Green Christians     Issue 41: Winter 1999/2000

Green Christians is the main publication of Christian Ecology Link and exists to debate environmental matters in a Christian context. Please feel free to contribute articles, opinions and letters to the Editor .
    To obtain a copy of this winter's issue at a bargain rate, see the end of this page.



‘Spirituality includes imagination. Much of our failure to grasp our own earth tradition and to attract people who care about God’s earth and the future is a failure not of knowledge but of imagination.’ Edward P. Echlin, in Earth Spirituality, Jesus at the Centre, 1999.

THIS SUMMER’S ECLIPSE encouraged us to gaze out at the sky, but now the approaching end of the millennium provides an opportunity to explore within: this issue is a look at ourselves. The reasons preventing Christians from taking up green issues, individually and corporately, may be as multiple and varied as the Christians themselves, but some general trends can be drawn from our experience of church structures and attitudes.

Apathy, competing interests and concerns in parishes in socially deprived areas, the greater priority of mission, the fear of causing disagreement in church by promoting radical views, suspicion of the enjoyment of God and of what He has made: all these have affected the growth of green thinking and involvement in churches.

We are not under-informed in the Western half of the world. Rather, as Dorothee Soelle writes, we are so deluged with information that we feel paralysed: ‘To us knowledge does not mean power, as in the working-class movement of the nineteenth century, but deeper and more bitter powerlessness’ (1). Edward Echlin (above) points to our lack of imagination rather than knowledge, such imagination and vision as could give the churches a central role in bringing about change. We Christians, much like secular people, are apt to throw our arms up in despair and thus the seeds of hope and vision, like the grain that falls among weeds, are choked within us. It is through a new theology that we will find the courage to act.

Theology is now moving away from the view of Christians as separate from the world to one in which the entire cosmic creation is regarded as holy. Here it is catching up with modern biology, which explores the interrelatedness of living things. It is also following the environmental movement as it sounds alarm bells to which Christianity can bring unique insights. But why so late? Perhaps because the need has never been so pressing.

An additional obstacle to green thinking in many people’s eyes is the fear of being led away from the Christian faith down the path of paganism. A committed Christian told a friend of mine that it was wrong to become a vegetarian because it was the first step down the slippery slope leading to the New Age. This absurd notion highlights a real division among green Christians over how much we should allow ourselves to be influenced by the spirituality of environmentalists who are not generally Christian. Should we reject it all or allow parts of it to speak to us and challenge us?

As an ecumenical organisation, CEL is pervaded by this dilemma. More than once, Green Christians has run the risk of being associated with un-Christian beliefs (see Letters page, reaction to Creation Spirituality) and is at pains to assert itself as a mainstream Christian magazine. As a broad group we have to learn to accept those whose views differ widely from our own. We need the strength to hear, and where necessary, reject. Adrian Orchard’s article in this issue urges us to ground use the green message in Biblical authority and use it to preach Christ. Derek Sawyer’s timely contribution shows us just what a church can do when motivated and prepared to take risks.

It would be difficult to draw a line of Christian beliefs that would encompass us all, as different Christians would want to move that line in one direction or another. Rather, I would like to encourage readers to write in with their own definitions of themselves as environmentalists and Christians.

I hope to hear from you, and wish you a happy new millennium.

I have received so many responses on this challenging theme that it has not been possible to print them all. I am indebted to Ruth Holdsworth (Rotherham), Colin Hull (Welwyn) and D. Wilslene (Leicester) for their inspirational insights.

(1) A Liberation Spirituality of Sharing, by Dorothee Soelle (1993), Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky.

Agree? Disagree? The Editor would like to hear from you: write to Stephanie Boucher at

Copies of Green Christians 40 and Green Christians 40a and Green Christians 41 can be obtained from Christian Ecology Link, 6, Bond Street, Lancaster, LA1 3ER, UK. For a trial copy of Green Christians (for people in the UK) please specify which issue is required and send an A4 size SAE and include four first-class stamps to cover costs - a bargain when the cover price is £1.50!

Contents of Green Christians 40 Summer 1999
Contents of Green Christians 40a Autumn 1999

Contents of Green Christians 41 Winter 1999/2000
Contents of Green Christians 42 Spring 2000
Green Christians homepage

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