1999 Loccum

Towards sustainability in Europe, priorities and responsibilities for the churches

Loccum, October 31, 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We write to bring you news of progress with the European Christian Environmental Network, in which churches from all over Europe are now participating. This network, known as ECEN, exists to enable churches to work more together - to address the major environmental issues which confront the people of Europe, and to stimulate the churches to take their own responsibilities in caring for God's creation. ECEN was set up as a direct result of a resolution at the Second European Ecumenical Assembly in Graz in 1997. It was established a year ago at an inaugural assembly in Vilemov (Czech Republic), and this week we have just completed our second assembly at the Loccum Academy near Hanover in Germany. Over eighty participants from 24 countries met to discuss progress over the past year and to plan our next year's work. We wish to share some of what we have done, and some important implications for the churches of Europe.

The environmental crisis presents us with a big task. In response ECEN has established a number of "coalitions" in which members of the network are working together on certain key issues. The coalitions presently at work include: a) Climate change; b) Transport and Mobility; c) Ecology and Economy; d) Creation Time; e) Agenda 21 and Life Styles; f) Church Environmental Management; g) Tourism; h) Environmental Education. The main focus of the Loccum Assembly was on Climate Change and Transport and Mobility. We also pursued the theological reflection initiated at our first assembly. Three speakers from different church traditions, Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant, commented on the theological section of the inaugural statement and opened fresh perspectives. ECEN is committed to continue efforts to strengthen theological reflection on creation among its members and within the churches they represent.

For information on ECEN contact the secretariat: Conference of European Churches, c/o R?diger Noll, P.O.Box 2100, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland. Details on the activities of ECEN and in particular on the work of the coalitions can be obtained from the web-site which we have established (www.ecen.org)

The main result which we want to share with you concerns the observation of a time for creation in the church calendar. As you will remember the Graz Assembly recommended to the churches to consider the adoption of a special creation day. Our Assembly devoted particular attention to this recommendation and decided to suggest to the churches to observe the period from September 1 to the second Sunday of October as a time to celebrate God the Creator and God??s gift of Creation. It also decided to provide regularly material to facilitate the meaningful celebration of this period. The Assembly adopted a resolution on this issue which we share with you.

Highlights from Loccum

In addition, we should like to point to a few highlights of our deliberations in Loccum.

a) Climate Change

While we met in Loccum the Fifth Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP5) took place in Bonn. Reports on the proceedings are giving rise to serious concern. The negotiations on the reduction of CO2 emissions required to meet the challenge of global warming are meeting serious obstacles. The period leading to the next Conference of Parties, COP6, which is scheduled to take place in autumn 2000 in the Netherlands, will be decisive. We have therefore committed ourselves to a special effort in the coming months. In our view a breakthrough will only be possible if public opinion changes and people begin to call for the adoption of stricter binding targets of reduction. The churches can play an important advocacy role. Intervening with your country??s government could make a decisive difference. Like in other areas of environmental responsibility expertise on the issues at stake is available with NGOs; collaboration with NGOs active in the field of climate change may increase the impact of the churches' voice. It is our hope that the churches in Europe will also place the issue of climate change high on their agenda in the coming year, and will stress the continuing need for their members to adopt a less energy consuming life-style.

b) Transport and Mobility

Road and air transport are major contributors to global warming. Ways must therefore be found to reduce the CO2 emissions emanating from road and air traffic. Within the framework of the World Council of Churches study project on ??Sustainable Mobility??, our coalition on Transport and Mobility has addressed this issue in a European perspective. We soon realised the difficulties in implementing any measures as long as the real cost of road and air traffic does not account for expenses connected with accidents, damage to health by noise and pollution, the deterioration of soil, and climate change. The current tax exemption for kerosene de facto means that aviation is subsidised. To achieve responsible mobility the internalisation of these costs is urgently called for. The World Council of Churches study paper and a paper on transport and environment in Europe prepared for the Loccum meeting will be found on the ECEN web-site.

c) Environmental Management

The Coalition continued the work started in Vilemov in 1998, by sharing experiences of churches environmental management and has identified some common practice. It produced a set of seven Christian motivations for environmental action. These may be found on the Coalition web-page on the ECEN web-site. Looking to the future, the Coalition hopes to develop a European Churches Award Scheme with a set of general standards and to use the Coalition web-page to record and share good practice. It will continue to follow up the collaborative work already undertaken in spring 1999, when an application was made to the EU to fund a Pilot Project.

d) Soil Convention

We heard a report on the project of an international soil convention launched by the Protestant Academy of Tutzing (Bavaria, Germany). It made us aware of the urgent need for a more responsible approach to the use of soil. The project has met with much interest in many circles. In our view it also deserves the attention and the support of the churches

 

We are grateful for the support which we have received from many sides, and are committed to serve the churches in their witness to the Gospel.

On behalf of the Loccum ECEN Assembly

Yours in Christ

The Members of the Enabling Team

(The members of the enabling team are: Donald Bruce (Scotland), Hans-Hermann B?hm (Germany), Andrzej Danilov (Belarus), Marijke van Duin (Netherlands), Roman Juriga (Czech Republic), Eszter Karsay (Hungary), R?diger Noll (Conference of European Churches, Switzerland), Dimitri Oikonomou (England), Isolde Sch?nstein (Austria), Hans-J?rgen Schorre (Norway), Lukas Vischer (Switzerland), Antonella Visintin (Italy))

Appendix - A Time for Creation in the Church Calendar

Resolution of the European Christian Environmental Network adopted at its meeting in the Evangelical Academy in Loccum on October 31, 1999

The Second Ecumenical European Assembly adopted the following resolution: "We recommend that the churches consider and promote the care for creation as part of church life at all levels. One way would be to observe a common creation day, such as the Ecumenical Patriarchate celebrates each year. Rationale: The seriousness of the ecological dilemma for the future of the human race means that the churches' consciousness must be raised. Commitment to the care for creation is not an issue among many but an essential dimension of all church life."

The European Christian Environmental Network, having considered and discussed this resolution, submits to the churches in Europe and to all organisation and people concerned, the following recommendation:

1. We welcome the resolution of the Second Ecumenical Assembly in Graz. We urge the churches to put it into practice through a common and concerted effort.

2. The theme of creation is present in the worship of all Christian tradition. For example, many Protestant churches celebrate harvest worship services and in the Roman Catholic Church the Day of Saint Francis is acquiring increased significance. The proposal of the Ecumenical Patriarchate adds a further occasion of celebrating the Creator. September 1st is meant to be "a day of thanksgiving for the great gift of creation and of petitions for its preservation and healing". In response to the proposal of the Ecumenical Patriarchate the churches should introduce into the church year a period explicitly devoted to the first article of the Creed, the confession of 'God, the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth. At present the theme "Creator and Creation" has no firm place within the church calendar. The various periods and days of the church year have as their focus the second and third articles of the Creed.

3. We propose that the period from September 1 to the second Sunday of October be observed as a period of celebration of the Creator and Creation. We have noted with interest that certain churches have already begun to use this period as an occasion to strengthen within the churches the consciousness of their responsibility for creation. We suggest that all churches introduce this period into their calendar.

Such a period of the Creator and Creation can serve as an occasion for a common witness of the churches. With a view to this, we have prepared a file with suggestions which may facilitate a creative use of the period.

Assembly Articles