Weighing in at 114 pages, including a biblically complete number of seven appendices, the Creation Stewardship Task Force Report (Agenda for Synod 2012, pp. 287-411) is the physical heavyweight of all reports this year. I wonder if anyone else picked up the irony that the issue it carefully deals with also results in using more natural resources in its publication than any other on the docket.
Perhaps that is an unavoidable, maybe helpful irony, precisely because it so poignantly illustrates the environmental pickle we have got ourselves into as the human race: If we wish to be careful stewards of God’s creation, is there any way not to use more resources in teaching and encouraging humanity to do more than reuse, reduce and recycle?
This lengthy yet readable report marks one of many efforts that the CRC has brought environmental issues to the denomination and church community. Already in the early 1980 the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship produced the pioneering study in Christian environmental studies and involvement with Earthkeeping (Eerdmans, 1980), later revised. (Fittingly, the chair of this task force is Calvin B. De Witt, a member of the team of scholars that produced Earthkeeping.) The Since then Faith Alive Resources has published its fair share of materials to teach and encourage creation care. In 2008 Classis Niagara presented an overture to synod (Agenda, 2008, pp. 269-274) on this issue. In response, “synod instructed the Board of Trustees to establish and maintain a webpage with up-to-date eco-justice resources” (Agenda 2012, p. 290). (Again I wonder: Do webpages and electronics use more resources than print and mailing efforts? Sorry….)
No matter the answer to that realistic, if somewhat cynical query, this report is bound to cause a long and, one hopes, substantive discussion at synod. It pretty well covers the waterfront of ecological issues, from concrete analyses of “The current status of creation,” with examples of degradation taken from around the globe—from the Artic to the Sahel to Pacific Ocean atolls and to the Bay of Bengal. Reports of species extinction and climate change are carefully documented. The reports’ authors are careful to a fault about not claiming outright that climate change is either part of a natural cycle or humanly caused. As one living 20 miles from New York’s infamous Love Canal, there is no doubt in my mind that humanity is fully capable of causing environment change and great damage locally and regionally. How examples of similar carelessness factors into global climatic alteration remains the big question, with often sharp lines dividing the debaters, both in and outside the CRC.
I am pleased to see environmental issues again on synod’s agenda. Creation care is vital issue to God’s people, since “the earth is the Lord’s [not OURS] and everything in it.” Yet difficult questions might cause despair or inaction: Will the sharp divisions also define the discussion at Synod 2012? Will we merely give homage again to the bandaids of reducing, recycling and reusing? Will we look seriously and deeply into changing lifestyles? Yet, if we do the last and even succeed in it, what about the nearly 9 billion people who aren’t part of the CRC? Will what we do matter in the bigger picture? Or will we do some right things regardless, just because we believe and want to live like our word does belong to God?