In 2015 there was Pope Francis’ papal encyclical Laudato Si and the Lambeth Declaration on climate change, not to mention only last month we saw for the first time the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion jointly warning of the urgency of environmental sustainability and its impact on the poor.
That impact was something I witnessed myself three years ago when travelling in a part of Northern Kenya where it hadn’t rained for 18 months. Seeing children waving empty plastic bottles at us, begging for water was one of the saddest things I have experienced. Every day the equivalent of 12 jumbo jets worth of people die because they do not have access to fresh water. This horror is only going to worsen without tackling the injustice of the climate crisis.
For me the challenge of the environmental emergency is captured in the Lord’s Prayer. We pray “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” If you look in the Book of Common Prayer you’ll notice it says “in earth, as it is in heaven.” Somewhere in the last hundred years or so “in earth as it is in heaven” has somehow changed to, “on earth as it is in heaven”. It was not an organized change by some church commission, it just happened.
We used to believe, and to know, that we lived in earth, that we were part of it, interdependent with it. And if we had a relationship with the earth it was to be its good stewards, living in it, and with it, and serving it. Then somewhere in the last couple of hundred years we moved to a position from living in the earth to living on the earth. And now I’m separate from the earth. The earth is mine, and I can do with it what I will. And from that, disaster upon disaster has flowed. We’ve been blind to the consequences of our actions, and we now live in a time where we must take action.
— Church of England Environment Programme (@CofEEnvironment) October 26, 2021