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CEL home > Links + Internat > July 2007




It's a great joy and privilege to join you all today, and share in the celebrations of CEL's 25 th birthday. In 1982 CEL began as a small group of Christians concerned about the environment. The following year, 1983, A Rocha began as a single project of Christians caring for creation in practical ways in Southern Portugal . Rather a lot has happened since then, and it's now a very different world. Whereas in the early 1980s environmentally concernedBookless Christians were a tiny minority - real voices in the wilderness - today there are enormous opportunities, and everybody wants to be our friend, as environment has risen to the top of the agenda. Today we need to be far more strategic in choosing where and when to be involved, and what distinctive contribution we can make. So, being an Anglican preacher, I have three suggestions, all starting with the same letter:


First, HARD QUESTIONS : I believe CEL has always had a prophetic role, and prophets are those who ask awkward questions about inconvenient truths, the quesitons that others would rather not hear. The role of CEL, I believe, is not to focus on the technical, scientific and policy detail of key environmental issues, but on the deeper moral, ethical and philosophical questions behind. For instance, whilst addressing Climate Change is vital and it forms our most pressing issue, we must flag up that Climate Change itself is not the problem - it is simply the most pressing symptom of a far deeper problem. The real questions are: Who do we think we are as human beings? Who is the world here for? Could there perhaps be a link between kidnappings in Nigeria, terror in Iraq or Glasgow, human-induced Climate Change, and - perish the thought - our comfortable over-consumptive lifestyles here in the West with the economic system they are based on?


Secondly, HUMBLE PARTNERSHIP: CEL, A Rocha and others need to be prepared to work in partnership with others who may not share all the same values, or quite the same level of commitment to the cause. We need to be prepared to meet people halfway, recognising that we are all on a journey both in thinking and in lifestyle. It is important to be humble - to avoid the danger of eco-pharisaism. This is the 'greener than Thou' attitude which believes we're better than somebody else because our footprint is smaller, our travel less polluting, our eating more veggie, and so on. As Christians we are saved by grace through faith, not by works, however important our actions may be.


Finally, HOPEFUL ACTION: Let me read a few words from 1 Thessalonians 1.2-3. I was reminded of these words as I was preparing to speak, and to me they apply well to CEL: "We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

  • 'Work produced by faith' - the work of being a prophetic community, from eco-teams at the local level, to campaigning nationally,
  • 'Labour prompted by love' - not by guilt, or despair, or panic, or anger, but by the love of God flowing through us, and finally,
  • 'Endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ'. This is the bottom line. At a time when many, many people are losing hope as they see how rapidly things are getting worse, we are able through our action to share our hope. This is the Christ-centred hope of seeing God's Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, of working towards a time when all creation will be set free from her bondage to decay.


So, three pointers for the next 25 years: asking hard questions, joining humbly in partnership with others, and acting hopefully based on our hope in Christ. Many congratulations to CEL on the past 25 years, and best wished for the next 25!

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