Saturday, 6 September 2008

NYA2008live A Theology of Climate Change

It is becoming increasingly annoying that I will have to leave NYA 2008 early. Not only am I having a fantastic time learning about the Church of Scotland and its structures, I am also thouroughly enjoying the debates and am itching to offer some thoughts to the main debate sessions on Monday.

With regards to Climate Change, the United Reformed Church and specifically FURY (Fellowship of United Reformed Youth) have passed a number of Assembly and Synod Motions and Ressolutions as well as produced a number of papers and reports alongside events examining the many problems facing the world as a result of Climate Change and ways in which we can tackle them.

Each of these has focussed quite firmly on Theology and the justifications for our action.

The Church of Scotland is obviously quite enthuthiastic to deal with the problems of Climate Change and I have heard over the course of this Assembly many great ideas about practical ways in which Churches, groups and individuals can deal with these issues.

However, in my experience within the URC, you can argue these points as much as you like, to no avail, if you do not build them on a secure foundation. People NEED to have a reason to act. For the church, Theology offers the perfect justification for our action. In fact, it makes us act!

The Church of Scotland already has a very powerful Theological statement on Climate Change, which has been pblished on its website. I commend this statement for its power and boldness.


I would ask that, in its deliverances to the General Assembly, that NYA2008 either peledge aliegence to this statement, reproduce the statement given on most Church of Scotland Climate Change documents regarding "negative stewardship of God's creation," or produce a statement of its own. Perhaps along the following lines:

"The NYA2008, in line with the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, believes that God has entrusted the practical and spiritual care of the earth to the charge of humanity. Consequently, NYA 2008 believes that the Church of Scotland should do everything in its power to identify and, where possible, implement sollutions to problems affecting the Church as a result of Climate Change."

This is only a suggestion, but it would be very helpful, in my view, in encouraging better and fuller action.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

"Our World:God's World"

Given the rather hectic pace of life as I move into my first Honours year at the University of Glasgow, I have found it very difficult to record my thoughts and feelings about the debates which will take place at NYA2008, starting in less than 24 hours now! However, I am glad to be able to bring you these uncharacteristically short ramblings on the first listed issue, Sustainable Living, before the event begins. I will add my views on the other sections over the coming days, taking some time out at night to reflect on my views. I look forward to hearing other perspectives on these issues and to seeing how my own views and opinions change over the course of the weekend.

The respected theologian Karl Barth once said that there were two ways in which to view scripture. You must either view it as the 100% unadulterated word of God and follow it in its entirely, or you must decide to read it in order to make sure that it is the word of God before acting as it instructs.

I feel it important to point out right at the very start that I feel privileged enough to base both my faith and practice very firmly on the belief in the existence, omnipotence and omnipresence of a loving, caring God who acts directly in the lives of each of his own created beings, guiding and strengthening us on the great journey of life. Consequently, I tend to take the latter model when it comes to biblical interpretation. Note that I by NO MEANS believe that the Bible is worthless. Far from it. However, I do believe that we must be careful in our application of biblical texts to our own, personal situations, always bearing in mind that contextual and chronological issues can bear great significance on the meaning and purpose of a text. We must, of course, accept that the term, “climate change” is not used in scripture, directly as a result of these contextual differences.

However I do believe that each text included (and those that were excluded) from scripture were obviously written, regardless of their authorship, by people who believed that God was revealing something of his nature and being to them, and, as we examine each of the texts, we begin to see patterns and accounts of God’s love for his creation, the part humanity must play in the protection of creation and God’s role in sustaining and protecting creation. Quite a lot of these patterns were revealed to those who attended FURY Forum 2007, an event for young people connected and associated with the United Reformed Church, entitled, "Our World: God's World" in a session on the “Bible and Climate Change." I have little time to speak about each of the scriptural references given, but you are more than welcome to read my report from this event which I will be taking with me to NYA2008 in both paper and electronic format. Just leave me a comment or come and see me!

What is absolutely certain is that God created our planet and all within it for a specific purpose. He has sustained this planet, amongst other methods, through placing it firmly in our control. We owe it to Him, then, to do everything in our power to protect the wellbeing of this planet as well as the rest of God’s creation. This principle should, therefore, be reflected in all that we believe and do as Christians.

It would be naïve, of course, to suggest that it is possible to take the best ecological option in every practical aspect of our lives. There are times when it is literally impossible to avoid flying, and, at some point in our lives, it is also very likely that we will be forced to use the East Cost Mainline, alleged to emit more carbon than a flight travelling the same distance.

What matters, then, is our justification for taking such action. I admit to flying from Glasgow to London at least twice a year for Church related Committee meetings. However, I only do this as meetings usually occur on weekdays and Saturdays, making it very difficult to use any other method of transport. If I travelled down and up by train or bus, this could turn a day trip into three days, very inconvenient for a student who will miss out on vital lectures in such an absence. One solution could be to avoid appointing me and those in my situation to Committees, however this would hinder not only ability of students to contribute to the life and work of the church, it would also, in the case of the URC, stop those residing within the National Synod of Scotland from having their say, as flying is often the best option for anyone travelling to or from Scotland for URC events and meetings.

I fail to understand, then, why it is that both our respective denominations do not request a reason for selecting a particular method of transport in their Expenses procedures. It would be practically impossible to examine and award each application on these grounds, however, it would only take a small proportion of our Finance Committee’s and Ethical Investment Group’s agenda, considering their wider work, to examine a cross section of applications made over the past few weeks or months since their last meeting in order to ascertain whether or not justifications were accurate. If they were not, recommendations could then be made to improve future travel arrangements. If this proved to be too large a task for these respective groups, I see no harm in setting up a separate board to meet and discuss a cross-section of applications. It would be a very useful and effective method of identifying and dealing with possible improvements to transport arrangements within the church.

Looking to the wider issue of dealing with the every growing concern over energy resources, having visited the Sellafield Nuclear Site in Northern England a few months ago, I witnessed a fascinating exhibit on creating sustainable energy for you and your family. While it would be literally impossible for my grandmother, for example, with her postage-stamp-sized lawn at the back of her house, to keep pigs, cattle and grow her own vegetables, it would not be too much to ask for each household to bear a small windmill and solar panels on their roofs. It is said that, with sensible use, it is possible to power every house in our country, independently of all external power supply if everyone was willing to make their own power (remembering that we don’t actually have to physically do anything to produce it!) and used it correctly. This would mean, of course, some inconvenience, such as turning off lights when you leave a room and not leaving the TV on standby, etc… however, considering that these seem only small sacrifices at the moment, think how much smaller they would be if you did so knowing that you were actually going to make a blind bit of difference!

There is also the argument that, if the government were to make such a move compulsory, fund the installation and maintenance of these “Mini Power Stations,” not only would there be no need for the use of fossil fuels or nuclear reactions in the powering of homes, but, if anyone failed to take appropriate measures to use the equipment properly, they would personally have to suffer the consequences of having no power. The two major problems here, of course, are firstly that the government’s record of success in offering such services is, shall we say, not up to an appropriate standard and also, the inevitable fact that there will be some richer households who will b able to buy their own additional stations to make more power while some only possess the bear minimum. Yet more problems to deal with!

In any case, we have a God-given duty to protect this earth and must strive to do so in any way that we can. This will, without doubt, involve sacrifice and suffering for all concerned. This is the nature of Christianity itself, that God will guide us, we will succeed in some things and fail in others, but God will always be there to rescue us. However we must never use this as an excuse not to try, as this will lead only to destruction and death.

We are here to sustain life, not destroy it!

Monday, 25 August 2008

A Whole New World

It is well known that I have always gone weak at the knees for new technology. I have often visited my local shopping centre with the single intention of browsing the latest gadgets and software.

However, living a very busy and full life, I have never found the time to write a blog. This is very surprising for me, as I am usual dying to try out these things the moment they are released into the ocean of the World-Wide Web. it is just something I have never felt the compulsion to do.

Yet, I can remember when my friends first became interested in this sort of thing. Primary Seven, academic year 1998/99. One decade ago. At that time, it was usually a moan about how mum and dad wouldn't let the kids go any where near those sites. Those were the days, although few in number, when parents were very sceptical about this new technology and watched its use very carefully. It also cannot be denied that, at that time, dial-up was the only available option and so, even if you wanted to, it would have been very unlikely that you could afford to roam the net freely.

Then, last week, I received a letter from the Church of Scotland Mission and Discipleship Council inviting me to attend the National Youth Assembly 2008. As a member of the United Reformed Church, it was a pleasure to be invited as an ecumenical guest and everything seemed quite conventional at first, until I came to the paragraph on technology.

I have attended quite a number of events over the years where we have been encouraged to join social networking sites in order to share photos and gossip about the event and, as a result, I am now a member of Facebook and Bebo, sites I would never have even touched with a barge-pole if I had not been specifically asked to.

However, it came as somewhat of a shock to hear that this technology was going to play a massive part in the conference with quite a lot of the information and papers connected to the event being published on-line. Also, a lot of the debates were going to be extended to blogging and micro blogging sites. I panicked! I didn’t know what half of this meant or how it was going to possibly work.

In the past few days, I have read up about some of these concepts and am now just getting the hang of them. Hopefully, I will be competent enough by the time the conference begins!

I cannot say that I am one hundred per-cent comfortable with it all. It seems to me that we are going to have a hotel full of people sitting around screens, phones and PDA's rather than actually interacting with each other. While this will help people to gain a much larger perspective on issues by gathering views from everyone involved with the conference at the same time rather than just talking with those whom they happen to meet randomly, I fear that we will loose that experience of physically meeting others from churches around our wonderful country, hearing their stories, quite randomly and physically seeing the emotion in people's movements and faces.

I call upon the organisers to at least make some time available during the programme for this physical contact, and, looking at the programme, it seems they already have.

Do not get me wrong, I am fascinated to see how this works. It has fantastic potential both for inside and outside sessions where debates which would otherwise have been cut short can go on for as long as we desire, finding new ways of solving our problems and moving forward.

So if you happen to see a crazy, confused looking male with glasses at the NYA2008, it is likely t be me. Please do come over and help me. It will be much appreciated!