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Creation summit cancelled

Mennonite Creation Care Network release

Wolf Lake, Indiana - After more than a year of debate and careful planning, the Mennonite Creation Care Network (MCCN) has decided against holding a creation summit in 2008. This followed a day-and-a-half of heavy working sessions at the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, last month. The network decided that holding a separate event on the environment when earth care could be discussed at other planned meetings would unjustifiably contribute to global warming.

"This is the biggest non-event we have planned," joked David Neufeld of Winnipeg, "and it was not an easy decision to give up the idea of our own separate conference."

Several network members were challenged by Canadian Mennonite columnist Will Braun, whose Jan. 22 "Pie in the warming sky" column inspired them with his resolve to "quit air travel."

Oregonian Dave Hockman-Wert, who spent part of the weekend's work session researching "green" conferences, estimated that the network will save 45 tonnes of avoided carbon dioxide emissions with this decision-the equivalent of not using 19,000 litres of gasoline-and suggested that it be named a "nonference."

"Conferences where hundreds or thousands of people fly and drive many miles to get here may soon become unaffordable or unjustifiable, as fossil fuels become less available and the damage of using them more evident," Hockman-Wert said. "A nonference offers a framework for imaginative alternatives to the traditional 'bricks and mortar' conference."

"We are not saying that a creation summit is forever a bad idea," said Greg Bowman of Pennsylvania. "At this stage we would rather endorse local, regional or even national events already planned that may have a creation care component."

Network chair Luke Gascho plans to represent the organization at Mennonite Church USA's biennial conference in San Jose, Calif., in July, and convene a gathering there. Something similar is being contemplated for Mennonite Church Canada meetings in Abbotsford, B.C.

Members of the group agreed that avenues such as the network's website ( can generate dialogue, enthusiasm and action as well.

Can a nonference actually happen? Jennifer Schrock of Goshen, Ind., thinks it can. "I see from the Internet that ethnomusicologists, nanotechnology specialists and poets have already held nonferences," she observed. "We could call people to invest 20 hours in the environmental wellbeing of their local communities during a given month. They could send us stories about how they spent their time, or donate their unspent travel dollars to an earth-friendly cause."

The network is also developing a strong relationship with Mennonite Mutual Aid, as it expands its understanding of stewardship to include creation care.

Mennonite Creation Care Network is a network for Mennonite people and agencies actively engaged in the care and restoration of God's creation. The network encourages the church to claim its biblical and theological foundations regarding care of God's creation, discover the ties that link all created beings to each other and to God, confess the harm humans have caused the natural world, and act faithfully to restore the Earth.

This article originally appreared in Canadian Mennonite magazine