Eco-theology reconciles the church with nature

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When human beings were created in Genesis, “This was the first mission of the human… to both enjoy but also to protect and take care of creation,” says Danang Kristiawan. 

Danang Kristiawan is the pastor of the GITJ (Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa) congregation in Jepara, Indonesia, and a lecturer at the Wiyata Wacana Theological Seminary in Pati. He laments that in many Mennonite churches in Indonesia today, environmental issues are seen as unrelated to faith and church. 

He explained how this separation came about in a video he produced for the Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Indonesia in 2022. 

“The traditional Javanese view understands that there is a connection between humans and nature,” he says in the video. “There are many local traditions or local wisdom that positively respect nature.” 

But, Danang Kristiawan explains, when Dutch Mennonite missionaries arrived in Indonesia in the 19th century, they “were very critical of local cultural practices. As a result, the Christian community does not want to get involved with local rites and festivals for fear of syncretism.” 

Danang Kristiawan is working with other Javanese church leaders to integrate the Javanese connection with nature into church theology. 

On Peace Day in September 2021, Danang shared at a gathering of Javanese Mennonite churches. “I talked about respect for the Indigenous people and to find different perspectives,” he said. He reminded listeners that in Javanese tradition, “humans are part of nature.” 

Danang finds a basis for eco-theology in the Bible as well. Colossians 1:16 says that all things were created in Jesus. “He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (vs 17). 

“Christ embraced the creation in himself and he reconciled all things in himself,” says Danang Kristiawan. “We need to take care of creation because in creation you can find Christ also.” 

To Danang Kristiawan, the theology in Colossians is familiar. “I think this is close to Javanese culture,” he said, “to the Javanese worldview, an Asian worldview.” 

Having these conversations is a step in the right direction. But Danang Kristiawan still sees a lack of initiative when it comes to addressing environmental issues as a church. He has one solution that he discusses with his seminary students. 

“I propose eco-discipline.” 

In the church, if someone does something wrong, they are asked to repent and sometimes receive discipline from the community. Why not expand that to wrongs committed against the natural world? 

By driving cars and motorcycles, using air conditioning and creating plastic waste, Danang Kristiawan says, “We are participating in global warming. We should punish ourselves by putting money toward creation care.” 

It’s important to remember, Danang said, that “discipline is not just individual, it’s together as a community. There is a responsibility to go and give advice and remind others so we can work together and be followers of Jesus.” 

He wonders if Mennonites could begin holding each other accountable for harming the natural world. 

This webinar is jointly organized by the Creation Care Task Force and Anabaptist Climate Collaborative.

Click here for recordings from previous webinars: 
17 October 2023 –Africa focus with Sibonokuhle Ncube 

—Sierra Ross Richer is a member of Waterford Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana, USA. She is an intern with the Anabaptist Climate Collaborative (ACC). This story from the ACC’s Lent Climate Pollinator Series: Global Anabaptist Stories on Climate Change is reprinted with permission. 

You are invited! Join us for Climate Pollinators, a webinar series on creation care.  

MWC’s Creation Care Task Force members from each region will host one hour of storytelling and Q&A. Church members from around the world will share how they are affected by climate change – and responding with resilient action and gospel hope.  

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