Colonising Earth with the Life of Heaven: Creation Care & Mission

by Caroline Pomeroy

Last month I visited a lively Anglican church in my local town. It was ‘Mission Sunday’ and to illustrate this to the children, the leader stuck post-it notes onto a giant inflatable globe, each yellow note signifying one of the church’s mission partners. He then asked people to remind him what Mark 16:15 says. ‘Go and evangelise all the people in the world’ was the first response…

These few minutes highlighted two things for me – first, a popular misconception about what the Good News means; and secondly the challenges of doing global mission in a climate crisis.

Good News to All Creation

At the end of Mark’s gospel, Jesus calls the first disciples to ‘… go and preach the good news to all creation.’ Although opinions differ on the exact interpretation of this phrase, a reading of other versions of the Great Commission – and indeed the whole of the bible – implies that there is more to the Good News than just saving human souls.  For example, in Matthew 28 the disciples are told to ‘… go and make disciples…’. A disciple is someone who loves God and loves their neighbour. So the process of disciple-making must include the practical outworking of loving God. And how can we say we love our global neighbours if their crops are failing due to climate change; or our future neighbours, whose homes may be under water by the end of the century; or our non-human neighbours, whose habitat is disappearing due our demand for palm oil or coffee?   

In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, Adam and Eve, made in God’s likeness, are given authority to ‘rule over’ creation on God’s behalf.  But just as Jesus, the Servant King, exercises loving dominion over His kingdom, this first Great Commission in Genesis 1-2 is about dominion, not domination. Humankind is called to serve and preserve the earth and all its creatures, not to dominate and exploit them.

And so it goes on; my ‘Green Bible’ contains over 2,000 passages printed in green which talk about the environment (land, water, sea, air, crops etc.) and God’s involvement in it. The bible, written by people closely connected to the land, reflects a triangle of relationships between God, humankind and the earth. Those relationships started off well, but at the root of almost all environmental destruction lies human sin, which breaks the triangle of relationships.  ‘The earth dries up and withers, the earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth’ writes the prophet Isaiah (Chapter 24:3-6).

Today many of us live lives largely disconnected from nature, and our lifestyles cause us to dominate the rest of creation. This year’s Earth Overshoot Day is on 19th May, when we will have used up our annual supply of nature’s resources. This is the opposite of good stewardship.

Global mission in a Climate Crisis

Thankfully we humans are called to partner with God in restoring and repairing those broken relationships. The Christian hope is not simply of ‘going to heaven when we die’ but for new heavens and new earth, integrated together. Since the ‘new’ earth will emerge from the old, it is therefore incumbent upon Christians to care for this earth. As theologian Tom Wright writes, ‘Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project, not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.’ (NT Wright, Surprised by Hope)

So, to my second question: How do we do global mission in a climate crisis? The flights of that church’s mission partners criss-crossing the globe will have a significant carbon footprint, and we know that climate change is hitting our poorest and most vulnerable global neighbours first and worst. There are no easy answers, and each of us will need to think and pray about our response to these challenges, but an important first step is to acknowledge that this is an issue and start taking steps to address it. Many organsiations are actively considering how to get the right balance between continuing, and even expanding, their work, but minimising the impact on the planet.

At Climate Stewards we provide online tools and advice to individuals and organisations to help them measure, reduce and offset their carbon footprint.

For individuals, the Climate Stewards strapline of “Reduce what you can; offset the rest” says it all. You could use our Duplo carbon footprint game to help your church or small business understand more about carbon footprints, and our online carbon footprint calculator to get a more accurate picture. Once you know your footprint you can take steps to reduce it.

For an organisation to be “Carbon Neutral” it will need to measure its carbon footprint, set year-on-year targets to reduce carbon emissions, offset what can’t be reduced, and – importantly – communicate this to its partners. Small organisations including churches, small businesses and charities can use our free online carbon calculator 360˚carbon to measure their carbon footprint each year. We also work with larger organisations to carry out carbon footprint audits and advise on environmental policies and action plans.

Carbon offsetting means compensating for any unavoidable emissions by funding projects which remove or reduce CO2 from the atmosphere. Climate Stewards works with seven partner projects in three continents. Each project is run by local churches and community groups and brings local benefits to people and places – including health, livelihoods, and biodiversity – alongside carbon reduction. These life-enhancing projects demonstrate that the gospel is indeed Good News for all of creation.

Find out more about 360˚carbon and how it can serve your company or organisation below.

 

 

Caroline Pomeroy has been the Director of Climate Stewards since 2013. Climate Stewards provides advice and online tools to help individuals, churches and other organisations to measure, reduce and offset their carbon emissions. They also help people understand more about climate change and creation care. Climate Stewards is part of the A Rocha worldwide family. Caroline has an MSc in Climate Change Impacts and Sustainability, having previously worked as a Chartered Surveyor. With her husband Henry she spent five years in Ghana and Rwanda working on community and environmental projects with Tearfund and other NGOs. More recently she was an environmental advisor to the Diocese of Bath and Wells. She is a churchwarden of her village church and loves cycling, walking and gardening.

 

 

 

 

Colonising Earth with the Life of Heaven: Creation Care & Mission