OOS 44-5
Evangelical-Christian contributions to Earth Stewardship

Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 9:20 AM
337, Baltimore Convention Center
Calvin B. DeWitt, University of Wisconsin

Is the evangelical/Christian heritage sufficiently robust to make significant contributions to Earth Stewardship in our time?  Originating in antiquity and developed in the biblical tradition for more than three millennia, its stewardship tradition was badly weakened during the industrial revolution, devolving from a comprehensive construct that embraced the whole of creation and humanity to a much-diminished “stewardship of time, treasure, and talent.”  As increasing environmental degradation continues even as we attempt to address it in government, business, institutions, and society, there is great need for leadership in Earth Stewardship, locally, nationally, and biospherically.   Does the recent encyclical of Pope Francis contribute significantly to development of this leadership?  Does its influence sufficiently seed the restoration of the long-standing stewardship tradition, renewing hope for a wide embrace of Earth stewardship?  And do human beings of a wide array of nations and cultures have the capacity to tap this tradition for the gifts it may have to contributed toward Earth stewardship in our time?

Results/Conclusions (The take-home message.)

The stewardship tradition, rooted in antiquity, and embraced by the Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) is refreshed in the environmental encyclical of Pope Francis— providing a robust impetus and inspiration for its revitalization in the great institution he oversees, in the three Abrahamic religions, and in other faith traditions—encouraging them and all people to return the remarkable services of Earth and its ecosystems with service of our own—not merely “taking” but “care-taking.”  Required of people is a reciprocal service—a “con-service” that respectfully embraces the Earth and its biospheric economy as our support base and habitable abode, giving back to it our care and keeping.  Revitalization of the stewardship tradition—exemplified in the papal encyclical—helps inspire respect for the services Earth provides for a flourishing biospheric economy that sustains life, reforms human economies to flourish within its bounds, and brings faithful stewardship of “con-service” and “con-servancy” that is “con-servative” in the literal sense of the word.   A robust stewardship of the Earth that respects and sustains the biospheric economy is done in the context of love, respect and justice for neighbor, and inspires people not only to live, but to live rightly on Earth.  Understanding this tradition, and its contributions to ecology, will help ecologists in developing and engaging in improved collaborations toward Earth Stewardship goals