Next year, the World Council of Churches, representing 300 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and Old Catholic bodies, will hold an international assembly to determine how its members should respond to worldwide environmental problems.
To prepare for that meeting, 29 theologians, church leaders, scientists and economists met last month in Malaysia and adopted recommendations for the council to consider.
The following are excerpts from the document approved in Malaysia:
"We write with a sense of urgency . . . . Human activity is slowly closing down the life-support systems of the planet. Something is terribly and dangerously wrong with our relationship to the earth.
"Christianity, as it has held and encouraged a theology of mastery and dominion, is partially responsible for this. We are called to repentance and conversion . . . .
"The issues are: a recast theological understanding of creation; a justice ethic for sustainability; and the calling of the churches to live for the new creation . . . .
"Christian churches have a long and respected history of concern and advocacy for social justice . . . . Churches have promoted equitable sharing of the earth's resources and criticized systems that support and preserve inequities and injustices nationally and internationally . . . .
"The preferential concern for the poor found throughout the Bible must continue to be foremost in the minds of Christians everywhere, but in the future this concern must be exercised in a way that recognizes the systemic ways in which social justice for the human part of creation is inseparably linked to what is sometimes called "eco-justice" for the non-human parts . . . .
The member churches of the World Council of Churches are encouraged to:
"Develop, review and reinterpret as necessary all teachings, hymns, doctrines, confessions and liturgies to ensure that they reflect new theological and ethical insights into human responsibilities for the care and preservation of creation.
"Develop, review and reinterpret as necessary all teaching, hymns, doctrines, confessions and liturgies to ensure that they reflect new theological and ethical insights concerning the stewardship of human fertility.
"Population growth in the North has a disproportionate impact on the world's resources and environment. Throughout the world, however, there are limits to numbers of humans that can be supported by the non-human parts of creation . . . .
"Challenge seminaries to teach not only the Bible, church history, theology and ethics, but also at least one serious course on the physical, biological and economic aspects of how the creation works and the major threats to the future of creation . . . .
"Recognize that much of the cause of local and global environmental problems stems from an unwillingness of power elites -- including power elites who are members of Christian congregations and power elites in the churches themselves -- to talk with, listen to and to be involved with those most affected by environmental problems: the poor, the marginalized, women and indigenous peoples . . . .
"Move to solidarity with groups and communities that have been far ahead of most Christians and most churches in living out the human responsibility for the care and protection of the non-human parts of the creation.
"In particular, Christians and churches must support the efforts of indigenous peoples to retain and protect their lands, of groups devoted to ecological and bioregional development, of groups devoted to changing male attitudes toward both nature and women, and to environmental groups . . . . "