11-01 On Lifting up the “Call to Restore the Creation.”
Source: Presbytery Sponsor:
Charlotte Presbytery
Committee:
[11-01] Social Justice Issues B: the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World
Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
Topic:Unassigned
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ASSEMBLY ACTION
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Approve as Amended
Voice Vote
COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION
On this Item, the Social Justice Issues B: the Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World Committee, acted as follows:
Approve as Amended
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Affirmative:51
Negative:0
Abstaining:0
Final Text:

Amend Item 11-01 by adding new Recommendations 4., 5., and 6. to read as follows: [Text to be added is shown with brackets and with an underline.]

"[4.   Affirm that concern for God's creation is, for every Christian, an essential way of living faithfully in Christ's world that will necessitate personal study of, attention to and engagement with emerging and new environmental concerns that are persistent, acute, and pressing.

"[5.   Affirm that the best available science should inform our care for God's creation, shaping the direction of responsible programming and policy, especially with respect to public witness concerning emergent environmental issues such as global climate change, desertification and access to potable water, and wetlands/coastal erosion.

"[6.   Affirm that all living creatures require potable water to live; that water, being essential to life, is a human right that must be accessible to all people.]"

RECOMMENDATION

The Presbytery of Charlotte overtures the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to:

1.   Lift up the “Call to Restore the Creation,” originally adopted as part of Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice by the 202nd General Assembly (1990) in recognition of its continuing importance, and the crucial work remaining on its 20th anniversary.

“Call to Restore the Creation

“Creation cries out in this time of ecological crisis.

“—Abuse of nature and injustice to people place the future in grave jeopardy.

“—Population triples in this century.

“—Biological systems suffer diminished capacity to renew themselves.

“—Finite minerals are mined and pumped as if inexhaustible.

“—Peasants are forced onto marginal lands, and soil erodes.

“—The rich-poor gap grows wider.

“—Wastes and poisons exceed nature’s capacity to absorb them.

“—Greenhouse gases pose threat of global warming.

“Therefore, God calls the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to

“—respond to the cry of creation, human and non-human;

“—engage in the effort to make the 1990s the “turnaround decade,” not only for reasons of prudence or survival, but because the endangered planet is God’s creation; and

“—draw upon all the resources of biblical faith and the Reformed tradition for empowerment and guidance in this adventure.

“The church has powerful reason for engagement in restoring God’s creation:

“—God’s works in creation are too wonderful, too ancient, too beautiful, too good to be desecrated.

“—Restoring creation is God’s own work in our time, in which God comes both to judge and to restore.

“—The Creator-Redeemer calls faithful people to become engaged with God in keeping and healing the creation, human and nonhuman.

“—Human life and well-being depend upon the flourishing of other life and the integrity of the life-supporting processes that God has ordained.

“—The love of neighbor, particularly “the least” of Christ’s brothers and sisters, requires action to stop the poisoning, the erosion, the wastefulness that are causing suffering and death.

“—The future of our children and their children and all who come after is at stake.

“—In this critical time of transition to a new era, God’s new doing may be discerned as a call to earth-keeping, to justice, and to community.

“Therefore, the 202nd General Assembly [(1990)] affirms that:

“—Response to God’s call requires a new faithfulness, for which guidance may be found in norms that illuminate the contemporary meaning of God’s steadfast love for the world.

“—Earth-keeping today means insisting on sustainability—the ongoing capacity of natural and social systems to thrive together—which requires human beings to practice wise, humble, responsible stewardship, after the model of servanthood that we have in Jesus.

“—Justice today requires participation, the inclusion of all members of the human family in obtaining and enjoying the Creator’s gifts for sustenance.

“—Justice also means sufficiency, a standard upholding the claim of all to have enough—to be met through equitable sharing and organized efforts to achieve that end.

“—Community in our time requires the nurture of solidarity, leading to steadfastness in standing with companions, victims, and allies, and to the realization of the church’s potential as a community of support for adventurous faithfulness.

“On the basis of these findings and affirmations the 202nd General Assembly (1990)

“—recognizes and accepts restoring creation as a central concern of the church, to be incorporated into its life and mission at every level;

“—understands this to be a new focus for initiative in mission program and a concern with major implications for infusion into theological work, evangelism, education, justice and peacemaking, worship and liturgy, public witness, global mission, and congregational service and action at the local community level;

“—recognizes that restoring creation is not a short-term concern to be handled in a few years, but a continuing task to which the nation and the world must give attention and commitment, and which has profound implications for the life, work, and witness of Christian people and church agencies;

“—approaches the task with covenant seriousness—‘If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God ... then you shall live’ (Deut. 30:16)—and with practical awareness that cherishing God’s creation enhances the ability of the church to achieve its other goals.” (Minutes, 1990,Part I, pp. 646–47)

2.   Commend the faithful congregations, Presbyterian church-related institutions, and church members who have responded to God’s call to cherish and protect God’s creation, and urge perseverance in the tasks of restoring God’s creation.

3.   Urge congregations, Presbyterian church-related institutions, and church members to adopt institutional and individual lifestyles reflecting greater stewardship of resources, particularly in energy consumption.

RATIONALE

Twenty years ago, the 202nd General Assembly (1990) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) overwhelmingly adopted the comprehensive policy Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice. This policy built upon the historic General Assembly policy base reflecting the determination that the protection of the environment is an essential part of the Christian faith. Subsequent General Assemblies provided additional guidance in environmental education and advocacy efforts for all councils and offices of the church.

The Book of Order (W-7.5001) states that “God calls the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in God’s work of creation and preservation…” In W.-7.5003, it reminds us that we are “… stewards of God’s creation who hold the earth in trust …”

Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice called the 1990s the “turn-around decade,” and indeed generated new and renewed efforts by the church at all levels to respond to the ecological crisis and its impact upon the poor and vulnerable with focused strategies, deeper theological and ethical reflection, and institutional and individual commitment. Yet, more work needs to be done. On the 20th anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of this comprehensive policy, it is fitting to reaffirm its findings, celebrate what it has spawned in the life of the church, and recommit ourselves to the calling that remains as valid and necessary today as it was in 1990.

 
COMMENT
COMMENT
ACSWP Advice and Counsel

      Item 11-01, from the Presbytery of Charlotte, overtures the 219th General Assembly on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of “Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice,” to lift up the “Call to Restore Creation,” seriously affirming that this commitment constitutes a new and enduring framework for all of the church’s thought and action; to commend those church entities that have responded to this call; and to urge all church entities and members to adopt practices that result in greater stewardship of earth resources.

      The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) advises that Item 11-01 be approved with the following additional recommendations:

      “[4. Affirm that concern for God’s creation is, for every Christian, an essential way of living faithfully in Christ’s world that will necessitate personal study of, attention to and engagement with emerging and new environmental concerns that are persistent, acute, and pressing

      “[5. Affirm that the best available science should inform our care for God’s creation, shaping the direction of responsible programming and policy, especially with respect to public witness concerning emergent environmental issues such as global climate change, desertification and access to potable water, and wetlands/coastal erosion.

      “[6. Affirm that all living creatures require potable water to live; that water, being essential to life, is a human right that must be accessible to all people, and that plans for urban growth, suburban sprawl, and rural development should all be conditional on the wise stewardship of water.]”

Rationale

      On approval: Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice is and has been an important call in the life of the church. Informing environmental justice ministries and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation (now Presbyterians for Creation Care), this “Call to Restore Creation” continues to guide our understanding of what it means to be in relationship with God’s creation. This call has been reaffirmed by other assemblies, including the 208th General Assembly (2008) that, in Hope for a Global Future, appeals to the 1990 “Call to Restore Creation,” affirming that “human life and well-being depend upon the flourishing of other life and the integrity of the life-supporting processes that God has ordained” (Minutes, 1996, Part I, .p. 534)

      On Recommendation 4: Environmental concern is necessarily a whole-world and whole-church commitment as well as a personal commitment incumbent upon all Christians as a means of living faithfully in God’s shared creation. The interrelatedness of elements of the biosphere demands a holistic attention to the environment that reaffirms the Presbyterian environmental policy commitment to “sustainability, sufficiency, participation, and solidarity” in addressing the ethics of ecology and justice. Environmental commitment is also confronted by the reality of new environmental issues that unfold as humankind inhabits the earth and explores the universe.

      On Recommendation 5: Several environmental issues have arisen or become more acute since the 1990 adoption of “Restoring Creation.” While the concerns of “Restoring Creation” remain continuing commitments, these “new” environmental issues have expanded our awareness of a continuing and enlarged need for attention and commitment to the environment. For instance, since 1990 , previous General Assemblies have repeatedly called on the United States and the global community to join together in order to mitigate and prevent the worst effects of global climate change. The 218th General Assembly (2008) approved “The Power to Change: U.S. Energy and Global Warming” in which it called for measures to create more sustainable and just energy consumption at all levels of the church—individuals and families; councils, governing bodies, consistent with agencies; and the church’s social responsibility regarding U.S. energy policy (Minutes, 2008, Part I, pp. 934–37).

      For its recommendations on climate change policy, the 2008 document drew specifically on the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s fourth Assessment Report, which contained scientific recommendations based on the most recent scientific data available. Such data and scientific recommendations have since been updated, leaving the recommendations of the 218th General Assembly (2008) behind the most current data. Urging that responses to climate change be commensurate with the best available science will allow the statement of the 218th General Assembly (2008) to grow with new learnings and understandings (Minutes, 2008, Part I, pp. 935–37).

      On Recommendation 6: Water, one of five areas of social policy focus in the 1990 “Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice” deserves more focused attention as we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century. The 216th General Assembly (2004) approved the “Report and Recommendations on Limited Water Resources and Takings with Study Guide” that addressed, in abbreviated form, the balance of water usage (agricultural, industrial, urban) necessary for water justice. As drought continues in southwestern states, and desertification has increased in all regions of the world,1 and as the issue of water rights grows increasingly contentious within the U.S., the General Assembly may affirm that clean water is a human right for all persons whether living in the developing world or in the United States.2 Within the U.S., disputes over sources of water among states and municipalities create political controversy. In addition, the increasing commodification of water, through bottled drinking water and other ways in which water rights are bought and sold, puts in danger the common availability of clean water to all people residing in the United States as well as increasing the burden on the environment through the use of nondegradable disposable containers.

Endnotes

1.  United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Elaboration of an International Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (NY: UN, June 14–15, 1994).

2.   World Health Organization (WHO). The Right to Water. Geneva: WHO, 2003.
CONCURRENCE
Presbytery of Greater Atlanta
Presbytery of the Foothills