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CEL home | European Christian Environment Network | 2004 Theology Consultation

Christian theological consultation on the environment
at Geneva March 2004

The very future of the universe, given the threat of ecological destruction on an immense scale, and Christian Responsibility, were just two of the topics discussed by a meeting of theologians from different parts of Europe.

A Consultation on the theology of creation took place in March 29-31 2004 at the John Knox International Reformed Centre in the hills above Lake Geneva within sight of the snow-capped Jura mountain range.

The 25 people present were theologians or environmentalists invited by the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) to reflect on the interpretation of God's creation in Christian theology.

The participants came from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the UK.

They represented different churches and strands of Christian theology:

  • scholars in the Old Testament,
  • environmental ethics,
  • eco-feminism,
  • process theology and
  • evolutionary genetics from

  • Protestant,
  • Orthodox,
  • Roman Catholic and
  • evangelical perspectives.
  • John Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon presented the view from the early church Fathers.

The UK were represented by Mary Grey, Michael Northcott, Edward Echlin, Robin Morrison and genetic scientist Sam Berry.

Lukas Vischer co-ordinated the consultation and hopes to present a paper to the next ECEN Assembly in Basel in May 2005 reflecting the consensus reached. Previous ECEN assemblies have shared information on church and environment projects and set up working parties on a number of urgent practical environmental issues. They recognise the need for a statement on the Christian theological response to the environmental crises we face which would take account of new trends and developments in creation theology.

An important part of such meetings are personal contacts made and the exchange of ideas between experts in related fields. It was a fascinating experience to see scholars, caring deeply about God's creation, respectful of each other's traditions and expertise, yet ready to defend their own perspectives, discussing issues such as:

  • creation as gift;
  • distinctions between creation in the beginning and creation as an ongoing process;
  • Christian responsibility, as being in the image of God, for the care and renewal of creation;
  • a nuanced anthropocentrism which recognises the intrinsic value in every creature;
  • the compatibility of evolution with the Christian understanding of creation;
  • and the very future of the universe given the threat of ecological destruction on an immense scale.

There was emphasis on

  • the need for deeper study of the New Testament,
  • more efforts to link church liturgies with creation,
  • and a recognition that the life style of people in affluent societies needs to change if the present biosystem is to continue.

It is hoped that the results of this consultation will give new inspiration for further reflection and action to churches and church related groups and movements in Europe.

Barbara Echlin

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