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The Episcopal Ecological Network (EpEN)

Caring for God's Creation: Called to be Stewards
part of the Episcopal Church, USA

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Episcopal Ecological Network
c/o C. Morello
1375 Residence Drive

Newark, OH 43055 USA
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Propers for the Honoring of God in Creation

In 2012, the Standing Commission of Liturgy and Music (SCLM) of The Episcopal Church, following instructions from the 76th General Convention (Resolution 2009-C034), proposed a resolution (2012-A053) containing a series of prayers and liturgies entitled "Propers for the Honoring of God in Creation" at the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. The House of Bishops rejected the proposed resolution and referred the prayers back to the SCLM for "perfection."

The materials below are the propers which were submitted for consideration.

Introduction to the
Propers for the Honoring of God in Creation

When we see the great abundance, diversity, and intricacy of God’s creatures, we are awestruck by life on our planet. We are amazed by the God who has created all that is, and who is the engineer or crafter of the cosmos, designing and assembling all the details. But we also know from science that the details of organisms change through time according to their situations, that is, that they evolve through adaptation and natural selection.

Some people take this to mean that there is no role for God in the evolution of life on our planet, but they miss the point that it is through God’s love and humility that the processes of nature operate, bringing growth and adaptive change. God’s love grants creation the freedom to make and remake. Scripture is clear that the divine mercy is over all God’s works. The material world is not something to be simply disregarded and destroyed as unimportant to God, whose love is unwavering.

Just as we do not read scripture literally, so we must resist reading nature literally, but instead search for the big themes and the evolving stories, exploring a deeper and more sweeping narrative. It is in Jesus Christ that we see God’s humility most particularly, and gain insight into what theologian John Haught has called the “extravagant generosity” of God. In the ancient hymn of Philippians 2 we gaze at Christ, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself to take the form of a servant, not simply on behalf of humankind, but on behalf of the whole cosmos which is redeemed in him.

Just as we are called to consider the lost and the least among our human brothers and sisters, so we may say that we are called to consider the dignity of all God’s creatures. Science currently is working on several fronts to discover more about kinship. There are both genetic/hereditary and ecological relationships among earth’s creatures. We share much of our DNA with plants and animals we do not usually consider as having much in common with us, and the air we breathe requires the healthy function of organisms far less complex than we are. For many people honoring the dignity of every creature involves thinking about threatened species of birds and mammals and large fish, environmentalism’s poster children, but for those who study life on earth, whether professional biologists or backyard naturalists, it means considering the insects and the plankton, the mushrooms and molds, the plants that bring us joy and the ones we call weeds, the algae and the bacteria. It means considering the dignity of even those species which bring humans disease, such as mosquitoes and viruses. It means pondering the relationships among creatures which are not always pretty: predation, parasitism, scavenging.

Each creature’s uniqueness is neither individual nor fixed. Living things develop their characteristics in their contexts in relationship to other creatures, other members of their population, and other species in their community. As the resources in their habitats change, and pressures from their fellow creatures shift, they change. Death and even extinction of populations and species are a natural part of this process of change. But that reality does not mean that humans should accelerate extinction through our activities.

Our understanding of God as One, yet three persons, is a divine picture of diversity in community. Each person of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, gives to and receives from the others, in a community of exchange we call love. What is true of God may then be seen to be true of the community of life which God has loved into being and sustains through love. While each creature has its dignity, in life and death, in struggle and in beauty, all creatures in their diversity, including human beings, are held in community with one another.

There is no doubt that human beings have changed the earth’s cycles, surface, and creatures by our activities. We have managed and bred for our use and enjoyment some plants and animals, and destroyed the habitats of others. We have extracted minerals, fossil fuels, and soils, and have been careless with our use of extracted water. We have preserved some biomes for their scenic beauty, but ignored the ecological services provided by others. We have trawled the bottom of the seas and used them as a trash repository. A growing and increasingly urban population’s hunger for food, clothing, shelter, and fuel is taking its toll, despite ongoing efforts to slow the loss of traditional rural wisdom about conservation and creation care. Human migration has fostered the spread of invasive species that displace native species, just as human migrants have often displaced indigenous peoples.

Scientists and activists may disagree about what is the greatest threat to human survival on the planet. Should the scarcity of water for drinking and sanitation be our biggest concern, or the challenge to feed a hungry world in an ecologically sustainable way? And which of our excesses put the whole planet in the greatest peril? Is it climate change or the loss of biodiversity that poses the greatest threat to the resilience of life on earth?

Ecologists understand that while entry points for concern and action vary, all these issues are interrelated. In agriculture, to take an example from our managed environment, resilience in the face of climate change will depend on better stewardship of water and increased preservation of the diversity of seed stock available for developing improved crops, while those engaged in agriculture continue to assess their contribution to greenhouse gases, polluted waste water, and soil erosion, and how all these negative impacts on the environment can be decreased.

There have been and will continue to be unintended consequences for our environment due to our choices and behaviors, but study and prayer can help us to become more conscious of the human impact on our planet. As we consider the risen and ascended Christ drawing all things to their perfection in himself, indeed drawing the cosmos into the heart of God in that process the Eastern Church calls “deification,” we find reason for hope and an impetus for the renewing and reconciling of our relationships within the creation of which we are a part.

(Source: Blue Book for the 77th General Convention)

Propers for the Honoring of God in Creation

  1. God, the source and destiny of the cosmos
  2. God of order and dynamic change
  3. The justice of God and the dignity of all creatures
  4. The kinship and unity of all creation in Christ
  5. Reading God’s goodness in the diversity of life
  6. Called to be God’s partners in the care of the planet

Prayers of the People Honoring God in Creation

Additional Prayers and Liturgies

Daily Prayer for All Seasons (to be added in 2013)

 

 

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The EpEN is a national network of active lay and clergy persons within the Episcopal Church, USA, who share a common concern for the environment and a common belief in the presence of God in all Creation and who work to make these concerns and beliefs known throughout all Provinces and Dioceses within the church.  Members come from around the Episcopal Church, USA.  The activities of the EpEN are focused on the areas of Reflection, Education, and Action. 

If you would like to contact any of these groups or to find out more about the EpEN, please click on the links on the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

last update:  2013-02-20

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