In the first week of November Prince Phillip hosted a meeting at Windsor Castle sponsored by the United Nations and an organization he helped establish in 1995 called ARC (The Alliance of Religions and Conservation). In their own words, “Arc is a secular body that helps the major religions of the world to develop their own environmental programs, based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices. They help the religions link with key environmental organizations – creating powerful alliances between faith communities and conservation groups”.
Because of our efforts to bring the value of Creation care to the Charismatic/Evangelical Christian churches in the U.S. my friend Ken Wilson (pastor of the Ann Arbor Vineyard) and I were invited to participate in this historical summit. Obviously this was not a Christian gathering, but rather was attended by the eleven world faiths (which together account for 85% of the world’s population – some five billion human beings.) In many ways it was a huge stretch, not just for two American evangelical pastors but I’m quite certain for nearly every leader of faith that chose to attend. It’s amazing to think that leaders of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Daoism, Hinduism and Christendom, both Protestant and Catholic would find reason to be in one room seeking solutions to a common global problem together. It would take a major world crisis threatening everyone equally to motivate such a miraculous event; which was in fact the very reason this unique meeting occurred. Everyone present was more than concerned about the devastating human ramifications of climate change and the effects it is and will be having on all of humanity.
Our meetings opened with leaders from several diverse global regions sharing the rapid changes and devastating impacts that they were experiencing due to both the human exploitation of natural resources and the climatic warming trend. Each presenter communicated with words of urgency and hearts of compassion the escalating crises people are facing, especially in places such as Kenya at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Amazon basin and the Himalayas. These crises are coming in the form of drought, the scarcity of usable water, deforestation, soil degradation, rapid glacial melting and devastating flooding. A common denominator of every leader represented, no matter what their expression of faith, was a concern for the extreme poor who are surviving without margins or options. (Over 50% of the world population today live on less than two dollars a day and without access to essentials that sustain life such as clean drinkable water.)
Spending a few days with these committed world leaders not only opened my eyes to the immensity of the problem the human race is facing, but to my responsibility as a Christian leader. I came away feeling overwhelmed, yet somehow encouraged. I thought that if God gave me the opportunity to spend time with leaders such as Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh and Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the U.N. he would somehow give me the means to communicate this urgency to leaders of my own faith.
It occurred to me at Windsor why it has been such an uphill battle to motivating protestant Christians for environmental stewardship. For years now I have struggled with the churches reluctance to take proactive leadership on something that is not only a biblical mandate but clearly a threat to the very people Jesus commissioned us to care for. I realized after hearing the action plans of leaders from other world religions that evangelical Christians are one of the few groups that do not have a central leader such as a Pope or a Dali Lama who are in positions of authority which allows them to make decrees. Evangelicals, unlike other faiths are autonomous without any form of authoritative top down governance. Any change that might occur among us must emerge from within our grass roots. For us, changes are gradual and require the tenacious actions of a few passionate people who are willing to persevere until a small spark of truth ignites into a fire that sweeps the landscape. My goal now is to join those who are committed to that spark, believing that the Holy Spirit will fan its small flame into a fire of reformation.
Our world is in a state of environmental crises and is now crying out for Christians everywhere to awaken to the cries of the poor joining together in a worldwide unified effort for a biblically directed response.