Faith in the Age of the Anthropocene

Albertans challenged to think anew about how creation care is a pivotal issue for Christians

Donita Wiebe-Neufeld | Alberta Correspondent
Emonton, Alta.

“I believe this is the defining issue of our time, how humans relate to creation.”

Caleb Gingrich, a student at McGill University in Montreal, was so taken by the theme of Mennonite Church Alberta’s annual Faith Studies event that he travelled across Canada to take it in. Gingrich, who is currently working on a research project called “Economics and the Anthropocy,” commented, “My faith is important to me, I was looking for an opportunity to see how these two parts of me come together.”

“Called to peacemaking with all creation: Living faithfully in the Age of the Anthropocene” was hosted at Holyrood Mennonite Church over three days in May 2017. Professor Randolph Haluza-Delay, a social scientist at King’s University in Edmonton, was the speaker.

With more than 30 years studying the interaction of Christian faith and the environment, he challenged participants to think anew about how creation care is a pivotal issue for Christians. At a time when humanity’s impact on the planet is so large it can be identified as a new era—the Anthropocene—Christians have an important voice.

During one session, participants were divided into groups and given a wide variety of biblical passages. Haluza-Delay urged them to read their passages from the point of view of the whole creation, including humanity, but not from an exclusively human perspective. It proved surprisingly eye-opening for many, as the verses referred to the land, the animals and all creatures, while some regularly assumed they always referred to people.

The results inspired Pastor Leng Thang of Calgary Chin Christian Church to preach a sermon on creation care as a Christian issue. “This has impacted my heart, touched my heart,” he said. Formerly from Burma, he saw ecological degradation first-hand, as mountains were flattened in pursuit of precious minerals while poverty and desperation increased. “If I go back to my province, my country, I would like to preach this. I have this experience now,” he said.

In two evening public lectures, Haluza-Delay presented a deluge of facts, issues and stories of environmental struggle threaded through with notes of hope. This hope is particularly present in the faith community because of its acknowledgement of God as creator, redeemer and sustainer of all life.

He encouraged everyone to engage others of different views in conversations about creation care. “Simple conversations can start shaping people’s thinking on the subject,” he said. “[We] have to find out what works with people. Look for shared values. . . . Normalize the conversation, [engage] the messy middle that isn’t clear, so conversation can progress.”

Haluza-Delay attends First Mennonite Church in Edmonton. He is the editor of the book How the World’s Religions are Responding to Climate Change and served as an observer with the World Council of Churches to the UN-sponsored climate negotiations in Morocco in 2016.

See also “Care for creation and environmental justice.”

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