On Earth as in Heaven: Eastern Orthodoxy and Environmental Stewardship in Law and Policy

This month, Oxford University Press publishes On Earth as in Heaven: Ecological Vision and Initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, collecting the theological-environmental works of His All Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch.  In this position, Patriarch Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of an estimated 300-million Orthodox Christians worldwide.  The Patriarch is also geographically situated to promote understanding and tolerance between Western Christianity, Eastern Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Moreover, the Patriarch has championed an approach to environmental issues that combines spiritual command, scientific research, and political action.  For more on the Patriarch’s work in this area and specific undertakings, please follow the jump.

In 2009, the Patriarch organized the Mississippi Symposium, where he delivered his spiritual message that the natural world is a divine gift that God requires human beings to nurture and protect.  Yet crucial to the symposium’s structure were the contributions of leading environmental scientists, policy makers, and others in the political sphere who develop and implement environmental law and regulation.  In this way, the symposium addressed, from both theological and legal standpoints, the spiritual and environmental predicament of excessive exploitation of the Mississippi River’s resources in the U.S.

This devotion to environmental stewardship has earned Patriarch Bartholomew the moniker, The Green Patriarch.  (Since assuming the Patriarchate in 1991, Patriarch Bartholomew has frequently spoken out on climate change and loss of biodiversity—among other environmental topics;  and he has organized conferences similar to the Mississippi Symposium around the globe since 1995.)  60 Minutes profiled the Patriarch’s efforts in 2010, portraying a humble, generous, yet devoutly defiant leader—a champion of human dignity and forceful advocate for the Orthodox community in Turkey.

On Earth as in Heaven compiles the Patriarch’s speeches, writings, and other expressions regarding the religious imperative that humanity be an environmental steward and how scientifically and politically to implement that command.

Please see Oxford University Press’ description:

Over the past two decades, the world has witnessed alarming environmental degradation—climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and the pollution of natural resources—together with a failure to implement environmental policies and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor.  During this same period, one religious leader has discerned the signs of the times and called people’s attention to our dire ecological and social situation: His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the worldwide leader of the Orthodox Churches.  As this new volume of his writings reveals, Patriarch Bartholomew has continually proclaimed the primacy of spiritual values in determining environmental ethics and action.  For him, the predicament we face is not primarily ecological but in fact spiritual:  The ultimate aim is to see all things in God, and God in all things.

On Earth as in Heaven demonstrates just why His All Holiness has been dubbed the “Green Patriarch” by former Vice President Al Gore (recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental activism) and the media.  This third and final volume of the spiritual leader’s selected writings showcases his statements on environmental degradation, global warming, and climate change.  It contains numerous speeches and interviews in various circumstances, including ecological symposia, academic seminars, and regional and international events, over the first twenty years of his ministry.  This volume also encompasses a selection of pastoral letters and exhortations—ecclesiastical, ecumenical, and academic—by His All Holiness for occasions such as Easter and Christmas, honorary doctorates, and academic awards.

On Earth as in Heaven is a rich collection, essential for religious scholars, those looking for a deeper understanding of Orthodox Christianity, and anyone concerned with the environmental and social issues we face today.

Happy reading.

—DRS, CLR Fellow

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