Environment and Development A Challenge to Our Lifestyles - Introduction
From June 19-25, 1995 fifty-three representatives of churches and church-related
organizations from twenty-two European countries and consultants from Canada,
the Philippines and Chile met in the Orthodox Academy of Crete near Chania for
an ecumenical consultation on "Environment and development". The meeting
was organized by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of
European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) in cooperation with the European Ecumenical
Organization for Development (EECOD).
The point of departure for the exchange was the European Ecumenical Assembly
"Peace with Justice" held in Basel in May 1989. Recently, CEC and
CCEE called a second European Ecumenical Assembly under the theme: "Reconciliation
A Gift of God and Source of New Life". It is scheduled to take place in
Graz (Austria) from June 23-29, 1997. It is our hope that the reflections and
conclusions contained in this report will be a useful contribution to the preparations
which churches and church-related organisations and movements are making for
The churches' awareness of the ecological crisis has grown considerably. At
our consultation, we have been impressed by the wide range of responses which
churches, recognising the urgency of the issue, are making. Many churches have
done important studies and are engaged in stimulating Christians to respond
positively to their responsibility towards creation.
The consultation grew out of a three-year process evaluating the churches'
activities with regard to 'Sustainability and Development'. Two regional pre-conferences
were held with representatives of churches in the countries of the European
Union and Switzerland, and of Central- and Eastern Europe. The first of these
focused on a report of the European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society
(EECCS) on sustainable development, which will also be transmitted to the Commission
of the European Union.
At our consultation five working-groups dealt with the following themes:
- Theological considerations on sustainability
- The role of the churches
- Economic models and lifestyles
- Energy and climate change
- Tourism and environment.
The reports of these working-groups, together with the papers presented to
the consultation, will be published in the proceedings of the consultation.
Among concerns raised in keynote addresses and working group sessions, the theme
of "lifestyle" emerged as one of the most crucial issues for the churches.
For our common report we therefore decided to focus on the challenge to our
lifestyle. The urgent need for reconciliation between industrialised and developing
countries, between rich and poor within each country, and also between humankind
and God's creation as a whole impels the churches to encourage Christians to
rethink their very way of life. A sustainable society requires sustainable lifestyles.
We present this statement to the churches and all who share concern for the
future of the planet in the hope that the challenges will be met with practical
We concluded our consultation on June 24, the day when Christian churches commemorate
the birth of John the Baptist, the prophet who announced the coming of Jesus
Christ, our Lord and Saviour. His testimony of conversion and purification is
of particular relevance today because, just as the European Ecumenical Assembly
in Basel had already forcefully underlined, it is only through a fundamental
change (metanoia) in our lives that any solution can be found.