Global Climate Change
A Moral and Spiritual Challenge
May 23, 2007
The following statement, “Global Climate Change: A Moral and Spiritual Challenge,” was adopted by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) at their May 23, 2007 session at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, NY. The document conveys a theological understanding of the role of the human person and the environment, with particular emphasis on climate change.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“For favorable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and temperate seasons, Let us pray to the Lord.”
At every Divine Liturgy the Orthodox Church repeats this petition.
The Book of Prayers (Euchologion) contains numerous prayers for gardens, animals, crops, water and weather conditions. In her wisdom, then, the Church has always known that human beings are dependent upon the grace of God through the world around us to nurture and sustain civilized society. Indeed, “God has worked our salvation through the material world” (St. John Damascene, “On the Divine Images,” 1,16). While God is the Source of all that we have, and His presence fills the entire world (see Acts 17.28), we humans share a God- given responsibility to care for His creation and offer it back to Him in thanksgiving for all that we have and are. “Thine own of thine own, we offer unto thee, in behalf of all and for all.”
The action of returning creation back to God in gratitude and praise summarizes the commands that God gave humanity in the first chapters of Genesis. These commandments are
intended to guide us into a fullness of the spiritual and material goods that we need. God tells us to “have dominion over the earth” (Genesis 1.28), which means that we are to care for the earth as the Lord would care for it. In the original Hebrew, the word for dominion (radah) means to rule in the place of the Lord. In the Greek Septuagint, the word for full dominion (katakyrieuo) contains the root word kyrios, the same word that we use for Christ as Lord Ruler over all. From this, it follows that our responsibility as human beings is to enter into His will and to rule as the Lord would rule.
“We are all personally responsible to identify and adopt appropriate moral and ethical approaches to the changing conditions of the world.”
God also tells us that we are “to cultivate and keep the Garden of Eden” (Genesis 2.15, LXX). The literal meaning of this passage is that humans are required to serve the earth as well as to protect it from desecration or exploitation. We are responsible to God for how we use and care for the earth in order that all people may have a sufficiency of all that is needful. It is through our proper use of the material and natural world that God is worshipped: