Mission Earth: A Christian Response to Climate Change
Emma’s Trip to York
21st April 2012
This morning found me on a train before 7am! This is unusual behaviour for me on a Saturday, when normally I would be fast asleep in bed, so what was I doing that was so important? The answer is I was going all the way to York for a conference: “Mission Earth: A Christian Response to Climate Change”.
I arrived at York Minster, and quickly found a seat just in time before Archbishop John Sentamu, Catholic Bishop Terry Drainey of Middlesbrough, Revd John Claydon of the Northern Baptist Association, and other church leaders processed in to lead a service at the start of the conference. There were several hundred other delegates from different Christian denominations, and it was a moving experience to be worshipping and praying together, with the sound of our singing and the organ reverberating around that magnificent building.
The service was followed by presentations from a variety of organisations starting with Martin Hodson, Operations Manager from the John Ray Initiative, who left us in no doubt that climate change is one of the most important issues facing humanity today. With the current increase in CO2 concentration running at 2 – 3 ppm every year, we are on course for a 4 – 5°C rise in average global temperature this century, and the consequences of this will be experienced everywhere, albeit to differing extents. In Britain, for example, more extreme heat waves are likely, and winters may be colder as ice caps melt and global wind patterns change. In other parts of the world, there will be increases in drought and desertification, more flooding as sea levels rise, and extreme weather events occurring even in unexpected areas.
As the average temperature of the world increases, the people who will suffer the most will be the poor of Asia, Africa and South America. Ben Niblett, Campaigns Director from Tearfund, described some of the effects of global warming that are being experienced already by their partners from across the globe. For example, farmers in Honduras say that the seasons have changed. They wait for the dry season to plant crops, but it doesn’t arrive. Villagers in Malawi are also reporting a gradual change in climate; things are different from how they used to be.
In addition to these gradual, every-day changes in climate that bird watchers and gardeners in this country may have noticed as well, there are also more immediately catastrophic disasters which are consequences of climate change, such as the recent floods in Pakistan, and drought in Ethiopia.
The consequences of climate change are not something that will just affect future generations, we were told. It is happening now, and it is hitting the poorest hardest.
So, was the message in York Minster all doom and gloom? No! All the speakers indicated that, although it is a huge problem, we can do something about climate change if we act together and quickly.
Jesus said, ‘“Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ (Matthew 22:37-39)
How can we love God if we stand by while his precious creation is damaged?
How can we love our neighbours near and far if we ignore the effects on others of climate change?
These were the searching questions posed by Ruth Jarman from Operation Noah, who said that the church should be a prophetic voice speaking uncomfortable truths to our generation, and that as individuals we should take action to live sustainably and, as part of our Christian walk, choose not to conform to the pattern of this world. We were invited to join leaders from many denominations, including Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, in signing a pledge to support the ‘Ash Wednesday Declaration’, a Call to the Church to respond to current concerns about the changing global climate and take a stand.
The afternoon of the conference was spent in workshops at York St. John University run by a variety of Christian organisations, including CAFOD, Christian Aid, Eco-Congregations, The John Ray Initiative, Tearfund and Operation Noah.
I finally arrived back home in Rugby just as the sun was setting, my head full of questions and ideas for the future.
If you would like to know more about the day, or would like to join Rugby Baptist Church Eco-congregation group as we think through some of these issues and our response to them, please let me know. I would love to discuss it with you.