Nancy Corson Carter Reflects on Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice

The following post is appearing as part of the series “Reflecting on Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice.”  In 1990 the 202nd General Assembly approved Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, which affirms that God calls the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to care for the earth and work for justice for all of creation, human and non-human.  On the 20th anniversary of the policy several people active in eco-justice ministries are sharing their reflections on the policy.

By Nancy Corson Carter

What has the 1990 policy statement, Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, meant to me over the past twenty years? My immediate response is that it has been an inspiring and absolutely indispensable tool, the faithful witness I have needed since I first heard creation’s cry toward the end of the 20th century.  That it begins with lines from the 104th Psalm and other scripture has reminded me to keep focus on the biblical matrix (much as the NRSV Green Bibledoes now). Inclusion of Wendell Berry and Denise Levertov poems encourages me to use resources of our artists and writers in this ministry also.

My first “official” congregational eco-justice leading was made possible by publication of the preliminary Resource Paper in paperback, Keeping and Healing the Creation (1989).  It helped sow seeds that the 1990 statement helped grow in me and others. In response to the energy field that this statement created, I became volunteer Restoring Creation Enabler (now called Stewardship of Creation Enabler) of Tampa Bay (FL) Presbytery. Even when my efforts met with little enthusiasm (it took me 3 years to get “Environment” listed on the presbytery checklist of “ways to use your gifts”!), the 1990 statement reminded me of the “cloud of witnesses” who had created this sustaining document. It gave me words and ideas that served as foundation of my work, whether I was planning eco-actions, giving a sermon, or communicating with presbytery.

The fact that the 1990 policy statement led to the formation of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation (now Presbyterians for Earth Care) changed my life. Through the Spirit’s mysterious workings, I became the third Moderator of this amazing group, serving from 1999 to 2005. Mentors Bill Knox and John Jackson as well as other board members taught me how powerful the “adventurous faithfulness” of creation care by a small group of dedicated persons can be. For example, Janet Hansen, then our Southwest Representative, quoted the 1990 document in her letter on PRC’s behalf that helped lead to purchase and protection of Chemehuevi sacred tribal lands in the Old Woman Mountains of California (see the GA recommendation, p. 68, that the church “Lift up the environmental awareness and sensitivity that is built into Native American traditions and show the interplay between the Christian story and the Native American story.”)

The 1990 document’s affirmation of Environmental Sabbath led me to initiate annual celebrations in my home churches. At Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, NC, we’ve just celebrated one at New Hope Camp and Conference Center (4/25/10).

The document itself remains as a basic resource in all my continuing eco-justice work.

We are now well past the hoped-for “turnaround decade” of the 1990s, with environmental crises increasingly threatening earth life. I believe that the most important role of the church in eco-justice over the next twenty years is to persist until the PCUSA “recognizes and accepts restoring creation as a central concern of the church, to be incorporated into its life and mission at every level” (107).  The very definition of “eco-justice” shows us that earth health is inextricably woven with the health of every person and part of God’s creation. I trust we will abide in the wisdom of the last words of the report:  “Some of the changes we are called to make in the way we view the world and live our lives may not at first be welcome.  But we shall discover that changes in the direction of eco-justice link us with the promise and power of shalom.”

Nancy Corson Carter, Ph.D. is a  Presbyterian elder who served as Restoring Creation Enabler of Tampa Bay Presbytery and as the immediate past Moderator of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation (1999-2005).

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