A reflection on global warming

ON Aldersgate Day 2006, a documentary film on global warming presented by the former Vice- President of the United States, Mr Al Gore, opened in New York and Los Angeles. The film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2007.

Following closely on its success, Mr Gore went on to support the more recent monumental music event, Live Earth, staged in the cities of New York, London, Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Hamburg. Held on July 7, 2007 (070707), Live Earth was the musical event to kick-start a three year campaign in calling individuals, corporations and governments to take action to combat climate change and advocate environmentally-sustainable living. This was to be and continues to be a bid to deliver a worldwide call to action.

On the home front, Mediacorp, in seeking to add to the chorus of voices clamouring for Singaporeans’ attention with regard to contributing to global action against global warming, has launched a month-long green campaign across its television, news, radio and print platforms. It has also launched a website, http:// to reiterate the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling.

Mediacorp explains the use of the Greek term Gaia, seeing it as synonymous with “Mother Earth” and bids all Singaporeans to “do your part to save Gaia”. But Gaia is a loaded term and is suggestive of a world view which may not have resonance with the Christian understanding of a creator God.

Be that as it may, scientists, politicians, celebrities and business entrepreneurs have in one way or another jumped on the “green” bandwagon and in concert called for some action in light of the current global context. Yet it is a little puzzling to me that while global warming is such a “hot” topic [pun intended], it seems that not much has been written on this important issue from a missiological perspective or even preached over the pulpit as a pastoral concern.

My nagging suspicion is that perhaps there has not been much theological refl ection given to it from our context.

This article is in part the result of my musings on the subject of global warming and the implications therein for the Church.

Interestingly, as the centre of Christianity has shifted southwards, the South is becoming more vocal on issues of global warming. One example is Brazilian Methodist theologians who have tried to understand the issue by looking within their own Wesleyan heritage. In particular, Luis Wesley de Souza, enlarging upon the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to include creation within the framework, developed a Wesleyan theology of mission which incorporates Wesley’s regard for creation, as evident in Wesley’s correspondences with his friends as well as his sermons and writings.

de Souza argues that “Wesley’s repeated use of terms relating to creation suggests that for him, the created order was a source of knowing what is true” – what he calls the hermeneutics of the creation.

Even if we fail to take note of these contributions from these Brazilian Wesleyans, we should not ignore what Wesley had to say with regard to stewardship. In his sermon, “The Good Steward”, Wesley wrote: We are now God’s stewards. We are indebted to Him for all we have … A steward is not at liberty to use what is lodged in his hands as he pleases, but as his master pleases … He is not the owner of any of these things but barely entrusted with them by another … Now this is exactly the case of anyone with relation to God.

We are not at liberty to use what God has lodged in our hands as we please but as God pleases, who alone is the possessor of heaven and earth and the Lord of every creature … [God] entrusts us with [this world’s goods] on this express condition, that we use them only as our Master’s goods, and according to the particular directions
which He has given us in his word.

In view of all that is happening in the world, how should we respond? Can we proceed with the mission of God while at the same time be nonchalant to God’s creation that groans also for salvific intervention? I am not suggesting that we adopt the confrontational practices of various groups but as The Methodist Church in Singapore, perhaps more could be done at the General Conference level, at the Annual Conference level as well as within the context of the local church.

With the Annual Conferences coming up, perhaps we can do more in terms of limiting our photocopies of the immense amount of minutes and papers by making them available as “soft copies”. If various supermarkets have also encouraged the use of more recyclable bags, why can’t the Methodist Church make this a particular emphasis among the conference delegates as well as church members over the pulpit?

Granted that the climate crisis has become increasingly politicised, but we need to note also that care for creation is also a biblical injunction. It is inherent not only in Wesley’s sermons but also within the biblical accounts.

Theologically, this has become an area of concern that we can no longer ignore. The daily news is replete with examples of global warming that we do well to take note.

There are also missiological implications as the Church continues to share the message of God’s redemptive love. We cannot purport to bear the message of God’s truth and yet be apathetic to the implications therein. Rather than being seen as a “trend follower” in “going green”, should not the Church be the vanguard in being ecologically responsible as this is also inherent in our stewardship of God’s creation?

We do well to take note of the “signs of the times” and appreciate the fact that the truth of God’s message should rightly “inconvenience” us and stir us from our inertia and comfort zones!

Andrew Peh is Lecturer in Mission at Trinity Theological College.