Archbishop Of Canterbury: God Has Given Humanity The ‘Terrible Freedom’ To Destroy The Gift Of His Creation

In a penetrating lecture Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, explained that “religious communities are ‘failing profoundly in what is expected of us’ in energizing a response to climate change in society.” The Archbishop told his audience at York Minster that “we are near a tipping point” of global warming “and that the church, and other religious communities, are not doing their part to lead the world against it.” He fiercely defined an “unintelligent and ungodly relation with the environment”:

It is impatient: it seeks returns on labour that are prompt and low-cost, without consideration of long-term effects. It avoids or denies the basic truth that the environment as a material system is finite and cannot indefinitely regenerate itself in ways that will simply fulfil human needs or wants.

Warning there “is no guarantee that the world we live in will ‘tolerate’ us indefinitely if we prove ourselves unable to live within its constraints,” the Archbishop eviscerated the false claims of right-wing evangelical campaigns like We Get It, launched by James Dobson, Jim Inhofe, and other conservative climate deniers:

We Get It: “The science is not settled on global warming.”


The Archbishop: “I don’t intend to discuss in detail the rhetoric of those who deny the reality of climate change, except to say that rhetoric (as King Canute demonstrated) does not turn back rising waters. If you live in Bangladesh or Tuvalu, scepticism about global warming is precisely the opposite of reasonable: ‘negotiating’ this environment means recognising the fact of rising sea levels; and understanding what is happening necessarily involves recognising how rising temperatures affect sea levels.”

We Get It: “A recent Barna study of evangelicals found that only 33% consider global warming to be a major challenge.”

The Archbishop: “As is true in various ways throughout the whole created order, humanity and its material context are made so that they may find fulfilment in their relationship. Without each other they are not themselves. And the deliberate human refusal of this shared vocation with and within the material order of things is thus an act of rebellion against the creator.”

We Get It: “Efforts to cut greenhouse gases hurt the poor.”

The Archbishop: “The world is less than it might be so long as human beings are less than they might be, since the capacity of human beings to shape the material environment into a sign of justice and generosity is blocked by human selfishness. In the doomsday scenarios we are so often invited to contemplate, the ultimate tragedy is that a material world capable of being a manifestation in human hands of divine love is left to itself, as humanity is gradually choked, drowned or starved by its own stupidity.”

The Archbishop’s full lecture, with audio, is available here.