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The Wuppertal Call includes urgent cries for our planet’s health


‘The Earth seems no longer able to heal itself’

By Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

There’s no accurate estimate of the number of Bolivians and wildlife displaced by the disappearance of Lake Poopó, high in the Bolivian Andes. (Photo by Joke Neels)

LOUISVILLE — An old farmhouse, converted into a conference center, sits atop dem heiligen berg, “the holy mountain,” overlooking the city of Wuppertal, Germany. It is from this spot that many residents say Earth seems to touch heaven.

In June an ecumenical conference of 52 participants from 22 countries and many confessional and faith traditions took place in Wuppertal. The four-day gathering, “Together Towards Eco-Theologies, Ethics of Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Churches,” recognized that although God has not abandoned our planet, “the Earth seems no longer able to heal itself.” The symptoms of the crisis are evident for all to see in the building blocks of life: water, earth, air and fire, and also climate-induced forced migration.

The Wuppertal Call: Kairos for Creation — Confessing Hope for the Earth shares the urgent cries of the planet through personal stories of people in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania. Stories come from:

  • Human beings who have witnessed contaminated waters, melting glaciers and polluted oceans (water).
  • People bombarded by extractive economies and a poisoning of the land and the health of its people (Earth).
  • Young and old alike bombarded by global carbon emissions and accumulating greenhouse gases (air).
  • Generations present and yet to come participating in the ever-increasing use of energy from fossil fuels, which is fueling the global ecological crisis (fire).

“The Wuppertal Call is an ecumenical pilgrimage toward justice, peace and integrity of creation, one urgent step at a time,” said the Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo, Presbyterian pastor and organizer of GreenFaith Florida, a global interfaith organization that engages people of faith and religious institutions to bring their moral and spiritual voice to resolve the environmental crisis.

She said the first step is confessing our complicity in the Earth’s demise and committing to do our part to help heal creation (2 Chron. 7:14).

Astudillo serves on the Advisory Committee of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, which produces resources, leadership and campaigns on caring for God’s creation, and for the climate, including a new Climate Care Challenge that Presbyterians are encouraged to take on as a personal commitment.

Participants in the “Together Towards Eco-Theologies, Ethics of Sustainability and Eco-Friendly Churches” pose in Wuppertal, Germany. (Photo courtesy of the Protestant Association of Churches and Mission)

The hope is that the Wuppertal Call will lead to a global ecumenical movement of Christian world communions and all other churches to plan for a decade of ecological learning, confessing and comprehensive action to re-orient the priorities of churches to 10 commitments, as outlined in the call document, Astudillo said.

To assist with this global ecumenical movement at this moment in history, the participants in the Wuppertal Call are recommending to the World Council of Churches’ Executive Committee that it declare a “Decade for the Healing of Creation” with these four goals:

  • To mobilize member churches to re-orient their priorities to the commitments as indicated in the Wuppertal Call.
  • To engage with the UN’s agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through various alliances, networks and partnerships, and to go beyond the SDG-agenda to redefine notions of growth, wealth and well-being that are not sufficiently clarified yet with regard to the existing planetary boundaries.
  • To advocate to global decision makers that the increase in global greenhouse emissions should be halted and drastically reduced as soon as possible in order to reach net-zero carbon emissions and to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • To promote UN processes to create a legal framework for a binding “Universal Charter of the Rights of Mother Earth” (Cochabamba 2010), to explore the possibilities of a UN Council for the Rights of Nature and the recognition of ecocide as a criminal offense in the International Court of Justice.

The conference in Wuppertal was planned and organized by the Protestant Association of Churches and Mission, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the United Evangelical Mission and Bread for the World and the World Council of Churches. Conferees were reminded of the courageous confession of faith articulated in the Barmen Declaration (1934) against the totalitarian, inhumane and racist ideology of the time. Barmen continues to provide encouragement today for “a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures” (Barmen, Article 2).

The World Council of Churches gathers every eight years, with the WCC’s 11th Assembly to be held for the first time in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 2021.

The Rev. Dr. Neddy Astudillo, a Presbyterian pastor and organizer of GreenFaith Florida, is on the Advisory Committee of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. (Contributed photo)

“The task ahead is both urgent and immense,” Astudillo said. “It will require a courageous multifaith commitment to work together with God’s help for decades to come.” She said the next decade is critical, as documented in the 2018 report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which stated we have less than 12 years to reduce our carbon emissions to reverse the dangerous course of climate change. The IPCC also concluded that over the past half-century our planet has warmed specifically because of our burning of fossil fuels.

“As people of faith and believers of God’s grace, we have at our advantage the practice of confession and recommitting ourselves to becoming who God calls us to be as children of God,” Astudillo said. “By accepting the Wuppertal Call and any other actions to care for God’s creation, God will be able to use us in the holy work of healing Earth.”

 Gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing make the work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program possible.

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