Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church


In my doctoral dissertation I claim the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission. I stress the need for a more natural, integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. My specific question for this part of the discussion is this: “Why is it expedient to affirm Nature in the current situation?”

George Tinker notes that Native Americans and other indigenous people took issue with the naming of the World Council of Churches’ conciliar process, “Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation.”  He states that to them “the ‘Integrity of Creation’ was merely a tacked-on First World concern for environmental issues” and that indigenous peoples’ sentiments would have better been expressed by the title “Creation, Justice, and Peace.”  (See George E. “Tink” Tinker, American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty, 2008)

Tinker insists that creation should be the theological and spiritual starting point, and without it the starting point all too easily becomes an exclusivist view of Christ and salvation, the kind which created the “radicalized sense of superiority” that justified the missional colonialism that has so disrupted the possibilities for justice, self-respect, and mutuality.

Regaining Nature, then, is not just an issue of individual or personal spirituality.  It has to do with how persons see themselves in relationship to other peoples and with the rest of creation in ways that value balance, respect, and reciprocity.  An emphasis on Nature has the potential to both refocus and reenergize the practice of theology.

What would a theology and spirituality that begins with Nature look like in our context?  Are Nature and religious tradition mutually exclusive?  Does spirituality involve leaving Nature behind for some higher mode of experience, or is Nature itself spiritual?

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