, our stewardship and action on honoring God by honoring and caring for God’s handiwork.
As members of the ELCA, we share a love and a responsibility for all that God has made. In our social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice,” we affirm that “made in the image of God, we are called to care for the earth as God cares for the earth. God’s command to have dominion and subdue the earth is not a license to dominate and exploit. Human dominion, a special responsibility, should reflect God’s way of ruling as a shepherd king who takes the form of a servant, wearing a crown of thorns.” We confess the ways in which we have been negligent in our responsibility to God and to all of creation and commit ourselves to exercising our stewardship by upholding the integrity of creation and safeguarding those most vulnerable to environmental degradation.
On this year’s World Day of Prayer, I am mindful that our warming climate is creating unprecedented crises for millions. These include increased food insecurity, forced migration, natural disasters, civil conflict and water scarcity. From across all communities most affected by climate change, women and girls are disproportionately affected. According to ACT Alliance, these communities suffer huge losses that extend beyond monetary losses to noneconomic impacts such as loss of lives, land, territory, language and culture. Our response to these losses has focused on the neglect and carelessness, both in private industry and in government regulation, that have contributed to these changes. An honest accounting also recognizes that we all participate, both as consumers and investors, in economies that make intensive and insistent demands for energy. We are part of the solution.
In September, the ELCA will mark the Season of Creation by taking a leadership role during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Together with The Lutheran World Federation and other partners, we will host a Talanoa Dialogue to accompany those most affected by climate change. The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change states: “Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good … sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling.”
The focus of these dialogues will be “Loss and Damage” and “Just Transition” related to climate change. The former will explore the suffering that climate change is causing right now and seek new ways to learn from and accompany those most affected. The latter recognizes that we must also accompany those whose livelihoods are dependent on extractive industries, making sure they are not left behind during the transition to renewable energy sources. These dialogues will equip us in the planetary movement toward climate solutions with initiatives that reflect God’s concern for the sufficiency and sustainability of all people.
Our ELCA ministries are making an impact as we as a church take hold of our common responsibility to creation and to God. We know that transitioning to lifestyles that eliminate the causes of global warming is critical and must be done now. In response to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly resolution “Toward a Responsible Energy Future,” ELCA members answer the call to care for all of God’s creation in our churches and homes through stewardship, education and advocacy. These efforts include establishing environmental stewardship committees, building awareness around energy efficiency, evaluating investments in fossil fuels, and learning more about sustainable farming and development.
All who care for the earth and work for the restoration of its vitality can be confident in the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us as we serve in concert with God’s creative and renewing power and the indwelling Spirit of Christ to give us hope, courage and direction.
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us coworkers in your creation. Give us wisdom and reverence to use the resources of nature so that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (prayer for stewardship of natural resources, ELW p. 80).
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America