6th April 2022

More than once in the Bible we hear: ‘Thus it came to pass, that which was spoken by the prophet…’ A haunting phrase. The coming to pass may be almost immediate, or take much longer. One of my heroes in British Christianity is the missionary statesman and ecumenical pioneer Joe Oldham (1874–1969). In a wartime radio broadcast in 1941 he said: ‘Our schemes for establishing peace on secure foundations and creating a World-State or a Federal Union will achieve nothing, if they only result in greater efficiency of the civilised peoples in exhausting the resources of the earth on which the life of mankind depends. The lack of a humble, understanding, reverent attitude to nature is a religious failing, and it is plain that this religious error may have the most far-reaching consequences in the economic sphere.’

At the time, when everyone’s thoughts were on winning the war with Hitler and then bringing in a new world order with the United Nations, many people no doubt thought what he was saying was a bit dotty and irrelevant. A new, humble, understanding and reverent attitude to nature, indeed! A ‘religious’ error to be corrected! Don’t we all know that God has given us the earth for the taking and making use of as we see fit? Today, however, after nearly forty years of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation programme, amid the growing alarm about climate change, the decline in biodiversity, and diminishing resources worldwide, how can we not acknowledge that Joe Oldham and others like him were indeed prophets? Let us heed them.

Keith Clements