Every Living Thing
On the ecumenical front, a couple important documents have appeared recently dealing with creation care or aspects of creation care.
The first (and the one that has received the most publicity) is Laudato Si by Pope Francis, which appeared in June of this year (see my previous post and forthcoming reflections on Laudato Si in the Fall Concordia Journal). One of the features worth noting in it is the consistency with which Francis advocates a reverence for life (what a New York Times article called, “The Pope’s Confounding Consistency”).
Second, one September 30 an event was held in Washington D. C. to unveil a statement on a significant aspect of creation care, namely, the “responsible care” of God’s non-human creatures. Entitled “Every Living Thing,” it was drafted in part by Dr. Barrett Duke (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), Michael Cromartie (Ethics and Public Policy Center), and Mark Rodgers (The Clapham Group). Over forty theologians were able to weigh in (including several from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis).
“Every Living Thing” is notable on several counts. First, it is a succinct statement (only a couple pages) that is clear and to the point. As such, the statement is a good basis for conversation and study. Second, it acknowledges that while this is not the central concern of the Christian faith, it is a concern in as much as the Christian faith deals with and embraces God’s entire creation. Third, it has a nice Christological emphasis with regard to Jesus as our creator and redeemer coupled with helpful biblical exegesis throughout. Fourth, the statement does not take a radical position one way or another. It takes what Lutherans would recognize as a “yes and no” (sic et non) dialectical approach. And thus it rejects an “animals rights” approach to the issue but affirms the importance of “animal welfare.” And so it unequivocally affirms the moral worth of humans for the reason that they are made in the image of God. And thus it distinguishes “animal rights” from “animal welfare.” But as such, it also emphasizes our role in providing what it calls “responsible care” as God’s stewards.
A number of forums are being held throughout the year to make people aware of the document and to elicit conversation on it. And Lutherans have been able to lend their voice to the conversations as well. Last Friday, an event was held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids in which one of our recent graduates (Rev. Trevor Sutton) participated as a member of the panel. Then, on Tuesday evening, an event was held at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, in which I served as a panelist. And then on October 19, an event will be held on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary at Fort Wayne where I will attend along with Jeff Pulse from the Fort Wayne faculty. Personally, I think it is important and good for Lutherans to be part of these conversations.
The statement, “Every Living Thing” can be found on their website, http://www.everylivingthing.com. A lengthier exposition of the statement can be found at http://www.everylivingthing.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/An-Evangelical-Statement-on-Responsible-Care-for-Animals_Explanatory-Essay1.pdf .
Finally, a new book Every Living Thing, edited by Christine Gutleben (executive director of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States) pulls together statements from a variety of Christian traditions on the topic.