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 peoplewill spend Easter Day at a garden centre, given that the firstEaster took place in a garden, and that Mary mistook the risenChrist for a gardener.

Tom also contrasts the fruitful tranquillity of the Garden of Edenwith the environmental destruction seen today. He likens globalwarming to one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and takespolitical leaders to task for failing to address it. Tom closes bysaying that Christians must place global warming at the top oftheir own agendas, and prays that we will all join 'God's team ofspiritual gardeners.'

The full text is below:

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

'One of the followers of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, was visiting histomb, much as a family member will return to a cemetery withflowers to adorn the grave of a loved one. She bumped into Jesus; anewly resurrected Jesus. Strangely she did not recognize him. Sheassumed he was the gardener. It was not an entirely mistakenassumption.

'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, fruitfulnessand tranquillity. It is becoming a polluted paradise lost; a savagewilderness of terror, fear and insecurity. Over everything hangsthe threat of further global warming and ecological disaster. Againthe poor in Africa and Asia are the first victims of climate changeas rainfall patterns shift and streams dry up.

'The four horseman of the apocalypse could be seen as representingthe forces that gallop across our planet leaving trails ofdestruction in their wake. The white horse as imperialism - somewould say American globalisation; the fiery red horse as militaryinvasion and terrorist atrocity; the black horse as plague, famineand natural disaster and finally the pale horse as death, thecarbon emissions that will blot out the light of the sun. When willwe wake up to this?

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

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

· Climate change is the biggest threat (even bigger than terrorism)facing humankind.
· It will further increase global insecurity and threatenpeace.
· The biggest problem is the USA. Unless they take this issueseriously there will be no incentive for the rest of the world todo so.
· The UK's words are not reflected in action. Scotland has vastnatural resources for renewable energy but there is no political oreconomic will to develop this form of energy.
· The so-called 'clean option' of nuclear energy is not clean. Theenvironment suffers from both the problem of waste and the effectsof processing.
· Global warming widens the gap between rich and poor.
· We cannot tell poorer countries with fossil fuels not to usethem. Instead we in the richer countries should trade their fossilfuels for our new technologies that third world countries need inorder to cut their carbon emissions.
· Developed countries must move from cars to rail and develop newtechnologies for our cars. Huge taxes should be placed ongas-guzzlers.

'I felt shamed by the response given by our own EnvironmentSecretary who in replying to the debate fudged the issues. Shouldnot our Government be taking a more radical lead? It will only doso if Christians place 'global warming' near the top of their ownagenda. This is the biggest moral issue of all - the choice beforeus is either Apocalypse or Genesis.

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

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

'Mary, in the resurrection garden, does not recognize Jesus untilhe calls her by name. I pray that God will call you by name duringEaster and that, like Mary, your eyes will be opened. I want you tosee the world, not only as it is, but as it could be. I want you tojoin God's team of spiritual gardeners, committed to not only toclimate change but also to changing the human will and heart sothat we can move from Apocalypse to Genesis.'

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