In September 2011, The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, while meeting in Quito, Ecuador, issued a pastoral teaching (pastoral letter on the environment) that challenges the Church to face the urgency of the environmental crisis and to take bold and faithful action as an expression of our love for God and God’s creation. The pastoral teaching was substantially the document that was drawn up and drafted by the House of Bishops’ theology committee over a two year plus period of work.
The teaching invites the church to recognize the salvation of all creation as the work of Christ in the world. It presses us to recognize that we are called to live “a life of grace for the whole world.” It encourages the church to respond in terms that have always been central to its Christian faith and life: repentance, worship, redemption, salvation, obedience and holiness. This is important, for it is calling the church to be faithful to itself.
Recognizing the importance of the House of Bishop’s teaching, Bishop Thomas C. Ely of Vermont worked with authors Jerry Cappel and Stephanie Johnson, several other bishops and a number of organizations in the Episcopal Church to help create A Life of Grace for the Whole World, a curriculum that invites reflection, prayer and engagement in the bishops’ call for a flourishing life for all creation.
At the heart of the bishops’ teaching is a call to the Church to recognize a real and present challenge of our day:
We are especially called to pay heed to the suffering of the earth. . . . We [human beings] are engaged in the process of destroying our very being. If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.
This is the appointed time for all God’s children to work for the common goal of renewing the earth as a hospitable abode for the flourishing of all life. We are called to speak and act on behalf of God’s good creation.
Church leaders and teachers will find abundant resources for leading formation groups of adults and youth through these sessions. Camp leaders will find opportunities for engagement in an issue important to youth, while retreat leaders can adapt this curriculum for deep and meaningful reflection in a retreat.
Empowering the church to both speak and act on behalf of God’s good creation is the goal of the pastoral teaching. A Life of Grace for the Whole World, is a helpful companion to the pastoral teaching that will enable groups of Christians to engage the connection between their faith and the call to renew the earth.