The Ecological Crisis and the Mission of the Church

David Gould has written this briefing paper as a follow up to the JRI webinar he presented with Paul Woods in July 2023 – the full paper can be downloaded as a pdf here.

According to the UN Secretary General: “our planet is broken – humanity is waging a suicidal war on nature”. Recent reports have described the devastating impacts of climate change, the unprecedented loss of animal and plant species, the widespread pollution of land, oceans and atmosphere, the degradation of topsoil and so on. We are living in a time of ecological crisis.

In the last 30 years or more the worldwide Church has been exploring how it should respond to this crisis. One landmark event was the issue in 1994 of ‘An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation’, which was endorsed by church leaders worldwide. It emphasised that the earth belongs to God and that humanity has been given the Biblical ‘creation mandate’ to look after it. The Declaration recognised the ‘growing crisis in the health of creation’; the creator’s concern for all creatures; and that in Christ there is hope for all creation. In 2012 the World Evangelical Alliance and Lausanne Movement worked together to frame a call to action based on two major convictions: that ‘creation care is a gospel issue within the lordship of Christ’; and that we are faced with a crisis that is pressing, urgent, and that must be resolved in our generation’. And in 2015 Pope Francis issued his encyclical Laudate Si, ‘On care for our common home’. In it he said that the care of creation is a ‘spiritual issue connecting our beliefs, values and actions’; he examined what is happening to ‘our common home’ and ‘the human roots of the ecological crisis’; and he proposed ‘lines of approach for action’.

This Briefing Paper looks at some of the implications of this crisis for the mission of the Church. PDF link here.