Upside down kingdom: climate in crisis

Our common home is in pain: on fire, flooding and melting. At the Eco and Climate Action seminar in Winchester Bishop Tim Daykin and Dr Ruth Valerio outlined steps to activate churches so that the climate crisis is reflected in how they each, give, pray, speak out and live faithfully. You can listen to her talk here or read more in this article

At the very start of the process Dr Valerio, Director of Global Advocacy and Influencing at Tearfund, argues that re-evaluation of the churches recent theology on the environment is urgent. Recognising that matter matters to God, as Dr Wilkinson, an astrophysicist puts it, is critical. The earth is inherently precious and valuable to God.

The seminar gathered more than 160 people together at Christ Church Winchester. Encouragingly most people present were not clergy but rather groups of people from within congregations taking responsibility for making earth care a reality in their parishes.

Dr Valerio advocated five stages: Teach, Give, Pray, ‘Speak out’ and ‘Live out’ as all essential to the life of churches which are engaged in caring for our common home – as Pope Francis called it in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ In a chat we grabbed with her in the sidelines she said:

Caring for our common home is part of our witness, as Christians, as followers of Jesus, we follow a Creator God, we follow Jesus by whom, through whom, for whom this world has been created. So it’s part of what it means to follow him. And I think because we do things in our churches that are visible and as we engage with our local community with that, that is one way by which I think we share the ‘Good News’ and live out the ‘Good News’

Part of the work of teaching and speaking is to rapidly disentangle the theological mess the church has got into over the last two to three hundred years. The idea that the earth is made for humans, to serve them and to be exploited as we wish has been accepted. That way of thinking that has left the earth, as it were, crying out in pain. We have failed to understand the full scope of what Jesus was getting at when he said “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20.26). Truly the Kingdom of God is an upside down place where mutuality between humans and the earth are at the core.

Bishop Daykin spoke about the resonances that the Fifth Mark of Mission ‘Caring for Creation’ in the Anglican system has in the community. He said ‘I think the Five Marks of Mission’ are going to return as ways of articulating what a ‘mission shaped church’ looks like. And I think the Fifth Mark will be the most important one that we need to lead with so that other people understand what the rest are all about’.

Church and community mobilisation are at the core of the way many Tearfund projects are developed and in 2018 more than 12,500 local churches in 40 counters were actively working to improve the lives of over 60,000 people. Dr Valerio noted that ‘one of the key things that churches in the UK can learn from Tearfund’s work overseas is an understanding of the holistic nature of the Gospel and of what it means to be church. So part of our work as Tearfund is working with churches in poor communities, helping them understand that the gospel of Jesus is about reaching out and being involved with your community. And that is absolutely relevant for us here in the UK, as well’.

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