Adventists and the Environment
Richard de Lisser, PhD,
Communication/Stewardship Director, South England Conference of SDA
Summary: The writer reminds us that we are God's stewards entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessing of the earth and its resources. We are responsible to Him for their proper use.
Seventh-day Adventists around the world are concerned about the environment. Climate change, global warming, carbon emission are the daily staple diet of many a news editor as they prepare the newspapers for our daily consumption. The headlines grab our attention and arrest our thoughts and imaginations; will we have a viable planet to pass on to our children yet alone our children’s children? New frontiers are being sought just in case the prophets of doom, death and destruction are right as the moon and beyond become the next step for man and mankind. While back here on earth politicians, presidents, pontiffs, and prime ministers convene conferences, issue joint declarations and set targets to steer the world clear of disaster, requesting of us to think globally but act locally. But what organization is best placed to rise to this challenge than the Seventh-day Adventist church?
Enshrined in our 28 fundamental beliefs is the doctrine of stewardship which outlines the churches green agenda when it states: We are God's stewards entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessing of the earth and its resources. We are responsible to Him for their proper use.
As a Church are we taking this responsibility seriously?
God has placed us on this earth as His image bearers to look after and manage His environment faithfully and lovingly. Seventh-day Adventists believe the preservation and nurture of the environment relates intimately with the way we serve God.
The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Administrative Committee in an approved and voted statement released in 1996 stated:
Unfortunately, men and women have been increasingly involved in an irresponsible destruction of the earth's resources, resulting in widespread suffering, environmental degradation, and the threat of climate change. While scientific research needs to continue, it is clear from the accumulated evidence that the increasing emission of destructive gasses, the massive destruction of the American rain forests, and the depletion of the protective mantel of ozone (the so-called greenhouse effect), are all threatening the earth's ecosystem. There are dire predictions of global warming, rising sea levels, increasing frequency of storms and destructive floods, and devastating desertification and droughts.
These problems are largely due to human selfishness and greed which result in ever-increasing production, unlimited consumption, and depletion of non-renewable resources. Solidarity with future generations is discussed, but the pressure of immediate interests is given priority. The ecological crisis is rooted in humankind's greed and refusal to practice good and faithful stewardship.
Seventh-day Adventism advocates a simple, wholesome lifestyle, where people do not step on the treadmill of unbridled over-consumption, accumulation of goods, and production of waste. A reformation of lifestyle is called for, based on respect for nature, restraint in the use of the world's resources, re-evaluation of one's needs, and reaffirmation of the dignity of created life.
What can the local church, conference, or union do to advocate this much needed reform?
To begin with there are internationally recognized Environmental Management Systems (EMS) such as ISO 14000. This is a set of management standards that enables organizations to identify and modify or control how their activity impacts on their environment. Further, EMS helps to improve the organizations’ environmental performance continually, and to implement a systematic approach to setting environmental objectives and achievable and demonstrable targets. It also provides assurance to management that it is in control of the organizational processes and activities having an impact on the environment and assures employees and or volunteers that they are working for an environmentally responsible organization.
Examples of Environmental Adventists
Churches can be encouraged to:
2. Nurture future generations to think environmentally.
3. Value what we have now and pass on the earth legacy.
4. Initiate steps to work with agencies who are protecting the environment.
5. Recycle, remodel, reuse, reclaim, repair, and practice restraint.
6. Organize and create an environmental agenda.
7. Nature is life’s lesson book; learn from it.
8. Manage earth’s resources faithfully and lovingly.
9. Enhance energy efficiency and productivity.
10. Temperate: be balanced in all that we do.
At Newbold College Church
The Newbold College Church located in the South of England is a spacious contemporary building built with the environment in mind. The church opened in September 2002 integrates seamlessly into the landscape. To ensure that the view of the historic manor house, Moor Close, remains unrestricted, the church has been built into the contours of the gently sloping land, with the largest elements towards the boundaries of the site. Once inside the building there is a feeling of openness and transparency and the semi-circular seating arrangement ensures that the congregation can feel involved with the activities on the platform. One of the most innovative features is the green turf-covered flat roof over single storey spaces. The circular drum enclosing the main area of the church is clad in natural cedar blending into the trees in the background.
Eco-Champion Anna Surridge
The British Union Conference News recently reported the story of a 16 year old Adventist eco-champion by the name of Anna Surridge. Whether it is an eco-friendly hair dryer, recycling mobile phones, digging up the lawn to plant vegetables, or getting baptized, Anna is passionate about the environment and climate change. Living in South Wales she is one of six “Climate Change Champions” appointed by the Welsh Assembly to “help people change small things in their life to help the environment.”
During 2009 she is traveling to various events highlighting the need to care for the environment. As well as visiting schools, she has met with Welsh Assembly ministers and visited the EU in Brussels.
This month she was one of the speakers at a “Countdown to Copenhagen” conference where she was able to share ideas with over 380 young people alongside the likes of Ben Saunders, the polar explorer. She encouraged the young people to leave messages on a ‘graffiti wall’ or to record a video message for the environment ministers to take to the upcoming Copenhagen Summit.
Anna lives a busy life. She has just finished her GCSE exams and attended her prom (in eco-friendly dress and by public transport), but she is equally passionate about her church. During her year as “Climate Change Champion” she also chose to get baptized not in the warmth of a heated baptistery in her home church of Ystrad Mynach. Anna chose the outdoors and the River Usk for her special day. In a full page spread in theSouth Wales Echo she stated that she, “worked out that the electricity needed to raise the temperature of a baptistery to a comfortable temperature could be equivalent to making a thousand cups of tea.”
During the year Anna has become quite media savvy appearing on TV, meeting with government ministers and celebrities, and being reported in various newspapers and newsletters several times. However, the report in the South Wales Echo was the highlight for her. “I’m just delighted to get my two favorite causes, environment and church, into one story,” she said. “I’m passionate about climate change because it is happening here and now and if we don’t do something about it, the consequences will affect us, and our environment will only get worse. I’m passionate about my faith because I love God and have such a loving church family.”
Anna runs her own website about the environment www.anna.surridge.org.uk and is keen to spread the simple message that making small changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference to the wonderful world God has created for us to live in.