Should The Church Be Concerned With Animals?

In 2007, the Clapham Group met with the Humane Society of the United States, the country's largest animal protection organization, to explore this question. If the answer to the question above is yes, how can experts in animal issues like HSUS build relationships and bridges with the faith community? Out of our legacy with William Wilberforce and C.S. Lewis, we knew the Church in the past had led on ethical issues regarding animals. And rather than develop a modern theology of animals to impose upon the Church, we recommended that HSUS take considerable measures to help the Church recover this history. The result was the most robust collection of denominational and historical statements regarding creation care and animals ever collected. You can review your denomination's statements of faith regarding animals at the Humane Society website.

Out of our legacy with William Wilberforce and C.S. Lewis, we knew the Church in the past had led on ethical issues regarding animals.

As the department grew, it worked with faith leaders around the country to explore Biblical thought on modern animal issues. Christine Gutleben, the senior director of faith outreach, built relationships with thinkers at hallmark Christian institutions including: Wheaton, Westmont, Gordon, Baylor, Biola, Fuller Seminary, Duke Seminary, Liberty, and many others. The department also sought to help support and equip churches in their outreach to local communities regarding animal care. As the recession took hold, churches who cared for their community's pets found turnout for help to be dramatic. This was a tangible need that the church, empowered and equipped by HSUS, could provide. Moreover, the success of this project to equip churches to help care for animals was recently highlighted in the New York Times.

This past April, Wayne Pacelle, CEO of HSUS, and Christine Gutleben were asked to speak at Q Ideas, a gathering of over 600 emerging evangelical thought-leaders. Their task was to explore the question above, should the church be concerned with animals? And if so, what can a church do to engage modern animal ethical issues? Built upon years of listening to and serving the Church, HSUS was able to thoughtfully help guide these pastors through animal issues. The reaction to this presentation was overwhelmingly positive as churches begin to recover this history and lead again on animal issues. To watch the presentation and learn more about what happened at Q Ideas, read this.In a few weeks, the Clapham Group in partnership with HSUS, will host a private gathering of top faith thinkers and denominational leaders in Washington, DC to explore modern animal ethical issues. As it has in the past, HSUS will begin by listening. How can the Church speak prophetically into animal issues? And upon listening, it will seek to equip and encourage the Church to once again take the lead in shaping our ethics regarding animals.

We believe these saints of faith would find the partnership between HSUS and the Church a great contribution to their legacy and to the strengthening of the Church's work in this world.

William Wilberforce began the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the world's oldest animal welfare organization. C.S. Lewis wrote passionately about animal suffering and argued against vivisection in an essay to the New England Anti-vivisection Society. We believe these saints of faith would find the partnership between HSUS and the Church a great contribution to their legacy and to the strengthening of the Church's work in this world.

FeaturedMark Rodgers