As Christians, we affirm that the earth is the Lord’s and that God is the Creator of all things. All of creation was created good, but through sin the relationships of the created order are fractured. While Christ is the one who has reconciled us with God and is setting all things right, we are called to be his disciples, joyfully loving and serving God, our neighbors, and all of creation, for our reconciliation in Christ makes us yearn for the reconciliation of the entire created order. We are stewards of creation, therefore, because this is both our created duty and our joyful response to the God who declares all he has created “very good”!
We lament that our abuse of creation
has brought lasting damage
to the world we have been given:
polluting streams and soil,
poisoning the air,
altering the climate,
and damaging the earth.
We commit ourselves
to honor all God’s creatures
and to protect them from abuse and extinction,
for our world belongs to God.
(Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, para. 51)
Soil and land are being degraded and eroded at an alarming rate; 870,000 different chemicals, most of which are foreign to creation, are currently used commercially; 2.2 billion acres of natural land have been converted for human use since 1850; animal species are going extinct at ever increasing rates; the earth’s climate system is being disrupted in dangerous and alarming ways. In many ways throughout creation, things are not the way they are supposed to be.
We care about the well-being of creation because every single human being, whether living in downtown Manhattan or in rural Bangladesh, depends on creation to survive. This is especially true for the billions of people around the world who depend on the earth for their immediate well-being—subsistence farmers, small-scale herders and ranchers, and millions who fish local reefs and fisheries both to feed their families and to send their catch to market.
These are people for whom a healthy creation is most desperately and immediately important, and these people are hurt first and most deeply in a creation that is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:22). Creation care, then, is a deeply moral issue with immediate implications for billions of people around the world.
We believe that speaking out on behalf of God’s creation and for all who depend on it for survival (all of us!) makes the church a place of lived theology. The CRC cares about this issue and has proven so through official statements, energy recovery projects at the denominational building and in local churches, and through lifestyle changes and adjustments made by individual members. Together these efforts reflect a church whose heart is aligned with the heart of God and desires to do his will in, and on behalf of, his creation. We have a long way to go, but we’re on our way!
What restoration looks like
One of our favorite examples of restoration comes from our partners in Kenya, East Africa. World Renew has been partnering with local organizations in Kenya on community development and sustainable agriculture for decades and is seeing some incredible results. On a recent learning tour to the region, a delegation of CRC members got to see firsthand glimpses of restoration occurring in Kenya. They learned the stories of organizations like Care of Creation, which is dedicated to training local farmers in the principles of sustainable agriculture that it calls Farming God’s Way. By using mulch to retain moisture and limit pest infestation, and by working organic matter into the soil through natural composition rather than traditional tilling techniques, farmers are seeing yields that are proving resistant to drought and that are greater than those of their neighbors using conventional farming methods.
The group heard stories about organizations like the World Agroforestry Center, which is developing agroforestry projects that are yielding amazing results. When farmers plant trees among their crops, they find that the leaves of the trees not only provide shade from the direct, equatorial sun for fledgling crops but also later become nutrient-rich organic matter when they fall off the trees and decay into the soil. The delegation also learned about sand dams, an ingenious indigenous solution to the problem of seasonal drying along rivers. A low wall in a seasonal riverbed collects sediment while water flows over the wall and continues downstream. In only a matter of months, the piled sand behind the wall traps clean water that remains just inches below the surface even when the river has stopped running. This conservation method has provided a year-round source of water for countless communities who in the past had to travel miles on foot to get water during the dry season.
We also see glimpses of God’s kingdom in our local communities. In Grand Rapids, a group of concerned community members came together a few years ago around the severely degraded state of their local watershed, particularly one of the watershed’s main tributaries—Plaster Creek. Calling themselves the Plaster Creek Stewards, the group organized local clean-up days and educational seminars to help people understand the importance of a healthy watershed and why we as Christians should care. After only a few years of work, the group has already obtained a multimillion dollar grant from the Clean Water Act to continue its work, and the health of the Plaster Creek Watershed continues to improve. [Know what watershed you live in? Find out here!].
These are only a few glimpses of restoration that our denomination has been privileged to witness, but there are countless others. Wherever relationships between humans and creation are being healed; wherever people serve creation and are served, in turn, by a healthy environment; wherever creation is cared for, restoration is taking place.
[Header image: Flickr user Shubert Ciencia]