Saturday, August 24, 2019

Lament, Hope and Resolve

Conference Keynote Leads Participants through Lament, Hope and Resolve
by Ann Owen 

Photo credit: Richard Copley
With insight, interpretation and inspiration, keynoter Rev. Dr. William Brown skillfully brought to life the theme of the 2019 PEC Conference, Peace for the Earth: From the Bible to the Front Lines. Over the course of three plenary sessions, Bill took participants from lament, to hope, and to resolve, using stories and scholarship to illustrate how we can take Biblical truths and transform ourselves into peacemakers for the earth.

Bill, professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia and a leader in the Green Seminary Initiative, selected passages from both parts of the Christian biblical canon, to bring “text to table” (around which we all sit), and “text to relevance.” Using Psalm 104:1-35, as well as references to endangered and extinct animals, Bill reminded us that “all flourishing is mutual,” and that “every species is a world in and of itself; that with every extinction, a universe passes away.”

Bill lamented that, “God’s joy with the world is diminishing at an unprecedented rate,” as “we are reshaping life on this earth in terrifying, apocalyptic way.” But Bill said he finds hope in the work his daughter, Ella, is doing in Indonesia with endangered orangutans and slow lorises. He said that he also finds hope in passages from Isaiah 41 and 43, which indicate that our path leads to greater communal diversity and flourishing, and that the image of “streams in the desert” facilitates such transformation -- “it’s a call for coalition building in the care of creation; we are all in this together.”

Through the story of Job, “a patriarchal supremacist” who experienced his own ecological disaster, according to Bill, we are shown how we can experience ecological disaster and be transformed from “wound to wonder, trauma to comfort.”  The value of creation became obvious to Job, as he realized that God is there sustaining all life as subjects, not objects. The book of Revelation ends with the image of an “urban garden,” the river of life and the tree of life in the New Jerusalem, as the final sign of the apocalypse.   Bill concluded by saying that the church’s greatest calling is to be a “sign of the new creation – not the social club we call church," because "we are the beloved community for the biotic community.”

Ann Owen is a former Southwest Regional Representative for Presbyterians for Earth Care and continues to serve as an active volunteer.

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