Caretakers of Creation

Spring 2011–Pre-release

Please see the invitation below to add your name to the growing list who want to see environmental action tied closely to (1) love of God and respect for his handiwork and (2) love of people and the desire to show compassion. Additional resources are also given at the bottom of the page.

Seeking Christ’s Peace for His Suffering Creation: A Response to the Cape Town Commitment (Third Lausanne Congress)

In the year 2010, we saw with devastating clarity the close relationship between healthy natural ecosystems and human well-being. This has been magnified by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the deadly floods in Pakistan, drought and dust storms in southwestern China, landslides in Mexico and Uganda, earthquake and cholera in Haiti, and the summer heat wave in the northern hemisphere. These crises and others like them have had vast economic, social, cultural, familial, and spiritual consequences.

The year 2010 also saw the convening of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town, October 16-25). Over 4200 evangelical leaders from 198 nations re-affirmed the original Lausanne declaration of the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world. This they did in the form of a document entitled the Cape Town Commitment. In addressing the changed realities of the 21st century, the Cape Town delegates made, among other intentions, an unprecedented commitment to care for God’s creation. In its scriptural affirmations of Christ Jesus–“the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer and heir of all creation”—the Cape Town Commitment emboldens us with the hope that as we take action by faith, the Church in our generation is more than adequate to our current ecological challenges.

In light of these events, we the undersigned, having already made our own commitment to creation care, wish to respond to the Third Lausanne Congress:

  • We gratefully receive the Cape Town Commitment, and commend the Third Lausanne Congress on its excellent and historic work.
  • We join our signatures to a worldwide commitment for “a reformation of biblical discipleship and a revolution of Christlike love.”
  • We affirm the Cape Town Commitment’s declarations on creation care, and devote ourselves anew to both a “love for God’s world” and “Christ’s peace for his suffering creation.”
  • We take up the Cape Town Commitment’s call for action on creation care, implementing specific initiatives that, by God’s empowering mercy, will address our current ecological crisis.

We join the Third Lausanne Congress in:

worshiping our triune Creator and submitting to his ownership of creation

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1). God’s marvelous creative hand is seen in the earth’s creatures, both small and great, as well as in the work of his people. All of it resounds to his everlasting glory. In the words of the Cape Town Commitment, “We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord.”

thanking God for the bounty and sustenance built into the earth

God’s plan is for humans to take our living from the resources of the planet without destroying the fruitfulness of the creation that sustains us. Creation care expresses a thankfulness for the “goods and services” of Nature by which God provides our daily bread.

repenting of the abuse and misuse of God’s creation

Christians have been united in the belief that the physical creation itself was and continues to be good, and that though it suffers from the impacts of human sin, one part of the reconciling work of Jesus is to lead humanity back to its role as caretakers of the garden.

The expansive stewardship mandate in the book of Genesis anticipated the modern ability of humans to impact ecosystems, for good or for ill, at scales heretofore unimaginable. Through ignorance or selfishness, we have often failed to faithfully discharge our stewardship responsibilities. To his glory, God in his grace empowers us to confess our sins, and enables us to learn from our mistakes so that we might turn from our sinful desires and bring our harmful practices under control.

caring for the common good, the poor, future generations, flora and fauna

Historically Christians, in obedience to the commands of our compassionate Lord, have championed the cause of the vulnerable and needy. Ecological crises place certain populations at unprecedented risk. The “common good” is neglected in a world of fragmentation and consumerism. The poor, already susceptible to the worst impacts of disaster, increasingly lose access to what Creation once offered for free (e.g. clean drinking water.) Future generations have no voice unless we supply it; neither do non-human species (domestic or wild) or natural landscapes and ecosystems. We are charged with the care and keeping of all creatures, and to steward the diversity and fruitfulness of the created order.

promoting world-wide conservation

As the Cape Town Commitment declares, “The mission of God continues to the ends of the earth and to the end of the world.” Just as the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has extended to all lands and peoples, so should the Gospel’s practice. Some environmental issues have a broad reach and will require new levels of cooperation between governments and peace between nations. Most conservation issues however are local, but still require the crossing of borders and cultures to offer assistance. The missionary Church sees creation care as part of her commitment to “love thy neighbor.”

calling the Church to action

We affirm the general call(s) to creation care action found in the Cape Town Commitment. We commend to North American churches the following specific, and pressing, calls to action:

  • We call on the Lausanne leadership to encourage the formation of Creation Care Affinity Groups for all inter-Congress gatherings.
  • We call on individual Christians to learn about God’s creation, not just its beauty and wonders, but also its wonderful workings.
  • We call on Christians to cultivate a renewed appreciation for the contributions of science and scientists, acknowledging that “all truth is God’s truth” and that higher levels of expertise are necessary to solve many of today’s environmental problems.
  • We call on Christian leaders to incorporate the mandate to care for creation as a subject in their worship, prayer, teaching, and community service. We call on the missions community (in its career service, short-term trips, missions giving) to see the conservation of natural ecosystems, resources and species as an integral part of its service to people and communities.
  • We call on government officials to make the care of creation a domestic and foreign policy priority. We call on officials to develop a clear vision and strategy for all U.S. agencies engaged in conservation work overseas, helping lead other nations to also take the necessary steps to protect God’s creation.

In the same words as what challenged the Cape Town Commitment signatories, and with a particular passion for its historic commitment to creation care, we too join our signatures:

In the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and on the sole foundation of faith in God’s infinite mercy and saving grace, we earnestly long and pray for a reformation of biblical discipleship and a revolution of Christlike love.

We make this our prayer and we undertake this our commitment for the sake of the Lord we love and for the sake of the world we serve in his name.


If you can agree with this public statement “Caretakers of Creation”, please offer your signature and some details so that we can confirm it.

To sign: Please send an email to caretakers@www.flourishonline.org, with the following information

  1. Your full name as you wish to be listed, with appropriate prefixes and suffixes (Dr., Rev., etc. and Ph.D., MD, etc.)
  2. Your present (and if you desire, past) affiliation (position and institution) as you wish it to be listed. The final list of names will indicate that affiliations are given only for identification purposes, and that signers represent only themselves.
  3. Your email address, so that we can confirm your signature.
  4. If we should work with your assistant, please provide their name and email address as well.

If you have questions about the statement or wish to talk further before signing, please call or write

Rusty Pritchard, CEO at Flourish (the organization leading this effort)
rusty@www.flourishonline.org
phone (US): (404) 414-7906


Declarations on Creation Care

from the Cape Town Commitment (2010)

the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization

For the sake of convenience, the following paragraphs on creation care have been pulled from the Cape Town Commitment and are reprinted here. The Cape Town Commitment is a carefully integrated document and so creation care should be understood in the complete context of the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world. (The complete document [PDF, 439 KB] can be downloaded from www.lausanne.org/ctcommitment.) In addition, the Cape Town Commitment is a comprehensive document. We fully bless and, as the Lord leads, intend to partner with those who serve in ministries related to world evangelization, HIV/Aids, ethnic conflict, poverty alleviation, and the many other worthy callings mentioned in the Cape Town Commitment.

Part I

For the lord we love: The Cape Town Confession of Faith

7. We love God’s World

We share God’s passion for his world, loving all that God has made, rejoicing in God’s providence and justice throughout his creation, proclaiming the good news to all creation and all nations, and longing for the day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.[22]

A) We love the world of God’s creation. This love is not mere sentimental affection for nature (which the Bible nowhere commands), still less is it pantheistic worship of nature (which the Bible expressly forbids). Rather it is the logical outworking of our love for God by caring for what belongs to him. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ The earth is the property of the God we claim to love and obey. We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord.[23]

The earth is created, sustained and redeemed by Christ.[24] We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of creation, redemption and inheritance. We care for the earth and responsibly use its abundant resources, not according to the rationale of the secular world, but for the Lord’s sake. If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth. For to proclaim the gospel that says ‘Jesus is Lord’ is to proclaim the gospel that includes the earth, since Christ’s Lordship is over all creation. Creation care is thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ.

Such love for God’s creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth’s resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility. We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action, as well as those committed to godly fulfilment of the mandate to provide for human welfare and needs by exercising responsible dominion and stewardship. The Bible declares God’s redemptive purpose for creation itself. Integral mission means discerning, proclaiming, and living out, the biblical truth that the gospel is God’s good news, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for individual persons, and for society, and for creation. All three are broken and suffering because of sin; all three are included in the redeeming love and mission of God; all three must be part of the comprehensive mission of God’s people.

PART II

For the world we serve: The Cape Town Call to Action

II. Building the peace of Christ in our divided and broken world

6. Christ’s peace for his suffering creation

Our biblical mandate in relation to God’s creation is provided in The Cape Town Confession of Faith section 7 (A). All human beings are to be stewards of the rich abundance of God’s good creation. We are authorized to exercise godly dominion in using it for the sake of human welfare and needs, for example in farming, fishing, mining, energy generation, engineering, construction, trade, medicine. As we do so, we are also commanded to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us. We do this for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer and heir of all creation.

We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth’s resources, including its biodiversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.

We encourage Christians worldwide to:

A) Adopt lifestyles that renounce habits of consumption that are destructive or polluting;

B) Exert legitimate means to persuade governments to put moral imperatives above political expediency on issues of environmental destruction and potential climate change;

C) Recognize and encourage the missional calling both of (i) Christians who engage in the proper use of the earth’s resources for human need and welfare through agriculture, industry and medicine, and (ii) Christians who engage in the protection and restoration of the earth’s habitats and species through conservation and advocacy. Both share the same goal for both serve the same Creator, Provider and Redeemer.

Scripture references cited for creation care

[22] Psalm 145:9, 13, 17; Psalm 104:27-30; Psalm 50:6; Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; Matthew 28:17-20; Habakkuk 2:14

[23] Psalm 24:1; Deuteronomy 10:14

[24] Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:2-3

 


Related articles at Flourish and around the web:

The “Other” Environmental Crisis. Think the world’s biggest environmental problems are overpopulation and climate change? Think again. Conservation and wise use of natural resources can stabilize vulnerable economies and make it possible for people to make a living.

The Myth of Overpopulation. Advocates for population control in the name of environmental protection are either misanthropic, or inattentive to actual data about what drives the birth rate. It’s not a gap in “family planning” services. It’s desired family size that determines actual family size. Recognizing that simple fact pulls the plug on population control agenda.

Why Poor Communities Need Rich Soil. In this interview Scott Sabin, executive director of Plant With Purpose, talks about why it is so important that poor communities have rich soil and how his organization goes about restoring land in impoverished places.

Conserving Soil and Building Economies in Haiti. Flourish’s president returns from a trip to Haiti with some good news about how the country is reviving and how conservation investments are helping it.