13 April 2006

Apocalypse now? Easter message from the President of the Methodist Conference

The Revd Tom Stuckey, President of the Methodist Conference, says in his Easter message that it is ironic that so many people will spend Easter Day at a garden centre, given that the first Easter took place in a garden, and that Mary mistook the risen Christ for a gardener.

Tom also contrasts the fruitful tranquillity of the Garden of Eden with the environmental destruction seen today. He likens global warming to one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and takes political leaders to task for failing to address it. Tom closes by saying that Christians must place global warming at the top of their own agendas, and prays that we will all join 'God's team of spiritual gardeners.'

The full text is below:

'Garden Centres will be jam-packed with people across the Easter holiday. Probably there will be more people here than at church on Easter Day. There is irony here because the first Easter took place in a garden.

'One of the followers of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, was visiting his tomb, much as a family member will return to a cemetery with flowers to adorn the grave of a loved one. She bumped into Jesus; a newly resurrected Jesus. Strangely she did not recognize him. She assumed he was the gardener. It was not an entirely mistaken assumption.

'The Bible begins with a story about a garden Ð the Garden of Eden. Our world today is anything but a place of cool shade, fruitfulness and tranquillity. It is becoming a polluted paradise lost; a savage wilderness of terror, fear and insecurity. Over everything hangs the threat of further global warming and ecological disaster. Again the poor in Africa and Asia are the first victims of climate change as rainfall patterns shift and streams dry up.

'The four horseman of the apocalypse could be seen as representing the forces that gallop across our planet leaving trails of destruction in their wake. The white horse as imperialism - some would say American globalisation; the fiery red horse as military invasion and terrorist atrocity; the black horse as plague, famine and natural disaster and finally the pale horse as death, the carbon emissions that will blot out the light of the sun. When will we wake up to this?

'The Bush Administration still chooses to close its eyes to this threat. From a right-wing Christian political perspective, it seems the American Administration prefers Apocalypse to Genesis. Political leaders, including our own Prime Minister, seem not to have the will or strength to implement the Kyoto Protocol.

'When I attended the European Parliament at Strasburg on the 16th November last year for a debate on climate change, the following points were made by members:

· Climate change is the biggest threat (even bigger than terrorism) facing humankind.
· It will further increase global insecurity and threaten peace.
· The biggest problem is the USA. Unless they take this issue seriously there will be no incentive for the rest of the world to do so.
· The UK's words are not reflected in action. Scotland has vast natural resources for renewable energy but there is no political or economic will to develop this form of energy.
· The so-called 'clean option' of nuclear energy is not clean. The environment suffers from both the problem of waste and the effects of processing.
· Global warming widens the gap between rich and poor.
· We cannot tell poorer countries with fossil fuels not to use them. Instead we in the richer countries should trade their fossil fuels for our new technologies that third world countries need in order to cut their carbon emissions.
· Developed countries must move from cars to rail and develop new technologies for our cars. Huge taxes should be placed on gas-guzzlers.

'I felt shamed by the response given by our own Environment Secretary who in replying to the debate fudged the issues. Should not our Government be taking a more radical lead? It will only do so if Christians place 'global warming' near the top of their own agenda. This is the biggest moral issue of all - the choice before us is either Apocalypse or Genesis.

'Jesus Christ was betrayed and led away from a garden where he had prayed beneath the silver green shade of olive trees. He was led to a bald mound, skull shaped, used not for growing things but for their destruction. It was worse than a rubbish dump or a desert because here the sun was blotted out.

'I thank God that Jesus Christ is a gardener. Yet he was nailed to a tree. Easter proclaims this tree to be the cosmic tree of life. The Christian message is no longer about paradise lost but of the possibility of Eden regained. I believe that in Christ, God is attempting to reclaim the deserts and plant trees of life and hope in the most stricken places.

'Mary, in the resurrection garden, does not recognize Jesus until he calls her by name. I pray that God will call you by name during Easter and that, like Mary, your eyes will be opened. I want you to see the world, not only as it is, but as it could be. I want you to join God's team of spiritual gardeners, committed to not only to climate change but also to changing the human will and heart so that we can move from Apocalypse to Genesis.'

The Methodist Church supports Operation Noah, the UK Churches campaign on climate change. Operation Noah represents a growing band of people who have committed themselves to acting on climate change. The campaign invites people to sign the climate covenant, cut carbon emissions and spread the word.

www.christian- ecology.org.uk/noah

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