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The Lausanne Movement and Caring for Creation

As you watch the video found on our homepage and read about the strong legacy of Christian concern for animal welfare, you’ll learn that the renowned evangelist Rev. Billy Graham spoke on the issue of faith and animals in his writings.

Amongst his tremendous contributions to Kingdom work throughout his life, Rev. Graham’s legacy includes the Lausanne Movement. In the 1970s, Billy Graham perceived the need for a global congress to re-frame Christian mission in a world of political, economic, intellectual, and religious upheaval. The church, he believed, had to grasp the ideas and values behind rapid changes in society.

In July 1974, over 2,400 participants from 150 nations gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the first International Congress on World Evangelization. TIME magazine described it as ‘a formidable forum, possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held’. Speakers included some of the world’s most respected evangelical thinkers of the time: Francis Schaeffer, Ralph Winter, Carl Henry, and John Stott.

Through the ’70s and ’80s, the Lausanne Movement built on the 1974 Congress by convening smaller groups of influencers around critical mission topics like the Gospel and Culture, Muslim Evangelization, and Living Simply. Consultations would typically result in the publication of a seminal statement with a call to action in an ongoing series of Lausanne Occasional Papers (LOPs), which continue to help shape mission theology and practice. Two major global congresses followed, Manila 1989 and Cape Town 2010, serving as a launch pad for further key strategies and milestones in global mission.

In the 2011 Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and A Call to Action, the Lausanne Movement declared in Part I, Section 7: “We Love God’s World” by stating the following resolutions as they refer to care for creation:

“We love the world of God’s creation. This love is not mere sentimental affection for nature (which the Bible nowhere commands), still less is it pantheistic worship of nature (which the Bible expressly forbids). Rather it is the logical outworking of our love for God by caring for what belongs to him. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ The earth is the property of the God we claim to love and obey. We care for the earth, most simply, because it belongs to the one whom we call Lord.

The earth is created, sustained and redeemed by Christ. We cannot claim to love God while abusing what belongs to Christ by right of creation, redemption and inheritance. We care for the earth and responsibly use its abundant resources, not according to the rationale of the secular world, but for the Lord’s sake. If Jesus is Lord of all the earth, we cannot separate our relationship to Christ from how we act in relation to the earth. For to proclaim the gospel that says ‘Jesus is Lord’ is to proclaim the gospel that includes the earth, since Christ’s Lordship is over all creation. Creation care is thus a gospel issue within the Lordship of Christ.

Such love for God’s creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth’s resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism. Instead, we commit ourselves to urgent and prophetic ecological responsibility. We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action, as well as those committed to godly fulfillment of the mandate to provide for human welfare and needs by exercising responsible dominion and stewardship. The Bible declares God’s redemptive purpose for creation itself. Integral mission means discerning, proclaiming, and living out, the biblical truth that the gospel is God’s good news, through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for individual persons, and for society, and for creation. All three are broken and suffering because of sin; all three are included in the redeeming love and mission of God; all three must be part of the comprehensive mission of God’s people.”

The Commitment also speaks of “Christ’s Peace for His Suffering Creation” in Part IIB:

“Our biblical mandate in relation to God’s creation is provided in The Cape Town Confession of Faith section 7 (a). All human beings are to be stewards of the rich abundance of God’s good creation. We are authorized to exercise godly dominion in using it for the sake of human welfare and needs, for example in farming, fishing, mining, energy generation, engineering, construction, trade, medicine. As we do so, we are also commanded to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us. We do this for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer and heir of all creation.

We lament over the widespread abuse and destruction of the earth’s resources, including its bio-diversity. Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.”

As Christians consider signing the Evangelical Statement on Responsible Care for Animals and joining the Every Living Thing movement, let us also reflect upon the similar, historic resolutions, such as the Lausanne Movement’s commitment, that has laid the groundwork for the global Christian church to thoughtfully engage in care for creatures as a critical part of our missional call as gospel people in His world.

As [Hannah] More's Christian convictions grew, so, too, did her conviction that benevolence toward animals was part of a holistic Christian worldview, and her writings came to reflect these evolving views.
Dr. Karen Swallow Prior Professor of English Liberty University

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Video directed and produced by Storytellers INK