CATHOLIC VOICES LEAD THE WAY AT
Pioneering Event Captures the Spirit of Laudato Si
BY DARYL BOOTH
Laudato Si has been hailed as a truly historic and game-changing document for animal welfare concerns. The encyclical, or letter, from the Pope is full of references to animals and calls on all of us to embrace a more humane path.
Nonetheless, Laudato Si is not the first time Pope Francis has spoken out against the abuse of creation. During a trip to the Philippines, a journalist asked him whether he thought that mankind was responsible for climate change, to which he replied, “I don’t know if it is all [man’s fault] but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature”.
Slaps down nature. That’s well put! Society as a whole slaps down nature when all it seeks to do is consume more hungrily, upgrade more regularly and accumulate more greedily. Yet what role does Christianity plays in all this? Does Christianity abet the slapping down of nature or does it encourage its flourishing?
Is Christianity Good News for Animals?
The pivotal question “Is Christianity Good News for Animals?” is the theme of the Sarx Creature Conference. This unique event which aims to equip and support Christians to engage theologically and practically with animal issues within the Christian life will take place at Oasis Auditorium on Saturday 18th March 2017.
The Catholic voice will be particularly well represented by two keynote speakers. The Rt Revd John Arnold is Bishop of Salford, spokesman on the environment for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and Chair of the Trustees of CAFOD.
Flying over from Canada to speak at the conference is Professor John Berkman, Catholic lecturer of theology at Regis College, Toronto. Professor Berkman, who was previously professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA and at Duke University in Durham, NC says; “The Creature Conference is a fantastic opportunity for Catholics and all Christians to better understand key developments in recent Christian thought that makes God’s great love of all animals so abundantly clear.”
Joining Bishop Arnold and Professor Berkman as keynote speakers will be:
Dr Margaret Adam – Theologian, ethicist, author and former lecturer at Loyola University Maryland and the University of Glasgow. Currently Visiting Tutor at St Stephen’s House, University of Oxford.
Dr Tony Campolo – Professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University, Baptist minister, author, public speaker and former spiritual advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton
Professor David Clough – Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Chester, President of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics, Founder of CreatureKind, and Methodist lay preacher.
Dr Ruth Valerio – Churches and Theology Director for A Rocha UK, environmentalist, theologian, social activist and author on justice, environmental and lifestyle issues
The Rt Revd Dominic Walker – President of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, former Bishop of Monmouth and Honorary Vice President of the RSPCA
The conference will feature a wide choice of workshops including Living Laudato Si’: Putting Eco-Theology to Work for Animals by Catholic scholar Dr Allison Covey as well as a round-table discussion and the opportunity to explore and reflect among a series of interactive stations and an art exhibition.
This conference is generating a lot of excitement and endorsements have come in from high profile Christian leaders and writers including Dr Brian McLaren, Professor Stanley Hauerwas and The Revd Steve Chalke MBE. Author and former Bishop of Oxford the Rt Revd John Pritchard writes: “I’m so glad this conference is happening. It will take further what I hope is a growing consensus amongst Christians that animal life deserves the same respect and care as the rest of God’s creation, animal, vegetable and mineral, as well as human. We share the same space, just as we share God’s love.”