CARING for the environment is not an “optional extra for tree-hugging eccentrics”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has said at the launch of a new scheme to encourage churches to prioritise green concerns.
Instead of being a side issue, looking after God’s creation was inextricably part of all Christians’ responsibility to their “brothers and sisters worldwide”, especially those who were living in poverty, he said.
Lord Williams was speaking in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday, at the launch of Eco Church, an initiative from the Christian environmental charity A Rocha, and backed by the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, Christian Aid, Tearfund, and others.
The question was whether they wanted to pass on a liveable world to their children and grandchildren, Lord Williams told the audience. Some in the Church would argue that they could not afford the time or money to focus on ecological concerns, Lord Williams said. The response to that was that they could not afford not to.
“It’s not an alternative to working with the poor. All that we say about our call to be ecologically friendly is part of that calling to justice, and to be there for the poorest of the earth.”
Any church in the UK can now log on to the Eco Church website and complete a survey to see how environmentally aware it is in five areas: worship and teaching, buildings, land, community, and life- style.
As churches adopt some of the hundreds of different ideas and suggestions to improve their score in each area, they can track their progress towards an award.
Progress was already being made, Lord Williams said. Gradually, the Christian world was waking up to the idea that protecting God’s world was a gospel imperative. But more could and must be done, he said.
People in “the green movement look at us and say: ‘Sleeping giants’”.
Churches had huge potential to inspire wider society to take firmer action to preserve the environment. “We still have some role to maintain a moral consensus in our society,” Lord Williams said.
“There are people around who trust us to do the right thing and use the leverage we have for change that is for everybody’s good.”
But churches could not mobilise the non-Christian world unless they were seen to be putting their own houses in order, too, he argued.
By showing what could be done, churches could attack the despair that paralysed so many people when it came to green issues. “By doing something about it, we show that something can be done.”
Later, Lord Williams presented the first Eco Church bronze award — a wooden plaque made from recycled church pews by a project in Edinburgh — to St Paul’s Cathedral. www.ecochurch.arocha.org.uk