Creation Care: A theology of ecological stewardship, with grace

By Tamara Shantz, assistant campus minister

“And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:10)
As a community that seeks to center our life together in God’s offer of grace through Jesus Christ, Goshen College recognizes that grace also comes to us in the gift of Creation. The first chapter of Genesis repeatedly reminds us that the earth and all it contains was created by God and that God affirms this Creation as good. We are called, as Christians, to respond to God’s gifts of grace, in Christ and in Creation, with gratitude.

We hope that our work of ecological stewardship will not be based on an experience of guilt or of impending doom, but that our desire to change our current patterns of living will be rooted in a deep sense of gratitude and a commitment to caring for all that God has provided.

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” (Psalm 24:1)
In a culture that prizes commodities and emphasizes personal ownership, Christian faith offers a radically different perspective on the relationship of humanity to the earth. We believe that ultimately, the earth belongs to our Creator. We have been entrusted, for a time, with the task of tending to the health of this planet and we are failing to live up to the task that God set before us.

In addition to rooting our labor in gratitude and recognition of God’s grace, we also recognize the importance of repentance. We confess that we have been a part of the destruction and desecration of Creation and that too often we have only included human concerns and the bottom line in our interactions with our earthly home. We humbly seek God’s forgiveness and wisdom as we work at improving our relationship with the earth.

“All things by immortal power, near or far, hiddenly, to each other linked are, that thou canst not stir a flower without troubling a star.” – Francis Thompson
At the center of Goshen College’s efforts to reduce our environmental impact is the recognition that we are just one part of a larger community. We acknowledge that our community extends beyond humans to include animals, plants, and even the land itself. As the Hebrew Scriptures teach us, there is a connection between human well-being and the health of the rest of Creation. Many biblical texts tell us that when humans sin, the earth also suffers.

Our technological society has created the illusion that the human species is separate from the ecosystems of this planet. One part of our work of Creation care is to foster opportunities for students, and our larger community, to re-connect with Creation and celebrate our place in this world; a place where we humbly acknowledge our dependence upon our earthly neighbors for our health and well-being. When we hear Jesus’ call to love our neighbors as ourselves, we hope to encourage our students, faculty and staff to look beyond our traditional notions of ‘who is my neighbor?’ so that GC’s neighborhood includes every creature, habitat, and corner of this planet.

Above all, we believe that ecological stewardship is the work of God, and we hope you will join us as we seek to be faithful to God’s call.