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Worth reading

Hope in God’s Future: Christian discipleship in the context of climate change

This month we feature an overview of the findings of the joint working group on climate change and theology convened by of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and United Reformed Church. The full report is now in its second edition, and available in a beautiful hard copy format 
and to download.
Hope in God’s Future sets out to take us on a transformative journey, using the changing mood of a service of worship as a framework. It includes a guide that can be used as a tool for personal study and devotion, pointing the reader to questions and activities which will aid reflection. The text can also be studied in a small group setting, or as a daily study dedicated to working through the issues raised. The team has provided sample outlines for each of these approaches.
A service of worship begins in a place of contemplation: praising and waiting for God. It moves to an encounter with God’s word, which elicits a response of transformed hearts and the resolution to begin to live out changed lives. Using this model, we are invited to read and reflect on the five sections of the report “with the mind in the heart”. This means letting God speak to our whole personality: heart, mind and lifestyle.

Approaching God in the context of climate change

The theological task is to reflect on modern scientific accounts of the threats presented by climate change in the context of affirming the triune God as creator and redeemer of the universe. The scientific analyses of climate change and the role of human carbon emissions are well-grounded. It is now intellectually and morally irresponsible to fail to acknowledge and address the urgent need for radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent intolerable damage to human populations and mass extinctions of many plant and animal species.

Encountering the Word of God

Reading the Bible in the context of climate change gives a vision of hope in God’s faithfulness to creation, a call to practise love and justice to our human and other-than-human neighbours, and a warning of God’s judgement of those who fail to do so. In this context, closing our ears to the voices of those most vulnerable to climate change would be nothing less than giving up our claim to be disciples of Christ.

Responding to God’s Word

What is required of God’s people in the industrialised world is repentance. The first step towards this change of heart and practice is confessing our complicity in the sinful structures that have caused the problem.

The body of Christ in the World

A core component to Christian discipleship is now a commitment to lifestyles consistent with levels of carbon emissions the earth can sustain. The Church must commit itself to the UK government target of reducing carbon emissions by a minimum of 80 per cent by 2050 and to urgent action to meet appropriate interim goals, as well as assisting members of its congregations to make similar changes and engaging with government to enable national and international change.

Sending out

We call on our churches to confess their guilt in relation to the causes of climate change, to show signs of repentance and redeemed sacramental living and to be a prophetic voice in the life of our communities in the following ways:
1. Through prayer, preaching, bible study, teaching, and discussion to raise awareness of the need for confession and repentance among the churches and thereby enable acts of corporate confession in liturgical settings.
2. To act urgently to reduce carbon emissions across the whole of church life in line with the national goal of a minimum 80% reduction by 2050 and appropriate interim targets. This will require first a systematic audit of church carbon emissions at national and local levels and second a strategy to reduce these emissions to achieve this target.
3. To help members of congregations to make similar adjustments in the carbon emissions associated with their lifestyles by supporting them in a personal audit and strategies to reduce their emissions.       
4. To campaign at a local and national level for policies that strengthen and take steps towards realising the commitment to a minimum 80% reduction by 2050.
Words, and membership of the working group: Rev Dr Rosalind Selby (Chair), Rev Dr Paul Beetham, Francis Brienen, Dr David Clough, Dr David W Golding CBE, Rev Dr David Gregory, Stephanie Grey, Rev Mike Shrubsole and Rev Dr John Weaver. Convened and supported by: Steve Hucklesby and Rev Dr Rosemary Kidd.

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