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On the Way   The Rt. Rev. Audrey Scanlan
This Fragile Earth, our Island Home

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This week I have invited The Rev. Linda K. Watkins to share an essay that  she wrote in response to the decision last week for our country to withdraw from the Parish Climate Agreement.

Linda’s work in Environmental Justice is fueled by a passion born of the Holy Spirit and I am glad to share her words in this space. 

As Christians, I believe that it is our responsibility to care for our planet as good stewards of God’s Creation and to bring all that we have to bear-  scientific and technical knowledge, skills of communication and collaboration, and the wisdom of the ages- to ensure that our future is bright.  Environmental Justice is critical Christian work, as we work to preserve and protect our world.

Colossians 1:16-17 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”   

The Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan

 Here’s Linda’s essay:

I am deeply saddened by our country’s decision to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement; a commitment to protect this “fragile earth, our island home” signed in 2015 by 195 of the 197 United Nations member countries (virtually every nation on earth) who had been working on an international response to Climate Change (Nicaragua and Syria were the only two countries not signing the agreement). While there are a wide range of viewpoints on this action and on the whole issue of Climate Change in general, that doesn’t change the moral and spiritual compass given to us by our Christian faith regarding our relationship to God’s Creation.
As Christians, we believe in “One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth”. We can argue about what this process of Creation looked like, but Scripture is clear that one way or another, the entire Cosmos and absolutely everything in it was created by God.
Moreover, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Although later on, evil (separation from God and God’s goodness) came into the world, something of this inherent goodness remains. Therefore Psalm 19 can proclaim, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament* proclaims his handiwork.” God created flowers and trees, wind, rain and snow, plants and herbs, birds, insects and animals to shout out the glory, power and majesty of the One who created them.
Front and center in this ministry of proclamation, are human beings; lovingly created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). God blesses them and commissions them to care for the earth as they join in proclaiming God’s glory. The English translation of Genesis 1:26 and 1:28 uses the words “dominion” and “subdue”. Certainly, human beings have learned to control things like fire and water and various plants and animals – we wouldn’t be able to exist very well without doing that.
But there is a difference from the dominion of love and service that Jesus taught us and violent destruction. That’s what Jesus Christ came into the world to teach us. He came into the world as a flesh and blood human being, ate and drank and rejoiced and suffered and died like all of us. By doing this he taught us in the clearest possible way that our God is a God who is present and involved in Creation. God doesn’t merely exist on a separate, spiritual plane, but is part and parcel of all that there is “seen and unseen”.
Jesus showed us that true dominion is a dominion that puts the needs of others first, that controls by loving service. The night before he died, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet – a powerful demonstration of the dominion God would have us exercise. And Jesus commanded us to love as God loves. He also clearly “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus calls us to care for and consider the needs of all Creation and especially, all people.
Rising sea levels, drought, famine and pollution, which many agree are being caused by Climate Change, are already adversely affecting numerous people – primarily people who are living in deep poverty throughout the world. Island peoples who rely on subsistence fishing are being displaced, causing what some social scientists believe will become a major refugee crisis. As Christians, we cannot ignore their voices, no matter what we believe is the root cause of their circumstances.
Neither can we ignore the voices of the rainforests and that being destroyed, animal species on the verge of extinction, coral reefs that are dying. We cannot ignore the voices of those who have lost their jobs and communities that have lost t heir reason for existing due to a changing economy. Just as our nation’s shift from an agricultural to an industrial economy a hundred and fifty years ago was painful and required major changes in the way we all lived, so must we honor the very real pain and grief we all experience as we once again make the colossal shift to the post-industrial age.
As Christians, we are always called in the power of the Holy Spirit, to self-examination and confession. We have not treated each other or God’s gift of Creation as we should. We have not stood up to powerful voices of waste, greed and carelessness.
Even with that, we understand our God to be a merciful God who calls us to a vast vision of hope, generosity and abundance. With the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we can move from our limited human vision to this new vision that God always lays before us. Moral leadership will not come from political ideologies or facts per se. Moral leadership will come only when people of faith acting in good conscience join together and proclaim God’s goodness and love – a love that reaches beyond family, nation, language or tribe – a love that is part and parcel of Creation itself.
The Rev. Linda King Watkins is Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Waynesboro, PA, and is chair of the Diocesan Social Justice Umbrella Committee. Since 1994, she has been a professed member of the Third, Order, Society of St. Francis and serves as the Order’s JPIC (Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation) Animator. In 2013, she completed the GreenFaith Fellowship Program which trains religious leaders of all faiths in Eco-Justice leadership.

If you would like to learn more about the work of Environmental Justice in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, please email Linda at rector@stmaryswaynesboro.org

1 thought on “This Fragile Earth, our Island Home”

  1. I have only one comment: it wasn't our country's decision to withdraw. It was the pseudo-president's decision. I believe most of our citizens are against this unthinking move…at least, I hope so….

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