by Conference Chair Margaret Barker
The Church needs a characteristically Christian approach to the current environment crisis. There is a danger that by repeating fashionable secular positions, the Church may be adopting ideas and assumptions that are not compatible with our core beliefs.
This conference will be Bible-based, looking again at the fundamental biblical vision of the creation and for the creation. This is based on the oldest understanding of covenant, which saw the whole creation, both visible and invisible, bound together in one God- given system. 'Covenant' means 'binding together'. What modern environmentalists call an ecological system or the web of life, the Old Testament calls the eternal covenant.
The biblical view challenges many of the assumptions on which modern economic systems are based: that growth can continue without limit, whereas the Bible sets a Sabbath rest as the goal; development until everything is very good and then a recognition that the work is complete.
The biblical view sees the current situation as a spiritual crisis: human beings do not lack the knowledge to make things better, but they do lack the will. The irresponsible and selfish use of knowledge has caused the degradation of 'the world and those who dwell therein' (Psalm 24.1). When Adam chose the wrong tree, he found himself in a world of dust and thorns, toil and death. Isaiah had a vision of the whole creation disintegrating because people had broken the eternal covenant (Isaiah 24.4-6).
The biblical view prescribed atonement - which means healing - to restore the creation. Temple rituals for the penitent were based on self-sacrifice and the obligation to put right what had been damaged. Only recently have we heard secular voices saying we need to reduce consumption and self interest.
The three sections of this conference address the three stages of the process:
setting up the eternal covenant - with an exploration of the neglected aspects of biblical teaching about the creation;
breaking the eternal covenant - with examples of how our present political and economic set-ups are making the situation worse;
restoring the covenant - with examples of how industrial practice is waking up to reality.