Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Ecological Themes in Evangelii Gaudium, Together towards Life, and the Cape Town Commitment for Fraternity with God's Creation

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Ecological Themes in Evangelii Gaudium, Together towards Life, and the Cape Town Commitment for Fraternity with God's Creation

Article excerpt

Abstract

The main purpose of this study is to explore the Christian response to the current ecological crisis by examining three statements using a method of theological reflection: Evangelii Gaudium (EG), Together towards Life (TTL), and The Cape Town Commitment (CTC). The three statements request Christians' care for creation, which is now threatened. In contemplating the ecological crisis, the three statements call attention to the widespread abuse and destruction of the Earth due to an economic system that accelerates consumerism and human greed. To overcome this ecological crisis, Pope Frauds recalls the joy of the gospel overflowing from the Trinity; TTL and CTC echo this, drawing their faith tradition from the Trinity with widening understanding of God who is creator, redeemer, and sustainer. The three statements also identify the rest of creation as the new poor in order to recall that the suffering of the poor and the suffering of the earth are one, inseparable from the suffering of Jesus. Finally, this study examines the three statements in relation to the spirituality of ecological themes. In particular, EG and TTL discern a false spirituality that is a form of individualism and a theology of prosperity, but suggest a spirituality that is referred to as either transformative spirituality or mystical fraternity. The study concludes that it is time to turn to the cosmological dimension of spirituality and theology for fraternity with God's creation and the future of the earth community.

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In this study I examine how Christians (both Catholics and Reformed) are responding to the emergent ecological crisis. More specifically, I explore how an urgent ecological issue on the care for creation is developed in Evangelii Gaudium (EG), (1) Together towards Life (TTL), (2) and The Cape Town Commitment (CTC). (3) Using a methodology of theological reflection that is regarded as a transformative path for ongoing conversion, I reflect on what it means to be people of faith in an age of ecological crisis. (4) Further, I attempt to create a dialogue between the ecological crisis and its context and the themes of care for creation in these three statements in developing fraternity with God's creation for the sake of the future of the earth's community.

Before delving into themes of ecology, I introduce the theme of care of creation in the three statements. Pope Francis, choosing the name of Francis of Assisi because of his life of poverty and concern to protect creation, delivered the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium in 2013. His primary concern in the statement is certainly not the rest of creation, but rather a new chapter of evangelization and missionary impulse in laying out his vision for an evangelical church. The Catholic leader thus did little to develop the topic of ecology in EG, only touching upon it in a small section. This may be partly because, as the pope indicates in the encyclical Laudato si' issued in May 2015, "In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal." (5) The pope therefore intended to hold back on his ecological concern until he devoted his passion much more comprehensively in Laudato Si'. But Francis reveals a basis for his ecological vision in EG through such themes as the interrelatedness of the poor and nature, multiplicity and variety, beauty, the earth as our common home, and mystical fraternity. In this paper, I will retrieve some points of Francis' teaching on ecology from EG, but I will not include his recent encyclical Laudato Si': although it is the pivotal voice of the pope, it goes beyond the scope of this particular article.

It is care for creation and justice that is at the centre of the World Council of Churches' (WCC) work on climate change. The Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) worked and contributed to the construction of this new ecumenical mission affirmation, and the WCC central committee approved "Together towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscape" in Crete on 5 September 2012. …

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