The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese released the schedule for Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew’s visit to the United States in October. Separately, a detailed agenda for his upcoming environmental symposium has been posted online.
The patriarch’s “Symposium VIII — Restoring Balance: The Great Mississippi River” offers a rare opportunity to present Orthodoxy’s distinctive, sacramental understanding of the stewardship of Creation to America and the world. And this trip, which will involve about 200 participants in all, will no doubt generate a huge volume of media attention. We will be following the symposium closely here on the Observer.
If the text accompanying the agenda is any indication, the work of the symposium will be heavily inflected by an environmentalist ethic that looks at humanity primarily as a source of pollution and largely ignores the benefits of balanced economic development that does not degrade or abuse Creation. There is the utopian dream of returning the Earth to its pristine, pre-industrial state. Example:
But the fate of the Mississippi waters is more than one aspect of global warming. It is also, very acutely, an ethical crisis. The exploitation of the great river – its pollution, the disastrous confinements of its course and the draining of its wetlands – is starting to produce catastrophic human and natural consequences. But it is not clear that the lessons of the Katrina hurricane have been learned. Development for short-term gain rushes ahead, especially in the Delta itself.
The Mississippi is a challenge not only to human responsibility for the environment, but to democracy. Many people know what should be done: a curb on development and a massive, costly programme to restore the river to something like its ancient health. But few are ready to vote for it. That is the real Mississippi crisis.
The Symposium agenda writer also notes, about a Day One stop in Memphis at the National Civil Rights Museum, that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of racial equality has been only partially realized with the election of President Barack Obama. “Yet fulfilling the dream of economic justice and what is termed today ecojustice, which is of particular concern to the Symposium, has not been realised,” we are told.
While the roster of participants is very diverse, there are also some notable Religious Left representatives of the “ecojustice” school on this Symposium, including Rev. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, Rev. Jim Ball (What Would Jesus Drive?) of the Evangelical Environmental Network, Rev. Sally Bingham of Interfaith Power and Light, and evangelical Protestant activist Richard Cizik.
For a good sense of how the Symposium is likely to approach Christian environmentalism, if not exactly an Orthodox Christian understanding of it, spend some time on the NCC’s Eco-Justice site. You’ll want to be sure to check out the Eco-Justice hymnal, featuring a variety of Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran and United Methodist “creation centered” praise tunes.
The Symposium agenda tells us (with its curious Anglicized spelling) that, “In essence pollution represents the failure of the human race to develop while recognising and honouring the unity of Creation. Belief in the unity of Creation means pollution should be tackled without harming ecosystems on which we all – and life itself – depend.”
Yes, true. But there’s a bigger and more pressing question: How to restore Creation and at the same time allow man the freedom to transform it, in a sacramental way?
Full text of Greek Orthodox Archdiocese press release on Patriarch Batholomew’s trip follows:
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Visit the United States in October 2009
Jun 26, 2009
NEW YORK – Archbishop Demetrios of America announces the visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the United States this coming October for a three-stage visit, which will include an Environmental Symposium on the Mississippi River and visits to New York, Atlanta and Washington D.C.
The Ecumenical Patriarch will arrive in Memphis, Tenn. Oct. 17 and between Oct.18-25 will lead the 8th Environmental Symposium titled “The Great Mississippi River: Restoring Balance.” His All Holiness is the patron of this series of environmental symposia on various water bodies around the world and he is internationally known for his many efforts for environmental awareness and the well-deserved title “Green Patriarch.”
“This trip of His All Holiness to America will be a unique opportunity for all the American people to hear the Ecumenical Patriarch’s message of reconciliation among all religions and people of the world, a message of respect for human rights and religious freedom for all, and a message of respect and reverence for God’s creation, our natural environment. Finally, for the Orthodox Christians in America this trip will truly be a blessing,” said Archbishop Demetrios about the Patriarchal trip.
The Environmental Symposia are organized by “Religion, Science and the Environment,” a movement originally conceived in 1988 on the Aegean Isle of Patmos, at a meeting of environmental and religious leaders, out of concern for the water environment of the planet. RSE has convened seven symposia to study the fate of the world’s main bodies of water, which cover seven-tenths of the earth’s surface. These were held in the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Danube River, the Adriatic Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Amazon River and the Arctic Sea.
On the second leg of his trip, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will come to New York on Oct. 25. His All Holiness’ program in New York will include two Patriarchal Divine Liturgies, meetings with the clergy, ecumenical leaders, members of the Archdiocesan Council and the Archons and the bestowing of an honorary doctorate degree from Fordham University. The Ecumenical Patriarch will make a short visit to Atlanta Oct. 29 and will be back in New York Oct. 30. Finally, the following week, Nov. 2-5 the Ecumenical Patriarch will visit Washington, D.C.
Details of the schedule of His All Holiness’ visit will be forthcoming as they become available.
His All Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch is the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew and spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide.
== 30 ==