The Church and climate justice

Theologian and Director of the Evangelical Alliance's One People Commission, Rev Dr Israel Oluwole Olofinjana, shares our reflection of the month for November…

Global leaders, politicians, activists, scientists and members of many faith organisations gathered at the climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow earlier this month. As decisions were made about the fate of humanity and our planet, what is the prophetic role of the global Church when it comes to our environment? What could God be saying to the Church about its involvement in bringing about climate justice?

If the Church is going to play an active prophetic role in the climate conversations, we must seek to conscientise and mobilise the whole Church. This is because it will require the collective wisdom of the whole Church to tackle the climate crisis. Some parts of the church are currently more involved in engaging the climate conversation more than the others, but if we understand climate justice as a missional imperative that requires whole life disciples, then we need ecumenical collaboration around climate justice.

To secure this ecumenical collaboration, we should firstly develop a biblical framework on climate justice. This will help some parts of the body of Christ, who think that climate justice is a political issue, realise that it is actually a biblical concern. The jubilee concept in the Old Testament is a helpful theological framework. In the Old Testament, God instituted among the Israelites a sabbatical rest for the community and the land. Israelites were supposed to cultivate the land for six years and then allow the land to rest in the seventh year by not cultivating at all (see Leviticus 25). This sabbath principle allowed for an ecological recovery to the land and their agricultural system.

Secondly we need to share the missional imperative of climate justice. The final one of the Church of England’s five marks of mission spells this out. It is “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” Charismatics understand this missional imperative through a kingdom theology that engages in wholistic mission. It was this notion of understanding climate justice as mission that led Pope Francis and more than 40 faith leaders to make an urgent appeal for action to COP26 organisers.

Lastly, we must ensure our ecumenical collaborations around climate justice are rooted in whole life discipleship. This is important so that climate justice is not seen as an add on to our faith but integral to what it means to follow Jesus. This will mean educating church members through sermons, Bible study series, Sunday School materials, worship songs and liturgy. The whole Church must begin to begin to shape its practices in the light of caring for God’s creation.

The global Church does have a prophetic role to play when it comes to climate justice. We must do this in unity with an approach that is biblical, missional and rooted in whole life discipleship.

Rev Dr Olofinjana co-hosted a recent online conference by the Evangelical Alliance, Tearfund and Christian Aid exploring the themes of climate and racial justice concerns from a biblical/theological perspective.

Rev Dr Olofinjana is the Director of the Evangelical Alliance’s One People Commission, Director, Centre For Missionaries from the Majority World, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Queens Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education and the Editor of World Christianity in Western Europe: Diasporic Identity, Narratives and Missiology (2020).

If you would like to explore more on climate justice and the voice of multi-cultural churches you can watch an online event from the Church of God of Prophecy, the Anglican Diocese of Southwark and Christian Aid. (when asked for the passcode enter 4%1@Tyvc)