I grew up as a Christian and an environmentalist. Like many who care for this earth, I was one of those kids who ran around the back yard getting dirty and playing with anything living I could find there. I learnt how to stop ants from biting me, I bred Slater pigs (woodlice), I grew flowers and played with the plants in my mother’s garden, I caught the boatmen in our pool and I fished out the drowning bees and other insects and tried to save them when mum wasn’t looking. Most of all, I loved my dog – Sandy the golden Labrador cross. She was a beloved best friend who stood beside me my entire childhood – 17 years in fact.
I became a Christian at Sunday School, so early I can’t even remember the date. I think my parents thought it was their duty to send me to Sunday School, but they weren’t particularly supportive and I left a few years later. But God was not done with me yet. My church used to give us presents for Christmas each year, and the year before I left, mine was a Bible. I don’t think I would be a Christian today if not for that little act of providence. In the years between then and when I finally decided I would go back to church on my own, I read that Bible through several times, and became, I think, quite well versed in Scripture for my age. When I returned to church I was warmly welcomed, in particular by a special lady who assisted with the youth leadership. Before long, she and I were leading the Sunday youth group together.
So one day, I heard that the then Bishop George Browning of the Canberra Goulburn Diocese was talking at the ANU about Christianity and the Environment. It was an unpromising event really – it was in a small theatre and very few people turned up, but after the talk I worked up the guts to ask about the question that was bothering me the most – I asked about Genesis 1:28. George Browning thanked me for the question, explained that it confused many people and then explained to me that the word translated ‘dominion’ could also be translated as a commission for humanity to rule over creation in the same way that the sun rules over the day and the moon over the night – as servant rulers. I thought about that for a moment. The sun is the source of all energy on Earth, it nourishes us and make our lives possible yet never receives anything in return. It was a classic eye opening, lightbulb experience. Later, when I was invited to be an Australian delegate to the Asia Pacific Interfaith Youth Camp on Climate Change in Surubaya, Indonesia; I did a whole bunch of reading before the trip so that I would be able to share with the people from other faiths what Christianity had to say about the environment. The eco-theology texts were fascinating and while reading them I finally realised I could actually do this, I could marry the two pillar of my life together. I could be no only a Christian and an environmentalist, but a Christian environmentalist.
At first, I had been concerned that verses like Genesis 2:15 where God tells man to tend and care for the Garden of Eden were isolated proof texts that couldn’t be counted on to build a solid theology. As Shakespeare once said, “the devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose”. As Matthew Sleeth writes in his personal account of his ecological conversion (The Green Bible), “Much harm has been done in the past by taking one or two lines from the Bible and building an entire theology on them. Was the call to care for creation care one of those instances? Was my church right in remaining silent on creation? The good news is that the Christian faith is not based upon trends, but is instead founded on a book – the Bible. ... I turned to it to answer my question.... What my reading of the Bible disclosed is that creation care is at the very core of our Christian walk.” Likewise, I came to the conclusion that creation care was one of the Bible’s central messages and I became convicted that God was calling the church today to respond to this, so I decided to do something about it.
After the trip I began work on what eventually became the Five Leaf Eco-Awards, an ecumenical church greening program I run that I’m hoping to make interfaith soon. I also started volunteering for the Justice and International Mission Unit of the UCA Synod of VicTas where I get to help create a range of resources to help churches in the two states become more environmentally friendly. I love what I'm doing and I'm finally at peace that I can serve God while also helping the environment. I don't know what the future holds, but I look forward to seeing God's will at work in the greening of the church worldwide.