Since the 1970s, the Lutheran Communion has acted as a prophetic voice raising awareness to the ecological crisis.

Anchored in the mandate of our institution is the call to safeguard God’s creation and ensure climate justice: “The Lutheran World Federation is a communion of churches which confess the triune God, agree in the proclamation of the Word of God. It furthers worldwide among the member churches diaconic action, alleviation of human need, promotion of peace and human rights, social and economic justice, care for God's creation and sharing of resources”(Constitution of the Lutheran World Federation)

Congregations of the 145 Lutheran churches in 98 countries are called to implement these governing body resolutions at all levels and to become campaigners for climate justice. The Lutheran Communion practices what it preaches and offers viable solutions – from regional climate change statements from member churches to success stories of the department of World Service, climate action is visible throughout the communion. 

 

Summary of LWF Assembly and Council Resolutions and Public Statements

2017 - Twelfth LWF Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia

Resolution on Climate Change

  1. The Assembly appreciates and gratefully recognizes the work and efforts undertaken over the last seven years by the LWF on climate justice, including youth participation and representation at the Conference of Parties (COP) as well as youth leadership in the #fastfortheclimate campaign.
  2. Nevertheless, the Assembly calls upon the global communion to strengthen its efforts even more for climate justice.
  3. The Assembly reaffirms the 2014 public statement calling for the LWF to be carbon neutral by 2050, and urges the LWF to put in place a concrete plan of action to achieve that goal.
  4. The Assembly urges that youth participation and representation at the COP meetings continue.
  5. The Assembly supports the continuation of the LWF Climate Network and its strengthening, including encouraging regional climate networks.
  6. The Assembly calls upon the member churches to promote “Blue Communities” 1 across the LWF communion, which respect the human right to water, promote water as a public good and encourage the use of tap water when it is safe to do so.
  7. The Assembly urges the LWF to strengthen the theological work concerning climate change, including the promotion of currently available resources from the member churches,2  as well as capacity building and education.
  8. The Assembly, in recognition of the LWF COP22 delegation’s report (which was adopted in the LWF Africa Pre-Assembly), strongly urges the LWF member churches to integrate a climate change curriculum in their religious studies, e.g. Christian education, Sunday school or confirmation class.
  9. The Assembly urges the communion of churches to advocate for environmental care and protection.
  10. The Assembly calls upon the member churches to integrate these goals and engage governments and national or local organizations for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Creation not for sale” points out the communion’s responsibility to care and to maintain God’s creation. Referring to the COP21 resolution—the Paris Agreement—the Assembly reminds the member churches about their responsibility and needed efforts to advocate for climate justice, especially in terms of engaging governments for low carbon development and urging them to keep global warming below 1.5°C.
  11. The Assembly affirms the fact that the global ecological crisis, including climate change, is human-induced. It is a spiritual matter. As people of faith, we are called to live in right relationship with creation and not to exhaust it.

1 https://canadians.org/bluecommunities

2 For example, A bishops’ letter about the climate, https://www.svenskakyrkan.se/default.aspx?id=1465598

2015 - LWF Council meeting, Geneva

Public Statement on Advocacy and Action for Climate Justice

The 2015 Council VOTED: “As those who live in the resurrection hope of renewal and restoration for all of God’s Creation, we believe we cannot stand by and ignore the impacts of Climate Change. Creation groans under the weight of human action and inaction (Rom 8:22). […] We believe that taking global action now can make a difference.” By recalling these words from our 2014 Climate Justice statement, the Council of the Lutheran World Federation reaffirms our understanding that climate change is a defining issue of our time, that we urgently need to address and tackle it as people of faith, and that it is not too late for meaningful and effective action.

Background

From November 30 to December 11, 2015, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet in Paris, France. It is crucial that an ambitious, fair and binding global climate agreement be adopted. This is a necessary milestone in the long-term international political process.

In the run up to Paris, we acknowledge the report presented by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) to the Convention in its June 2015 Bonn session, which qualifies the 2°C limit as “inadequate”, calls to see it as a “defence line that needs to be stringently defended”, and states that “Parties may wish to take a precautionary route by aiming for limiting global warming as far below 2°C as possible”.

The LWF will be represented in key moments in the 2015 climate advocacy calendar, among which are the Bonn session in October and COP21 in Paris.

Speaking Up as People of Faith

God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:10

As a Lutheran Communion, we understand that climate change is an issue that impacts on justice, peace, the care for creation, and protection for all peoples everywhere. We raise a special concern for the most vulnerable, in particular the poor, indigenous people, and the voiceless.

We re-commit ourselves and encourage others to commit to a profound change in our lifestyles and in the broader system of production and consumption. We must live as responsible and accountable citizens of this planet.

We will not stand by and ignore the impacts of climate change. We remain committed to raise our voices together with those of others to ensure positive actions by our leaders that will make possible a safe and peaceful existence for all now and in the future.

We welcome the encyclical of Pope Francis--“Laudato Si’ – On the Care of Our Common Home”--as an encouragement for all those struggling for climate justice. With Pope Francis, we believe in humankind’s capacity to act and in the expression of hope for the future.

 

Call for Commitment by the World Leaders at COP21

Based on our understanding of the climate issue as people of faith, and together with our ecumenical partner ACT Alliance, we call on world leaders to achieve a balanced global agreement at COP21 in Paris by considering the following elements:

  • A post-2020 framework, enabling ambitious mitigation action in order to limit the mean global surface warming well below 2°C, both through nationally determined contributions and international initiatives.
  • Commitment to ambitious pre-2020 mitigation action. We remind Parties of the decision from COP17 in Durban in 2011 for developed countries to take the lead up to 2020. This leadership must be demonstrated in the coming years.
  • Inclusion of loss and damage, due to climate change, in a post-2020 agreement, ensuring that the needs of those people who can no longer adapt to the effects of climate change will be addressed both now and in the future.
  • Means of implementation, including finance, to enable urgently needed climate action in developing countries. There is both need for a road map towards 2020, to ensure increased levels of climate finance that are predictable and transparent, and a long-term agreement about climate finance post-2020.

 

Investing in Our Common Future

In our 2014 Public Statement on Climate Justice, the LWF committed to play its part by becoming carbon neutral by 2050. As concrete steps to meet that goal, and as a contribution to the transformation towards a low-carbon economy, we announce that:

  • the 2016-2017 Communion Office Operational Plan (COOP) integrates the development of a Climate Justice Policy; and
  • it shall be the policy of the LWF not to invest in fossil fuels.

We acknowledge that some of our member churches, as well as the World Council of Churches, have preceded us in deciding not to invest in fossil fuels companies, and that we are joining a broad global movement which is backed by the UNFCCC.

Through this decision, we seek coherence and wish to send a strong moral signal that the world needs to make a transformational change towards a low-carbon economy, phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in renewable energies by the middle of this century.

 

Call for Commitment by the Member Churches

The LWF Council calls on upon LWF member churches:

  • to advocate with their respective governments, especially those in key countries, before the next inter-sessional UN climate negotiations in Bonn at the end of August. A draft advocacy letter for Council members and church representatives will be prepared.
  • not to invest in fossil fuels and to support energy efficiency and renewable energy companies, and to encourage their institutions and individual members to do likewise.

 

2014 - LWF Council meeting, Medan Indonesia

The Council meeting in Medan issued a Public Statement on Climate Justice.

Fasting for the climate - A Lutheran Perspective

The LWF is calling for a fast on the first day each month until December 2014, when the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place in Lima, Peru.

This resource supports the call to fasting by taking a look at:

  • What the initiative is and where it comes from
  • What the Lutheran faith tradition says about fasting
  • Why the LWF advocates for climate justice

 

The Program Committee for advocacy and public voice issued following Public Statement on Climate Justice VOTED by the LWF Council:

The Lutheran World Federation, a communion consisting of 72 million Lutherans worldwide, regards the challenge of present and future Climate Change with utmost seriousness. Both from the perspective of our belief in God as the Creator and from the perspective of justice and human rights, Climate Change is a matter that must be urgently addressed by human beings in our age.

As Christians, we do not live in the despair and melancholy of the tomb, but in the light of the Risen Christ. Our resurrection hope is grounded in the promise of renewal and restoration for all of God’s Creation, which gives us energy, strength and perseverance in the face of overwhelming challenge. For us, this promise is more than an abstraction. It is a challenge to commit ourselves to walk a different course and serve as the hands of God in working to heal the brokenness of our hurting world.(Joint statement of the Episcopal Church, the Church of Sweden, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), May 2013)

The LWF expresses its gratitude for its longstanding partnership with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the ACT Alliance in caring for creation and working together for climate justice. This statement aims to:

  • provide background information about the engagement of the LWF with climate justice,
  • present the position of the LWF regarding Climate Change, and
  • propose ideas for the work of LWF on this issue up to 2016.

 

Background

2014 is crucial year in shaping the human response to Climate Change, during which the United Nations will determine the scale and ambition of a global warming treaty. In this context, religious leaders play an important role in advocating for an ambitious and binding global agreement on climate change. The upcoming December 2014 UN Climate Change Conference in Lima (Conference of Parties [COP] 20) will lay the foundations for binding agreements which must be reached in Paris in December 2015 (COP21). Throughout the year, there are significant moments in the climate advocacy calendar, and LWF will be represented at all of them:

  • The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) session in Bonn, Germany
  • The UN Climate Summit in New York, USA
  • COP20 in Lima, Peru

At this critical juncture we look back and recall:

  • the Public Statement of the Tenth Assembly in 2003 on the United States and the Kyoto Protocol,
  • the Resolution adopted by the LWF Council in 2008 on Climate Change,
  • the Resolution adopted by the LWF Eleventh Assembly in 2010 on Climate Change,
  • the recommendation from the LWF Delegation to the COP18,
  • the capacity building work on advocating for climate justice by the Department for Mission and Development and the Department for Theology and Public Witness, and
  • the work of the LWF Department for World Service in responding to this issue through its projects of adaptation to climate change in the field.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is in the final stages of completion. It concludes that the reality of Climate Change is unequivocal‖ and that there is increasing certainty that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play a measurable and significant role.

Science detects human influence in the warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has increased since AR4 in 2007. It is therefore extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of scientifically observed warming since the mid-20th century. (IPCC, 10.3-10.6, 10.9)

It seems that many aspects of climate change will persist for centuries even if we succeed in halting the increase in CO2 emissions. This presents the need to create a long-term, multi-century Climate Change commitment as a result of past, present and future emissions of CO2 gases. (IPCC, p. 27)

 

The Position of the LWF

As a result of these reports, the LWF understands that:

  • Climate change is real and influenced by human actions;
  • Increasingly severe impacts are already being experienced on every continent, with growing economic and social costs;
  • If we act now it will still be possible to keep global warming below the internationally agreed danger-threshold of an increase of 2 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, carbon pollution must be reduced quickly; and
  • Climate change is a matter of social and economic justice, as it most affects the poorest people and displaces the most vulnerable.

As those who live in the resurrection hope of renewal and restoration for all of God’s Creation, we believe we cannot stand by and ignore the impacts of Climate Change. Creation groans under the weight of human action and inaction (Rom 8:22). Our hope for justice and peace for all, and our trust in God, forms the impetus for this statement. We believe that taking global action now can make a difference.

 

Call for Commitment by the World’s Leaders

  1. The LWF calls on world political and business leaders to:
  • Design and agree on elements of a strong global response to climate change that reflects the strong and growing scientific and environmental evidence and draft an ambitious new climate agreement to tackle climate change in the coming decades;
  • Urge Heads of State and key decision makers to make it a personal priority to address the human contribution to Climate Change, and make firm commitments for deeper cuts in carbon pollution;
  • Make national contributions meaningful by ensuring that they feature convincing targets to reduce carbon pollution while providing money to help poorer countries take climate action as well; and
  • Respect the principles of equity, ensuring that the response includes provisions to assist the most vulnerable communities to adapt to the impacts of Climate Change already being experienced, and to account for the loss and damage being caused.

 

Call for Commitment by Member Churches

  1. The LWF calls on its member churches to:
  • Take action now to initiate or strengthen policies and practices aimed at becoming sustainable and eco-friendly, with the goal of becoming carbon-neutral at organizational, congregational and personal levels by 2050;
  • Help and galvanize each other in the communion by sharing their good practices through the LWF Facebook page LWF for Climate Justice;
  • Engage in sustained climate justice advocacy with local and national governments as soon as possible, in the perspective of COP20 in Lima, Peru, and all along the process leading to COP21 in Paris, France. This advocacy would be based upon the advocacy call of the LWF and the policy papers on climate justice of the ACT Alliance;
  • Promote and work with ecumenical and interfaith climate justice initiatives in the local, national and regional contexts; and
  • Sign up to the #fastfortheclimate campaign on the 1st day of each month until December 1, 2015, at the beginning of COP21 in Paris:

We fast in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable who are unduly affected by extreme weather events. We fast to underline the urgency of the negotiations on climate change. We fast in many different places and faith communities worldwide, united in a common practice. We fast for climate justice.‖ http://www.lutheranworld.org/fastfortheclimate.

 

A Joint Commitment to Global Action

As leaders of the Lutheran World Federation – A Communion of Churches, we commit to join the global Christian community, and people of all faiths and persuasions, on the journey for climate justice. This task is one that we can only achieve when we unite in a common cause, living out our joint destiny on this fragile, beautiful world which we all share.

2013 - LWF Council meeting in Geneva

Climate Change: A Challenge to our Church

The Council VOTED:

  • to recall the Public Statement of the Tenth Assembly in 2003 on the United States and the Kyoto Protocol, the Resolution adopted by the LWF Council in 2008 on Climate Change, and the Resolution adopted by the Eleventh Assembly in 2010 on Climate Change; and
  • to endorse the recommendations from the LWF Delegation to the December 2012 UN Climate Conference in Doha, calling upon the LWF and its member churches to:
    • Develop or update a holistic climate change strategy that addresses advocacy, carbon emissions, training and awareness raising, and humanitarian assistance;
    • Engage with civil society to continuously advocate and lobby governments towards increased action and ambition on mitigation and adaptation;
    • Further explore the issue of climate change through theological reflection in Lutheran, ecumenical and interfaith frameworks;
    • Commit to becoming carbon-neutral at the communion, national, congregational and individual level;
    • Influence the culture to live in sustainable ways and address the negative impacts of social inequality and unsustainable consumerism;
    • Continue to engage in United Nations processes related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, particularly through ecumenical, interfaith and youth networks.
2012 - LWF Council meeting in Bogota, Colombia

On the eve of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the LWF Council, meeting in Bogota, Colombia, 15-20 June 2012 issued a long statement.

Council meeting in Geneva: Resolution on Rio+20

The LWF Council VOTED:

On the eve of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the LWF Council, meeting in Bogota, Colombia, 15-20 June 2012,

  • Recalls earlier statements and resolutions adopted by The Lutheran World Federation on climate change and sustainable development;
  • Has heard the strong voices from the People’s Summit ahead of the Conference, where women, indigenous peoples, and youth, many of whom come from the LWF member churches, have spoken out loudly against a “green economy” that is motivated only by profits;
  • Reaffirms the principles adopted at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992, such as common but differentiated responsibilities, the polluter pays, etc.;
  • Expresses the hope that the proposed outcome document for Rio +20, “The Future We Want”, will reflect a future for “we, the peoples,” rather than the interests of transnational corporations and the international financial system;
  • Affirms the need for a rights-based approach to development to be included in the outcome document;
  • Affirms efforts by ecumenical and interfaith partners to stress a principle-based preamble which should be the framework for an ambitious political agenda for the coming year to advance in policy and implementation care for the earth and address main challenges of the several Rio conventions (desertification, biodiversity, climate change) but also Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration; and
  • Joins with ecumenical and interfaith partners in prayer for leadership from national governments so that a clear and forward-looking outcome document is adopted that will address the crisis facing our churches, each of us and the whole planet.
2010 - LWF Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany

The LWF Eleventh Assembly adopted a long resolution on climate change.

The LWF Eleventh Assembly VOTED to adopt the resolution regarding climate change: The Eleventh Assembly

  • recognizes that
    • climate change is an increasingly urgent challenge requiring an effective global response within an inexorably diminishing window of opportunity, bearing in mind that global emissions must peak no later than 2015 if potentially catastrophic global warming is to be avoided;
    • disasters, such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, demonstrate that safety and clean-up technologies have not kept pace with the increasing environmental risks associated with the extraction and exploitation of fossil fuels;
  • highlights the grave impacts on food security that are already being felt in many parts of the world as a result of changing climatic patterns, to which the LWF and its member churches are witnesses;
  • endorses the relevant resolutions adopted by the LWF Council in 2008 and 2009, and calls for the directions outlined therein to continue to be pursued by the LWF and its member churches;
  • deeply regrets the failure of the 2009 United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009 to establish a fair, equitable, legally-binding and verifiable agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, and calls on the international community to commit to achieving such an agreement at the 2010 UN Climate Change Conference in Mexico (November–December 2010);
  • calls on all governments to show more decisive leadership in responding to climate change and in moving beyond reliance on fossil fuels for energy needs, and regrets the failure of the Senate of the USA to take the needed urgent action on the pending bill on climate change;
  • urges all LWF member churches advocate with their governments for:
    • Measures to ensure that global green-house gas emissions peak no later than 2015 and then decline rapidly toward a target of less than 350 ppm atmospheric CO2concentration
    • Urgent action by developed countries to reduce their carbon emissions by forty percent of the 1990 levels by 2020
    • The establishment of a just and adequate means of financing climate change mitigation and adaptation in the countries of the developing world;
    • Asks the LWF general secretary, member churches and LWF country programs to consolidate and enhance their efforts to address the impacts of climate change on development and poverty in the most vulnerable communities, and to raise up the voices of indigenous communities and their perspectives on environmental ethics.
2009 - LWF Council meeting, Geneva

The Council voted a series of measures to reiterate the call from the 2008 Council meeting in Arusha, Tanzania and to commend the LWF member churches to engage in action on climate change. Read in Annex 1 the full text of the Council Resolutions.

2008 - LWF Council meeting, Arusha, Tanzania

The Council had chosen the theme : “Melting snow on Mount Kilimandajro – a witness to a suffering creation”  to foster discussions and decisions on climate change. The 11 pages address of the then LWF President Bishop Mark S. Hanson was entitled: “Melting snow on Mount Kilimanjaro: a witness of a suffering creation” and nurture the debate on the subject with many bibliographical quotations. Hon. Frederick Tulway Sumaye, former prime minister of Tanzania presented a 29 pages contribution on “Environment and Poverty”. The LWF Council voted several resolutions on climate change to be read in full. A LWI Special on Climate Change was also published.

2007 - LWF Council meeting, Geneva

Theological Reflection on Urgent Environmental Challenges

The Council VOTED: to explore possibilities for theological, spiritual, and ethical reflection on urgent environmental challenges, especially with regard to climate change and to draw upon the realities and perspectives of the member churches and field programs (through DMD and DWS) and of indigenous communities to collaborate with LWF Office for International Affairs and Human Rights, the WCC and other ecumenical partners, theologians and others who are working in this area.

2004 - Statement on LWF’s commitment to preserve the integrity of creation

LWF General Secretary Noko affirms LWF’s commitment to preserve the integrity of creation.

Statement made by Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko following the Russian Duma vote on the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, on behalf of the LWF member churches.

2003 - Ninth LWF Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada

At a pre-assembly youth conference, LWF asked to initiate environmental actions relating to climate change and call on all countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Recommendation 22 of the 2003 LWF Assembly in Canada with the theme: “For the Healing of the World” states: The LWF constitution includes a call to care for God’s creation. There are also other LWF documents pertaining to sustainable development. As youth, we are witnessing the effects of environmental problems. At the Pre-Assembly Youth Conference (PAYC), we have realized that these problems are global and increasing. Therefore we are obliged to act more strongly and radically. It is time to act!

We propose that the LWF should initiate practical and concrete environmental actions, specifically relating to the questions of climate change, in its work and encourage its member churches to the same. And that the LWF call upon all countries that haven’t yet done so to sign the Kyoto protocol.

 

Full text from the LWF Assembly report (p. 62-63):

The wounded creation also is in desperate need of healing. The earth continues to be polluted due to human greed, ignorance, overpopulation and wars, as well as a consequence of consumerism. This has fatal consequences such as drought, desertification, extinction of species, poverty and starvation. We confess that we play a part in the exploitation and destruction of nature. Too often, we treat the creation as an object for our use and inflict wounds upon it, rather than seeing ourselves as part of God’s precious gift of creation. Contributing to this reality have been misleading theological attitudes: that it is heaven not earth that matters; that humans are to exploit and subjugate all creation, including human and ecological relationships; and, that the scope of God’s redemption is limited to human beings alone.

As a Lutheran communion, we affirm instead that

  • God is present not only in and with human beings but in and with all creation; Christ suffers with creation when it is abused, wounded, violated; the Holy Spirit cries with the wounded creation
  • through Christ, God reconciles, transforms and heals all of creation
  • human beings are to be God’s creating, restoring, sustaining hands on this earth
  • reconciled to our Creator through Christ, we have the opportunity to repent; justified by faith we can act accordingly. In so doing we acknowledge our place in creation and accept our responsibility toward creation.

The 1990 LWF Eighth Assembly in Curitiba, Brazil, made the commitment to form “one global lifeline of churches supporting each other in confronting threats to God’s creation.”9 Here we raise up the importance of

  • challenging, on personal, corporate and international levels, specific practices that violate and wound the creation
  • working for policies and practices that respect all of life, and opposing the patenting of life forms or processes that produce them, especially at the expense of everyone who depends on them
  • promoting sustainable agriculture, based on a holistic ecological approach, that is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, culturally appropriate and humane and learning from the insights and experiences of minority cultures and Indigenous peoples
  • opposing consumer and profit-driven models of economic development and industry which ignore equity and justice for all creation
  • reflecting on ethical and justice issues related to modern biotechnology, whose social and medical consequences are yet to be seen
  • lifting up and promoting alternative ways that guarantee equitable trade and fair wages.

Therefore, we commit ourselves and call on member churches to

  • challenge practices where the gifts of God for all are made into commodities in unjust and unnecessary ways, which especially impact the poor. This includes the privatization of water and all other natural resources that are basic for human life and the patenting of seeds for crops and of other living organisms
  • become more eco-centric in order to live more in harmony with nature. We have much to learn from Indigenous peoples and other traditions and what they have to teach us about our participation in and preservation of nature
  • work for a more just sharing of the goods of creation, mindful that for many people, how they relate to nature is a matter of daily survival, and that some of us consume far more than others. Together we must work against climate change and the greenhouse effect, by acting to decrease the consumption of fossil fuel and use renewable energy resources
  • evaluate new biotechnological developments and advocate against those that violate the dignity and integrity of human beings as created in the image of God
  • support international agreements (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol) that seek to preserve the environment and the integrity of creation
  • include study of the theology of creation as an established part of the curriculum of institutions of higher learning of the LWF member churches, and educate our communities on the theology of creation
  • respect Sunday as a day of rest in order that all creation can be restored and renewed.
1995 - LWF Council meeting, Namibia

The Council was informed by the Program Committee for World Service of the development of a policy on environment.

1992 - LWF Council meeting, Madras

(minutes p. 29)

The Council VOTED the following message to the churches following the Earth Summit of 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED):

Crisis in Environment and Development following Earth Summit

  1. The Earth summit of 1992 represents a consensus within the global community that the self-destructive course which humanity has taken in matters of development and environment, must be reversed. We could hear in the Rio gathering that the LWF’s Eighth Assembly in Curitiba, Brazil (1990) called “a chorus of anguish” created by the ongoing destruction of the environment and by the yet unresolved “tension between economic growth and ecological sustainability”.
  2. In spite of widespread agreement about the failure of the major economic systems to spread economic wealth among so-called “developing” societies, it is disappointing to note the lack of political will on the part of many nations to rectify the situation. Yet major commitments were in fact made. Whether they remain empty promises or are turned into meaningful action depends on the response, not only by governments, but also by non-governmental organizations, including the churches.
  3. As a communion of Lutheran churches, we are determined, furthermore, through programs of w2orship, study and action, to contribute the gifts and talents entrusted to us, including our confessional heritage, to address the present crisis which threatens the future of the earth and its people.
  4. On the basis of the decisions made during the Curitiba Assembly and encouraged by the strong consensus achieved by the global community of nations and non-governmental organizations at the earth Summit in June 1992, the LWF makes the following commitments:
  • To encourage the member churches to make use of biblical and other resources which will assist their congregations and communities in developing attitudes and practices which contribute to a just and sustainable world, and to seek out and utilize appropriate technical and other expertise in furtherance of these commitments;
  • To ensure that the work of the Geneva secretariat and the projects and programs of the LWF use methods and materials which are ecologically sustainable, and to encourage member churches to do the same;
  • To continue LWF involvement in the UNCED process and to encourage the member churches to work ecumenically to monitor governmental compliance with commitments made at the Earth Summit and
  • To encourage the member churches to value the sustainable ways in which indigenous people live with nature, and to support actions which will bring an end to their oppression and exploitation, taking special note of the United Nations International Year of the World’s indigenous People in 1993.”
1991 - LWF Council meeting, Chicago

(Minutes p. 36)

The issue of participation of the member churches in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), June 1992, Brazil was discussed and the Council VOTED:

“To affirm the participation of the LWF in the preparations for the Brazil 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development; and To encourage the LWF member churches, national committees and related agencies to participate actively in programs of education and through involvement in the process of preparation and follow-up to the Conference.”

1990 - Eighth LWF Assembly in Hong Kong, China

The Address was delivered by Prime Minister of Norway and former director of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Mrs Gro Harlem Brundland as another milestone: “Our common responsibility” (p. 27-31, Assembly report).

In his keynote address, Prof. Ronald F. Thiemann wondered (p.19-26): “Will the apocalyptic judgment of the prophet Isaiah, uttered more than 2500 years ago, become reality in our time? As we gather here in Curitiba, Brazil, representatives from 105 Lutheran churches worldwide, surrounded by the cries of God’s people in need. ” Isa 24, 4-6, 19-20)

Assembly Commitments: (p. 89, Assembly Report, see full text)

  • We commit ourselves to the formation of one global lifeline of churches supporting each other in confronting threats to God’s creation
  • We commit ourselves to the ongoing ecumenical conciliar process for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation
  • We commit ourselves in our own nations as well as in international organizations to support the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil and popular ecological movements in their endeavour to defend the Amazon area, lung of the earth, against ecological, social and economic destruction such as the burning of the tropical rain forest, thereby disrupting life conditions of Indians and giving cause to widespread displacement of indigenous people.
1984 - Seventh LWF Assembly in Budapest, Hungary

The Seventh Assembly in Budapest, Hungary adopted the following Statement on caring for God’s endangered creation on the recommendation of working group 9 (p. 178, Assembly Report).

“The Seventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation:

  1. EXPRESSES the Lutheran World Federation’s concern about a major irreversible destruction of the environment through irresponsible exploitation of the world.
  2. CONFESSES its weakness to witness to the first article of the creed in a way that would have illuminated the danger to God’s creation.
  3. RECOGNIZES that, already today, the resources to which our children and all coming generations have a right are being used up, and supports the efforts of many groups within and outside the church to prevent this disaster.
  4. NOTES that science contributes not only blessings but also dangers, requiring responsibility toward the Creator, who wills what is good for all life.
  5. BELIEVES that every person has an obligation as a creature of God to respect and care for the created world as one of God’s gifts and as a presupposition for human life.
  6. AFFIRMS its intention to support and cooperate with the World Council of Churches in the common concern and work for the care of God’s creation.
  7. ACKNOWLEDGES that both study and action are needed and that one cannot wait for others because of the urgency of the situation.”

The Seventh Assembly in Budapest, Hungary, RESOLVED: (p. 241-243 Budapest Assembly Report):

1.To request that the LWF Executive Committee consider implementing the following:

  1. That the LWF urge the member churches and their congregations to stress the following in their proclamation:
  • The goodness of God’s creation and his continuing care for his world (MartinLuther, Explanation of the First Article of the Creed: “Given and constantly sustains” cf. Explanation of the Fourth Petition and Genesis 8:22)
  • The irrevocable responsibility of human beings in this creation (Genesis 2:15, Psalm 104);
  • The suffering of creation under the sin of humankind (Romans 8:18-21) and
  • Hope, not only for humankind but also for the totality of creation (Romans 8: 21-25)
    1. That the LWF and its member churches stress and implement awareness building on the urgent need (founded on the theological understanding of the place of human beings in creation) to care for and protect God’s created world on every level of responsibility (individual, congregational, regional and/or national, international) in areas such as air, water, land and space pollution – including human and economic costs, use of non–renewable energy sources, population growth, desertification.
    2. That the LWF provide resources, consultative services, and other support for education curricula and programs that stress this care as an essential element at every level, and urge their use throughout our member churches in a form relevant to the local situation.
    3. That the LWF and its member churches urge immediate action on every level in cooperation with other concerned groups, i.e. on the individual level, recycling, non use of plastics, use of biodegradable detergents and other materials, water and soil conservation; on the congregational level, energy-efficient buildings, use of recycled paper, educational programs; on the regional, national and international levels, advocacy for ecological concerns, meetings on ecological concerns.
    4. That the LWF and its member churches, in cooperation with other agencies, request the United nations to declare a “Year of Ecology” and urge its observance internationally in all human society (A Call for Saving Endangered Life).
    5. That the LWF and its member churches advocate and support appeals for governmental and non-governmental organizations to consider at all times:
  • The consequences of pollution;
  • The relation of industrial and military development to further damaging of the endangered creation;
  • The ethical implications of scientific development; and
  • The ecological dangers of deforestation, which can lead to drought and flooding.
    1. That the LWF and its member churches advocate the enactment of the necessary laws and spend the necessary money to preserve the environment.
    2. That the LWF create structures (e.g. an advisory council) in which people such as theologians, scientists, industrialists, politicians and government officials might discuss the ethical implications of decisions or actions that affect our world, and make structures of responsibility clear.
    3. That the LWF, in cooperation with the World Council of Churches and other religious or secular agencies, give major priority to a study program investigating:
  • The theological basis for our care of creation;
  • The relation of science and theology in the area of ecology and ethical decision making;
  • The interaction between science and theology as systems of thought to enrich the church’s proclamation of hope for a future grounded in Christ, and
  • Other issues related to creation and ecology
    1. This study should recognize regional differences and inter-relationships as well as transnational concerns.
    2. That responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations be assigned by the LWF General Secretary to a particular person or desk.
1977 - Sixth LWF Assembly in Dar El Salaam, Tanzania

The Assembly Report (p.140) recommends on Environment and Global Stewardship:

“The member churches are encouraged to give the important questions of Global stewardship, limited resources, environment, energy and nuclear power, the theological and ethical attention they deserve. The LWF make provision to include the energy issue within the context of the concern for the root causes of social and economic injustice. These studies will be carried out in consultation with other churches, ecumenical agencies and the UN family.”