From Pole to Pole
I’m at the World Council of Church’s 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea. It’s a gathering of Christians from all over the world and from many different expressions of Christianity – from various forms of the Orthodox Church to “free” churches (such as Mennonites and Quakers) to one of the larger groups, the Methodist family of churches around the world.
During the Assembly, I am the moderator for one of the ecumenical conversations that happens throughout the 10 days. My ecumenical conversation is on eco-justice or care for God’s earth. Prior to attending the Assembly, delegates and observers alike signed up for one of the 21 ecumenical conversations. There are church leaders from Africa, Asia, Europe, the South Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East but there are few if any people from the US in the group.
One day we heard from Rev. Tafue Lusama who is the General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu, a series of eight islands in the South Pacific. He is also an activist for the Climate Action Network and often speaks at United Nations conferences on what is happening to his homeland. Since he was young, he has observed and it has been documented that the islands are slowly being submerged into the sea. Within 30-50 years, they will be gone or at least uninhabitable. Children grow up wondering where they will live. But the effects of climate change aren’t just in the future. The islands rely on growing their own food. With the rise of the sea, the water table is flooded with salt water which destroys their gardens and therefore their food supply even now.
Another day we heard from Bishop Sofie Petersen who is an Inuit and the second female bishop in the Danish Lutheran Church, serving Greenland. She told about how Greenland observes the melting of glaciers and icebergs around them. The warming causes the permafrost to melt and that compromises the structures of their houses as they sink or sag with the thawing ground. The effects of climate change aren’t abstract or something that might happen in the future. It’s happening now.
A United Methodist who lives in Korea told how Korea’s weather is impacted by the warming and melting of the Arctic. It is causing the weather to be much more extreme; extremely hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. Extreme weather is also a reality in our own country but there’s still a question for many as to whether or not climate change is real and whether it is caused by human beings.
Who except the church is able to call into question our way of living? Certainly business and industry can’t or won’t because it’s not beneficial to its own self-interest. Politicians won’t, even if they believe it, because it’s not what voters want to hear. Yet when Jesus says to love our neighbors as ourselves, he means those who live from one end of the planet to another – from Greenland to Tuvalu. He also means to love our neighbors now as well as our neighbors in the future who will live with the condition we live this planet in during our lifetime. Is care for the earth a spiritual matter? WDYT?