More than 90 participants from Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches from 22 countries met this week at the 9th Assembly of the European Churches Environment Network (ECEN). Taking place at Elspeet in the Netherlands on the theme of ‘Eco-Justice, Growth and Hope’, the Assembly concentrated on the tensions between the desire for conventional economic growth and the increasing ecological threats to planet earth.
Delegates spoke of difficulties and struggles in all their countries. A combination of the effects of Climate Change, environmental destruction with loss of biodiversity and resources such as water, and the ongoing global economic crisis is challenging people and communities across our whole society. Churches are encouraged to be stronger advocates for creative change in the face of these growing concerns.
Speakers referred to the need to move away from the current inequitable and unstable economic situation, towards a more just and sustainable economy. Professor Hans Opschoor, member of the UN Committee on Development Policy, called for an urgent transition to an ‘economy of care’, which will require a change to more local supplies of resources and a greater emphasis on greener energy technologies.
Martyn Goss, Anglican delegate from the Diocese of Exeter attended the event for the Church of England. ‘One of the important reasons to come together from across Europe’, he said, ‘is to discover that we are not alone in facing or addressing such challenging financial and environmental challenges. We agreed that the future holds many uncertainties for us all and, whatever else, it cannot simply be a continuation of the present. It is likely to be radically different but as Christians we should approach this with a sense of possibility and hope.’
Participants visited a number of positive and practical Dutch church projects including an organic farm, a wind energy co-operative and a solar-powered church. Stories were also shared of green initiatives in many countries – Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Sweden, England, Belarus and elsewhere.
ECEN is supported by the Conference of European Churches and the European Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and its work is supported by the World Council of Churches and other partners.
Assembly Statement (pdf)