The Bishop of Sheffield addressed "the biggest challenge of our age" when he returned to Lichfield Cathedral for the 2019 Selwyn Lecture.
The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, a former Canon Chancellor at the cathedral, gave a two-part theological reflection on Genesis 1 and 2 in the light of the climate crisis to hundreds of people at the annual event.
Recalling a Selwyn Lecture in Lichfield almost 20 years ago by the late Eugene Peterson on the same chapters, Bishop Pete spoke on 'Creatures in Time and Space: Genesis 1 & 2 and the challenge of climate change.'
He explained how the poetic prose of the chapters describes humans as "regents" who are called to extend God's reign and kingdom over creation and ask: "What is detrimental to the way He intended it to be?"
"We need to rediscover the glory of rest, not just for ourselves but for all of creation," he added.
In his second lecture, Bishop Pete outlined how the Christian response to climate change should be characterised by hope and joy with a focus on the beauty around us. "The enjoyment of beauty in creation might both motivate and sustain us in addressing the challenge."
The freedom to make choices did not mean we could consume without constraint, he added. "My generation has perhaps enjoyed the greatest freedom of any...but there has been a price for the lack of restraint and the planet has worn it. Maybe my granddaughters will be the generation who have to learn to live within limits again."
Concluding, Bishop Pete said we were not called to try and return to Eden but to bring to fulfilment what had always been intended: the coming of God's kingdom. "Serving the world and protecting its sacred space are divine strategies for climate change," he said.
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, thanked Bishop Pete for "the passion, clarity and conviction" of his message. He also spoke of action across Lichfield Diocese to tackle climate breakdown, including September's Climate Action Day which involved thousands of people in churches and the cathedral, and the growing number of Eco Churches locally.
Both bishops commended The Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book for 2020, 'Saying Yes To Life' by Ruth Valerio, which focuses on making a difference for good in the light of the Creation story. It is also the Bishop of Lichfield's 2020 Lent Book and will be available to order by churches and groups across the diocese soon. Copies can be ordered for the discounted price of 6 each from Helen Scheven. This offer is available until Friday 24 January after which it will not be possible to order via the diocese. Books will be distributed in February.
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