Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Theological Reflection on the Ecological Problem in Relation to the Accra Confession: An East Asian Perspective

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Theological Reflection on the Ecological Problem in Relation to the Accra Confession: An East Asian Perspective

Article excerpt


Compared with the declarations related to ecological concerns produced by other ecclesial bodies, the Accra Confession is not a latecomer. (2) But in view of the increasingly severe situation the world is now facing (for example, the nuclear threat, from Chernobyl to Three Mile Island and, recently, Fukushima), it seems that the "prophetic" voice from the Christian church always comes too late. Be that as it may, every Christian should share the common mission of being a peacemaker with all of God's creation, despite the groaning of the earth in face of all sorts of threat and injustice. In this paper, I first review the Accra Confession in relation to ecological concerns. Then, as it seems to me that the interfaith perspective has received less attention, I develop a theological reflection based on my East Asian cultural resources in order to make a contribution to the global problem from a regional stance. Finally I provide some practical suggestions.

A review of the Accra confession

Some general comments

Others have already offered reflections on the Accra Confession. (3) While there are acclamations and extended reflections from different perspectives, we can also find critical comments. For example, Hans-Wilfried Haase writes that because of "a lack of clarity and general obligation in the area of practical action," the confession offers "no realistic proposals." Moreover, as the Confession emerged in the context of Africa, "the picture of reality painted ... is rather rough, one-dimensional and simplistic" and "does not differentiate between vastly dissimilar realities." Therefore, the main difficulty is that "no indication is given of what a just economic order would look like," or even whether it should be named a "Confession" or "Declaration."

Nevertheless, as the Accra Confession has been accepted in a general council meeting and is to be promoted to 230 churches in the world with around 80 million Reformed Christians of many different varieties, it is understandable that this document can only provide some principles or a basic framework for further discussion and reflection. Therefore, we should not be surprised by the general comments or the criticism of the Confession. Instead, they remind us that local churches and regional congregations should make an effort to find the crux for different contexts, considering what actions could be carried out in reality to fight ecological injustices. But before reflecting on the local settings, as a dogmatic theologian I would first like to articulate the characteristics of the Accra Confession in relation to ecological concerns, as this has been an area much researched by experts in different fields for the last half century.

Ecological crisis intensified

At first glance, we quickly discover that the Accra Confession is a document dedicated not solely to discussing the ecological problem, but also to "covenanting for justice in the economy and the earth." Although the wording of the document relates to the entire creation throughout, the overarching theme of the Confession is justice, subsuming ecological concerns. Justice is here first addressed against the unjust economic system in the context of globalization. This system has become a kind of dominion protected by political and military might, developing into an ideology; thus not only are people suffering, but the rest of creation is also under threat--and even damaged. (4) Therefore ecological concerns are related to this Confession, but not on the primary level. In addition, the subsequent meetings and especially the "Report of the Public Issues Committee" (5) have shown that the focus has often been on economics rather than ecology. But living as we are today--with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, as well as the near demise of the Kyoto Protocol at the Durban conference, still fresh in our minds (6)--the scale of crisis we are now facing seems to call for a more focused ecological discussion. …

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