This past weekend we celebrated the solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year. Next weekend marks the beginning of a new church year as we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent (that’s right, already!). The celebration of Christ the King might evoke a variety of images and views of God for different people. One way to think about the title and solemnity, one that might not be emphasized all that much is that Christ is the King of all creation. This understanding of the reign of God, the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom (malkuth Yahweh in Hebrew, or basileia tou Theou in Greek), extends beyond our own worlds, experiences, concepts of nations or even the environment. Christ is the one who rules over the entire Cosmos, for as St. Paul reminds us, all was created in Christ and unto Christ, He is before all else that is, the firstborn of all Creation.

At the parish where I assist as a deacon in Triangle, Va., we had the privilege of having a guest speaker this weekend who encouraged the assembled community to seriously reflect on their connection to the earth and all creation in a way that tied in to their faith and understanding of Christ as King of all Creation. Rev. Fletcher Harper, an Episcopalian priest and executive director of GreenFaith, an interreligious organization focused on the environment, whose mission is, “to inspire, educate and mobilize people of diverse religious backgrounds for environmental leadership.”

Fletcher offered excellent and engaging reflections about his understanding of the connection between Christian faith and environmental concern, something that Christians should see as more intuitive. He spoke of his personal experiences, both as a father and as someone professionally engaged with environmental justice work internationally, that helped him recognize this foundational truth that all of creation is indeed sacred and that as people of faith we are called to protect and celebrate all of the cosmos. In passing he even mentioned St. Francis of Assisi and implicitly recognized how important a parish committed to the Franciscan spiritual tradition, and whose patron is Francis himself, should see this as a central part of its mission.

I was not all that familiar with the organization GreenFaith prior to meeting Fletcher this weekend, but I’m delighted to have met him and spoken with him a little in-between the Masses and to listen to his sermons. Having checked out the GreenFaith website a little, it seems like a resource all who read should check out. I noticed that my colleague Sr. Kathleen Deignan, CND, the current president of the International Thomas Merton Society on whose Board of Directors I currently serve, is also on the board of GreenFaith. Sometimes you realize just how small the world really is!

Additionally, GreenFaith offers a number of resources and programs, including a certificate program, that might aid those who are “driven by the spirit” (Mark 1:12) — as Fletcher reminded the congregation of Jesus’s move toward creation in the wilderness to pray — to take more initiative in caring for this earth and the entire cosmos. They offer, for example, several free webinars on energy conservation, among other programs.

I really encourage you to check out GreenFaith and learn more about what that organization is doing to help spread the word of reminder and encouragement about what our responsibility is as people of faith to the rest of creation, which was created “very good” along with humanity. We are part of this creation, not above or apart from it. I believe, as Fletcher intuited well, that Franciscan spirituality and theology offers a particularly helpful set of resources and a unique worldview that specifically challenges us to see our connection to the rest of creation as a form of kinship. I also offer here an article I published back in January 2011 in the journal The Cord, a Franciscan spiritual review, titled: “A Franciscan Theological Grammar of Creation”. I hope it might help readers to understand better the unique way we are called to see the world and the entire cosmos from a Franciscan worldview.

Photos: Stock, GreenFaith


1 Comment

  1. GreenFaith focuses the unease that many of us experience about the elevation of environmentalism in the constellation of theological concerns. In the abstract, environmental stewardship is properly seen as a moral obligation. In its application, it tends to attract some overly-devoted disciples who display a one-issue focus. This problem is displayed in the Keystone XL pipeline article linked on the GreenFaith website.

    The Rev. Betsy Blake Bennett expressed her concerns about the pipeline in a November 17 blogpost. Her principal anxiety was the risk to the Ogallala aquifer posed by the pipeline’s path through the Sandhills region of Nebraska. This may be a reasonable concern because of the depressions in the hills and the proximity of the aquifer. But, Rev. Bennett apparently had not noticed that the TransCanada CEO announced two days previously, on November 15, that his firm would reroute the pipeline to remove that concern.

    Her essay proceeds to present an environmental litany of other concerns. Oil production from the Athabasca Tar Sands is somehow a threat to the First Nations people. It threatens migratory birds. And, finally, the environmental doxology: The project will increase greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming.

    The anthropogenic aspect of global warming is an established doctrine of GreenFaith, but it is irrelevant to the pipeline debate. Oil production from the Tar Sands will occur with or without the pipeline. The question is whether the United States will receive that oil via the pipeline, or Asia will receive it via tankers.

    Perhaps we will all someday drive cars powered by super-efficient solar panel on their roofs, but for the foreseeable future we need oil. It is a reasonable choice for us to purchase more of that oil from our neighbor and ally, Canada, than from countries that are unstable or unfriendly. And, Rev. Bennett might notice that our economy could use the jobs that pipeline and refinery construction and operation would generate. There would be an ongoing positive impact on our GDP.

    We must respect the environment, but that concern must be balanced with the need for economic growth and energy security. If the environmental zealots win the argument for environmental monasticism we will risk both prosperity and safety.

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