Creation Care at the Frontiers of Mission
by Lowell Bliss
It’s been one year since our Creation Care at the Frontiers of Mission (CCFM) conference out at the Frontier Ventures campus in Pasadena, and it’s been a busy year for one of our keynote speakers. Katharine Hayhoe didn’t even have time to properly celebrate Thanksgiving. She was one of the lead authors of the Fourth US National Climate Assessment, and here’s how she describes its snap release on the Friday after the holiday:
"The Monday before Thanksgiving, I was in full pie production mode. The counter was covered in apple peels and flour, and so were my hands. My phone chimed. Another message, this time from a colleague. “We’ve been told the report is to be released this Friday!” it said. “Sending proofs right away!”
I immediately reached for my laptop. With floury fingers, I opened the PDFs to see what I had to do and try to figure out how long it would take. The pies went straight into the freezer and the next 60 hours was a flat-out marathon for all of us, with emails and phone calls through the day and well into the night. I finished my own final checks in the car on the way to family Thanksgiving, and sent off my documents in the next pocket of phone coverage we found, driving through rural Virginia."
This past year, perhaps more than any other, has added a “time element” to creation care, at least to climate action. A different report, the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, was released in October. The Guardian and other newspapers were quick to run somewhat misleading headlines like “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN.” The National Geographic was more measured: “These solutions all require unprecedented efforts to cut fossil-fuel use in half in less than 15 years and eliminate their use almost entirely in 30 years.” IPCC spokespeople simply said, “The next few years are probably the most important in our history.”
Time frames are problematic and that’s why, while I take up the urgency of these climate reports, I am glad that Katharine’s personal story of Thanksgiving 2018 ties us back to “time” as followers of Christ understand it: the kairos moment and not just the chronos one, God-governed seasons, harvest, holidays, holy days, proactive Sabbath-like mechanisms which turn our attention back to the Creator God with faith and hope.
I spent a portion of my time on Thanksgiving Day praising God for what a wonderful time we had together at CCFM 2018. Many of the presentations, including Katharine’s talk “Loving Our Global Neighbor” are available as nicely curated podcasts at www.creationcaremissions.org . The urgency of our times—“the next few years are probably the most important in our history”—makes me pleased to deliver this announcement:
Save the Date!
CCFM 2020 is scheduled for March 19-21, 2020.
(Exact location to be announced.) This will be a Thursday-Saturday event which includes a meeting of the US Lausanne WEA Creation Care Network on Thursday, and a “Young Leaders” program on Friday, with our traditional CCFM programming on Friday night and Saturday. Coinciding with the conference, we will be hosting a “hackathon” for young computer and design students who will, adding to award-winning work done recently at Urbana, create technological tools to help “see movements to Jesus which express the fullness of the kingdom of God [in creation care] among all peoples.”
by Lowell Bliss
I am under something of a deadline with this blog post, but I find myself consumed with the breaking news: it is Monday, April 15 and Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is burning. I watch the footage. I check repeatedly for updates. I recognize that I am feeling sad. I am mourning.
I am not Parisian nor from France. I’m not Roman Catholic. I’ve only been inside Notre Dame once. It isn’t even my favorite cathedral in Paris. Yet, what I’m feeling is more than empathy for a city and its beloved landmark. I feel this personally. Barack Obama spoke deftly to what I’m feeling when just five minutes ago, he tweeted: “Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can.” Yes, Notre Dame is a great treasure, and because I live in this world, it is also my treasure too. But I recognize, as does Obama, that Notre Dame means something particular to the French people. It is their time of grief, and I want to honor that. I’m glad to be reminded that “it’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost,” or beauty lost, or certainly if lives are host. (At the time I was writing this, there was concern that if the Great Bell were to fall, the entire tower would collapse and endanger the firefighters battling the blaze from below. Thank God, the structure remains standing and no lives were lost—but when we do lose our loved ones, “it is in our nature to mourn.”) If I have any complaint with Obama’s tweet is that it rushes too quickly to words of encouragement and rebuilding. If grief is natural, then all the time that grief might require of us is natural as well.
My one visit to the inside of the Notre Dame cathedral was in 2015 during the time of COP 21, the UN climate summit which produced the Paris Agreement. I skipped out on the climate-related ecumenical service, an act of hooky which I blame on jet-lag and little comfort for such events. Nonetheless I enjoyed the climate-related art installations tucked away in its alcoves and the special tapestries draped down its center aisle. Don’t worry: I don’t intend to draw any garish analogies here about how the planet is burning in like manner as the cathedral. Instead I want to talk about one unavoidable emotion of creation care.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. . .” (Romans 1:20a NIV.) The phrase “what has been made” is translated from the Greek word poiema, from which we also derive