World Water Day 2012 – An Interview with Dr. Chris Elisara from the Creation Care Taskforce

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March 22nd is world water day which reminds us of the connection between the availability of water and food on one side and environmental care on the other, what place do you think does water take in the big picture of creation care?

The way that you’ve framed the question with water and food on the one hand, and creation care on the other, as if they are competing goods, is a false dichotomy. It’s like the bumper sticker I saw last week that said, “Hungry and Out of Work, Eat an Environmentalist.” There are vested interests that want to pit creation care against farming, or against clean energy etc., but that’s pulling asunder what rightfully go together and are complementary goods, not zero sum competitive goods. In other words, at its best farming is an activity that simultaneously produces healthy food while protecting the land, river, oceans, animals, fish stocks, etc. upon which production is dependent. Anything less is foolhardy and ultimately suicidal. In other words, we need both farming and conservation.

The biblical view of the church as a body may be an applicable analogy here. In other words, in a healthy body the hand cannot say to the foot I have no need of you, and that’s the same for healthy and sustainable human communities. Farmers cannot say I don’t need conservationists and conservationists cannot say I don’t need farmers. In fact, they both need to listen and learn from each other to be their best.

So coming back to the importance of water, I can’t stress enough how important it is to protect, conserve, and wisely use water, but not only the wet stuff itself, but all the constituent parts of the water cycle from forests and watersheds, to streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and oceans, to human uses and so on.

What is your view point why Creation Care is important? And why is it important for the WEA to have this taskforce?

Simply put, it’s unequivocal from scripture that the personal creator God made humanity to be a part of, and a good steward of, creation. Thus, creation care is important because it’s a matter of Christian faithfulness and character, both individually, and as a community.

Practically speaking Christian creation care is focused on how as individuals and communities we not only use and enjoy creation, but how we do so responsibly within the bounds of maintaining healthy ecosystems, and when necessary, restoring ecosystems we have damaged or destroyed.

Spiritually speaking this also means cultivating through our relationship with Christ, our human relationships, and our relationship with creation, Christian character and virtues that enable us to care for creation as God intended us to.

Another reason I’ll mention is evangelicals are becoming increasingly aware that creation care is a matter of biblical justice. Since those who are poor are more likely to derive their livelihoods firsthand from creation as farmers, fishers, herders, etc., they also suffer more readily and significantly from the impacts wrought by ecological degradation. Nobody, however, can escape the effects of a degraded and unhealthy environment. Thus, biblical creation care is incumbent on all Christians for the benefit of all, but especially the poor who are disproportionally affected by compromised ecosystems.

Why then does WEA need this task force? So the WEA can help evangelicals world-wide live up to our God given calling to care for creation in a world facing serious ecological, economic, and political challenges.

Creation Care is very broad, what are the areas that you will focus on most? And what does your work look like very practically?

The WEA launched the task force at the end of 2011, so I’m just starting out and have a lot of work ahead of me. I do have a game plan to begin my work, and one of the first things I intend to do is pull together a global body of evangelical natural and social scientists, theologians, and practitioners who can serve as a scientific advisory board for the taskforce. That will help ensure we’re working from an informed starting point.

Another thing I want to do is coalesce evangelical creation care leaders from around the world to assess regional and global creation care needs, set priority goals, and then work together with a global team to tackle those goals. Thankfully the task force has partnered with the Lausanne movement to host a joint Lausanne-WEA Global Creation Care Consultation in Jamaica at the end of 2012 that will help launch this effort.

What is your plan for spreading the concern for creation among the alliances and organizations on the national level?

That’s a good question. One thing I need to do is assess WEA’s current communications structure and capacity with its far-flung global members. I’ll definitely tap into its pre-existing channels, and where capacity needs to be increased I’ll help build it. I have a very diverse background that I believe suits me well for this position, and one area I have experience in is in media. So I definitely will be leveraging my media experience to help bring awareness to creation care.

The first project the taskforce is undertaking is co-sponsoring the joint Lausanne-WEA Global Creation Care Consultation in Jamaica from Oct. 29 – Nov. 3, 2012. What is this event about and what is the hope that you have for it?

The goals of the consultation are to bring together a small group of people (approximately 50) from all over the world who are either working in the area of creation care, or in positions of influence in the church and interested in understanding what creation care is all about, to achieve the following three goals. The first is “to come to an understanding of, and agreement on, how creation care is included in the gospel, God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, and its implication for Christian life and mission.”

The second is “laying the groundwork for a global creation care movement of scientists, theologians and practitioners that will foster and encourage similar national movements.”

And finally, and this is where the WEA is expected to come to the fore, “to communicate the content of the consultation globally so that creation care becomes commonly accepted as part of the modern evangelical world view and understanding of Christian life and mission.”

What are the prayer topics that you would like people to pray for regarding creation care and the work of the taskforce?

Please pray for the upcoming global consultation on creation care, and especially resources to be provided to host the conference, and that God will be preparing the hearts of the attendees to discern and follow God’s will. I would also ask for personal prayer to uphold myself and family as I lead the task force.

Dr. Chris Elisara is Chairman of the WEA Creation Care Taskforce. He brings 20 years experience working in the creation care movement. After growing up in New Zealand Dr. Elisara moved to the United States to undertake graduate studies at Eastern University (MBA) and Biola University (Ph.D), where in 1995 he and his wife Tricia founded the first Christian undergraduate environmental study abroad program with campuses in Belize and New Zealand (link). More recently he founded the Center for Environmental Leadership (link).

-> Learn more about the WEA Creation Care Taskforce