About 3 years ago, I caught up with Pastor Steve Chong who had just returned from the UK. He told me about his experience with the New Frontiers church planting movement, ranting about all the great things that they’re doing and how he was super blessed to be able to speak there. If you were following the world of the RICE Movement then, you’ll know that we were in a period of thinking through some Pentecostal theological issues, and Steve’s recount of his trip included some discussion about that. Steve expressed how impressed he was with how much New Frontiers had thought through the issue, but he sidetracked a little and said ‘These guys have this pretty well thought out, but you know one thing that Christians all around the world aren’t thinking hard about? Ecotheology‘. I thought ‘What? What’s that?’ He then proceeded to tell me about his catch up with an old Bible College friend of his, Byron Smith (I vividly remember him telling me that they were chatting while walking through a cemetery). Steve told me that ecotheology is a widely ignored field in theology, but if understood correctly, will radically impact the way Christians live. He also believes that Byron will be one of the key pioneering voices here in Australia when he returns.
Approximately three years have passed, and Byron has now returned to Sydney to complete his final stages of his PhD through the University of Edinburgh (the first time I heard his voice live was at a New College Public Lecture when he asked Professor Stanley Hauerwas an incredibly intelligent question that I think only he and Professor Hauerwas understood). From the looks of it (through social media), he has been going to several places to talk about issues such as climate change, especially our role as Christians during this crisis. In addition to articles written for the Centre for Public Christianity and ABC’s ‘Religion and Ethics’ Column, Byron blogs frequently at ‘Nothing New Under the Sun’, and engages very actively on Facebook with keen learners.
In one of his posts titled ‘Our Ecological Crises’ Wake up and Smell the Stats’ published in 2011, Byron highlights some frightening statistics about global ecological decline (one of the most staggering ones being: ‘Half of the world’s tropical forests have disappeared since World War II and roughly another 10 million hectares are being felled each year — the equivalent of 40 football fields every minute. The majority are being cleared by illegal logger’). What’s perhaps more frightening is that the statistics are close to 3 years old, which means the numbers have probably gone up. Is there an appropriate Christian response to ecological decline, or should we sit back, mind our own business, and wait for Christ to return? If there is, what is it, how should we understand it, how should we approach it?
‘Half of the world’s tropical forests have disappeared since World War II and roughly another 10 million hectares are being felled each year — the equivalent of 40 football fields every minute. The majority are being cleared by illegal logger’
I’ve been speaking of Byron so far as a distant figure because I don’t personally know him very well. But hopefully that will change a little after this Sunday, the 25th of May, when he comes to SWCCC’s Young Adults gathering ‘SPUR’, to speak on ‘Christians and Climate Change’. We’ve been wanting to host Byron for over a year now, and we are incredibly excited that he has agreed to so this weekend. Whether you attend SWCCC or not, whether you are informed or uninformed on the topic, this Sunday evening is for you. I’m looking forward to having my eyes opened to a theological blind spot that I believe most churches have, and be taught how to approach this issue in an informed and and biblical manner.
For more information, please check out our Facebook Event Page.