Is our green green enough?

May 17, 2010 | Editorial | Number 10
Dick Benner | Editor/Publisher

Not very, unfortunately.

While Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is to be commended for its newly stated goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent over the next 10 years, we have to ask, with our New Order Voice columnist, Will Braun: “Why has it taken so long?”

We are heartened that our official service agency has come up with this specific goal and pleased that with its global ministry MCC is addressing “sustainability” in some of the most vulnerable places on earth where extreme climates have been affected severely by climate change. But its goals are far too modest. And so are ours in the average Mennonite pew.

The dominant western culture—from which we separate ourselves theologically and in many of our practices—is way ahead of us. Many major Canadian corporations, as pointed out in our main feature on page 4, have implemented policies and practices that encourage biking over driving to work and reward staff who buy hybrid cars, and which are already big on video-conferencing rather than travelling long distances to management meetings.

The city of Vancouver’s green homes program, according to the Globe and Mail, requires all one- and two-family homes to be equipped for solar power, include energy-saving windows, and have insulated foundations and dual-flush toilets. One Catholic church in Toronto—St. Gabriel’s—is the first congregation in Canada on track to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification for its exceptional environmental performance and energy efficiency.

Why are we, rooted historically in the soil as an agrarian people, so slow to integrate the care of creation into our core Anabaptist belief system? We are only now tiptoeing around the issue in our official vision and belief statements, not certain that this pressing 21st century issue, increasingly hidden in plain sight, rises to the level of the Holy Spirit, Scripture, foot-washing, sin, stewardship or the taking of oaths.

In Article 6 of our Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, we carefully wrap it around a theology of being created in the image of God and declare: “As creatures according to the divine likeness, we have been made stewards to subdue and to care for creation out of reverence and honour for the Creator.”

Really? Is that all there is?

Yes, binationally, we have created a creation care council, and Luke Gascho, its director, is trying his best to raise awareness by developing a theology of living the “resurrected life” and a sense of “spiritual homelessness,” but the proof is in the pudding, to use a cliché. Only one Canadian congregation—Hillcrest Mennonite in New Hamburg, Ont.—is on record as having joined what Gascho has established as “100 Shades of Green,” an attempt to get congregations to commit to practising sustainability and environmental stewardship in their local contexts.

Hillcrest also received an award from the Waterloo Region’s Greening Sacred Spaces network for insulating its water heater, installing energy-efficient LED bulbs in some indoor signs and replacing most light bulbs in the church with compact fluorescent bulbs, and for plans to install $100,000 worth of solar panels on the church grounds.

While Hillcrest and Milverton Mennonite Fellowship, Ont., which has had a geothermal heating system to save energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels since 1991, are to be commended for leading the way for congregations, the overall record is abysmal. Why are we, educated and culturally advanced compared to the rest of the world, not painfully aware, as James M. Harder and Karen Klassen Harder point out in their chapter in Creation and the Environment, that “the 20 percent of the world’s population who live in the richest countries can effectively use global markets to get whatever natural resources are available, since they control nearly 80 percent of the world’s total income and purchasing power”?

Our green is not green enough. Maybe there is more going on in our congregations than meets the eye, as Joanne Moyer and David Neufeld, MC Canada’s representatives on the Mennonite Creation Care Network, suggest. But our tardiness in coming to the creation care table is not to our credit, nor is it becoming to our Anabaptist character.

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