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June 11, 2003 ELCA News Service
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Bishop Opens 'Another Look' at ELCA Statement on Environment

"Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice
DCS Pages on Environmental Education and Advocacy

Chicago (ELCA)-FI — Now is a good time to take another look at "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice," the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) social statement on the environment, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, wrote in an open letter to commemorate the statement's 10th anniversary. He announced a November consultation, "For the Healing of the World: Caring for Creation Now," to cap a year of review.

"Individuals and communities have continued to struggle with environmental degradation in their neighborhoods, nations and the world. Concern over pollution, species extinction, over-consumption and over- population, climate change and other threats has continued to grow," wrote Hanson.

"Since the social statement was adopted, awareness has increased about environmental issues and how they might be addressed practically. An ever-increasing number of synods are responding to creation-care issues," Hanson said.

The 10,766 congregations of the ELCA are organized into 65 synods across the United States and Caribbean.

Hanson mentioned the formation of the Lutheran Earthkeeping Network of the Synods (LENS) and the efforts of congregations and members to reduce energy consumption over the past decade. He cited the ELCA's advocacy efforts in both the public and private sectors to address climate change and to take responsibility for the environment.

"From the standpoint of faith, the world around us is not a mere 'environment,'" wrote Hanson. "It is the creation."

The Earth is "common ground" for all people, he said. So, addressing environmental issues provides an opportunity to work with other Christians and with people of other faiths.

"Creation is the matrix of all our activities, both as human beings and as Christ's church. God gives us and all creatures life through the water, air, food and all the other gifts that come to us from the earth," Hanson wrote.

"Everything we do both depends on these gifts, and has some kind of impact upon them," he wrote. "If they are graciously received and cherished, people will flourish with the rest of creation. We cannot love God or our human neighbor without caring for creation."

The question before the ELCA is how to go about addressing environmental issues, Hanson said. "First of all, we must put our own houses in order as individuals, families, congregations, synods and as a churchwide body. Second, we must join with other citizens of good will to care for God's good earth by championing informed and responsible environmental policies and business practices," he wrote.

November's consultation "will be an occasion to review what our church has done or left undone; to try to discern what God is calling us to do in our time; and to organize and equip ourselves to carry out God's healing ministry to the whole of creation," he said.

Hanson said regional gatherings throughout the year and articles in church publications "will lift up this issue for reflection and deliberation by the whole church" in preparation for the consultation.

"My prayer is that you will join in this process of reaffirming our church's commitment to care for God's creation; to grasp more fully the Christian vision of God's love in Christ for this planet and its people; to work for justice as the right relationship among all creatures; and to declare our hope in God for the restoration and renewal of the world," Hanson wrote.

The ELCA Division for Church in Society plans to host the consultation Nov. 5-7 at the University of St. Mary on the Lake, Mundelein, Ill. Participants will include the task force that drafted the social statement, ELCA directors for public policy from several state capitals, and representatives from synods, church-related colleges and seminaries.