Ecojustice in the
Uniting Church in
Australia, Queensland, and Indooroopilly
Article for TIES (Indooroopilly UCA monthly booklet), June 1998
Ecojustice is the practice of extending our concern for other people
to a concern for the whole of creation.
People's reasons for embracing ecojustice vary widely. For some Christians, it reflects a view that
God put people on the earth to rule the rest of creation. However, the creation remains God's and we
are obliged to rule over it in a responsible and caring way.
For other Christians, our belief in
evolution leads us to emphasise that people are a part of creation. While we may be the most self aware, and the
best able to relate to God, we are none-the-less creatures, genetically related
to all other creatures. Infact, more and
more evidence suggests that we are more closely related to chimpanzees than
gorillas are! We therefore extend our
justice and compassion to other species because they are, in some way, our
The Uniting Church is officially an ecojustice church, and has been since 1988.
Prior to that, creation was to be conserved for the sake of other
humans, not because it had any intrinsic worth. In 1988, however, the Assembly released a Statement
to the Nation, which said,
"We affirm our belief
that the natural world is God's creation; good in God's eyes, good in itself,
and good in sustaining human life.We will seek to identify and challenge all
structures and attitudes which perpetuate and compound the destruction of
The heightened status of creation was exemplified when the 1991
Assembly voted to adopt the Rights of Future Generations and the Rights of
Nature statement from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, of which we
are a member.
The Queensland Synod is officially an ecojustice Synod, having acknowledged in 1990 that, "the Synod's responses to environmental
destruction are imperative to its proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ in the
1990's." (90.96), and later it, "urges all parishes to choose, implement and
support at least one environmentally responsible activity within the church."
How did the Indooroopilly
congregation respond to this request? If
it did nothing, it would be in good company.
The Synod has twice resolved to produce policies on how parishes and
church bodies should enact ecojustice, but the document has never been written.
Unfortunately, the church's fine words up to 1991 were followed by an economic
downturn, and in such times practical commitment to care for others, creation
included, declines. We turn to self
preservation and damage control. The
ironic thing, is that refusing to invest in justice for the rest of creation is
self destruction, not self preservation in the long run.
I believe that the renewal of the
diaconate in the Uniting Church is one avenue for renewing our commitment to
the rest of creation. The diaconate is
intended to catalyse and support justice and compassion for the
marginalised. It is easy to argue that
Australian policy makers and businesses have moved the rest of creation to the
margins of our concern when making decisions.
The government's support of Keith William's resort in the World Heritage
listed Hinchinbrook Island is one example, the approval for a uranium mine in
the World Heritage Kakadu National Park, despite the protests of ecologists and
Aboriginal people, is another.
Despite the Synod's financial
crisis, I believe that the church ought to be able to contribute at least one
ordained minister to promote justice and compassion for the 99+% of
the creation that isn't human. The
Indooroopilly congregation is one of the wealthiest in the Synod. This means, unfortunately, that we are probably
amongst the worst environmental offenders, but ironically we are also the ones
most able to afford to do something positive.
We could send a delegation to join the Jabiluka blockade for a
fortnight, at a cost of about $300 per delegate. Many of us are in positions of considerable
influence in the community, as teachers, lecturers, civil servants,
students. All of us can exert
some influence in our society, not least by renewing our own commitment, and
refining our lifestyles. Not everybody
will care about this issue. Those who do
may need to join together to support each other, without creating schisms, much
as the charismatic movement has in decades past. We would do so knowing that we are simply
acting out our leaders' trumpet call, even though they themselves may have lost
the energy to do so.
Jason John is a final year deacon candidate, currently doing his field
education at the University of Queensland chaplaincy centre. He finishes mid-year, and hopes to find a
settlement which will enable him to support the church's desire to see justice
and compassion extended to all creation.
If you would like to read more on ecojustice and the
Uniting Church, there are a number of articles written by Ann Wansbrough, from
Assembly SR&J; Andrew Dutney, a born and bred Brisbanite who now lecturer
in Systematic theology in Adelaide; and myself.
These, along with various official UCA statements, have been bound
together in the I'pilly church library, and are also at the web site: http://www.client.ucaqld.com.au/~jjohn/deacweb/envment/index.htm
I would welcome any comments on this article, or my
papers, as the work is all, "thoughts in progress".