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Live within limits of creation Green leader tells Methodists

By Julia Stuart

“I come to you as a heretic” was Green Party MP Jeanette Fitzsimons’ provocative opening statement in her address to an evening session of last month’s annual Methodist conference. In her talk Living Within the Limits of Creation, Jeanette described the theory that economic growth was the only way of running a country and helping the poor as “a carefully constructed lie”.

“It is our duty to expose that lie,” she urged the receptive audience of 100-plus at Wellington’s Wesley Church.

In a depressing run-down of the current world fuel situation, she said oil production probably peaked last year despite projections that this would not happen until 2037. “The current focus on new energy resources as alternatives to oil, such as biofuels, is not the answer,” Jeanette said. “None of the solutions being offered will provide equivalent amounts of oil.

“The situation can only be dealt with by incorporating an ethical dimension to public policy. We must change what we measure, which means changing what we value, or we will be miserable for ever.

“Currently we are stealing from our grandchildren. They will not inherit a livable earth.

Inter-generational justice is a major ethical issue for the church.”

The Bible offers a mixed range of guidance for people of the Christian faith, she said. Referring to the oft-quoted Genesis passage about “filling the earth and subduing it”, she said there are other passages that offer a more caring perspective. These include the passage in Leviticus 25 that says the land belongs to God, and humans are “but aliens and tenants who must provide for the redemption of the land”. She quoted Ezekiel’s warning about pollution – “Is it not enough for you to feed on good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?”

“God expects us follow his example in our lifestyle,” Jeanette said. “In Luke, Jesus warns us to be on our guard against every form of greed, for “not even when one has an abundance does life consist of his possessions.

“Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

While Methodists have a long tradition of community service and sustainable living, she said, the Church must continue to be on guard against every form of greed. One way for it to do this is to scrutinize closely Church as well as public financial investment.

“One major challenge is the way we invest the capital we’ve saved. The guardians of the National Superannuation Fund have recently withdrawn their investments in landmine manufacturing, but the money they’ve taken for our future is still supporting military and nuclear industries. I do note that the Methodist Trust Fund holds 26,000 shares in Pike River Coal,” she said.

Localising our lives, reducing our dependence on imported goods and limiting the distance our food travels are all ways of living within the limits of creation, Jeanette concluded.

“The church is still a local community, one of the few we have left, and therefore incredibly precious.” She urged the conference to be leaders in slowing down growth, taking time to listen more and hurt each other less.

“It’s time to stop taking all we can, but instead give something back to our grandchildren.”