The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973

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Letters

Lenten Letter
By J. M. Gilheany

An open ecumenical response to episcopal correspondence, in reply to our letter of 12 February 2003

 
Your Grace,
 
The following address is an accompaniment to all individual letters sent to Church leaders, who engaged or acknowledged our earlier concerns. It is however being sent to all Bishops within the U.K., as well as to the Church press.
 
A range of thoughts and sentiments were received and unfortunately witheld, yet hopefully a clearer understanding of eachothers' views and feelings will have emerged. For example, a particular misgiving expressed in several of your letters was encapsulated as:
 
"...the danger of confusing the adoption of a personal discipline for a short time with tackling a 'grave moral issue' ".
 
We have taken note of this important concern and intend to embrace the spirit of Lenten restraint itself, in effectively conveying the concept of a vegetarian Lent. In most cases, our "contemporary adaption of an ancient tradition" was accepted as an essentially valid and benign endeavour. Indeed, there is nothing to inhibit spiritual atonement, reflection and growth, in considering the lives of animals, spared, during a fast.
 
It is necessary that we covey both our regard and gratitude for the many blessings, sympathies and expressions of goodwill which were conferred, as well as our acute disappointment, in relation to three notable areas of the episcopal response as a whole:
 
1) Less than a third of the Church hierarchy contacted, were prepared to embrace genuine misgivings, as to the role of our religion in 800 million animal killings, each year in the U.K.
 
2) An almost entirely evasive response to the five areas of concern which were conveyed.
 
3) Naturally, the apparent lack of receptivity towards vegetarianism, as a means of enhancing Christian presence, in today's injured world.
 
In fact, this arguable stagnation of conscience is most pertinently contrasted, in the light of unfettered and unfolding Church teaching itself:
 
"It's own task (the Church) is to 'read the signs of the times' and uncover the spiritual and moral issues that lie at the root of the challenges of our time".
 
"The Call of Creation" - Catholic Bishop Conference of England and Wales, 2002.
 
"It is the logic of our present arguement that solidarity must, in a genuine sense, extend to nature itself, as we live in ways that are consistent with its God-given laws."
 
ibid
 
"As 'co-creators' then, our acts should reflect God's own love for creation,"
 
ibid
 
It is obviously our contention that authentic love and wholesale slaughter are ethically exclusive.
 
"The divine Spirit is sacramentally present in Creation, which is therefore to be treated with reverence, respect and gratitude.
 
"Human beings are both co-partners with the rest of Creation and living bridges between heaven and earth, with responsibility to make personal and corporate sacrifices for the good of all Creation."
 
Resolution 1.8: Creation,  Lambeth Conference, 1998.
 
"That this relationship may be informed by the principles of justice and the integrity of every living being; so that self-centred greed is overcome."
 
ibid
 
There are incidentally none of us, involved in this endeavour, who derive any satisfaction from a moral prescriptivism, which may at times be unavoidable. It should be understood that our realisations stem from a knowledge of the devastating effects that a meat eating diet has on the rest of God's creation. As Christians, we are responsible for demonstrating God's love in a fallen world. We therefore believe that a vegetarian diet will epitomise these ideals by:*
 
1) Demonstrating our love for God:  When we place our care of creation before our worldly desire for meat, we demonstrate our love for God and all that he created.
 
2) Stopping violence towards God's creatures:  All creatures were created to glorify God. Yet no age has inflicted upon animals such massive punishments with such wanton disregard. 
 
3) Feeding the hungry: 20 vegetarians can be fed on the same amount of land needed to feed one carnivore. If 10% of Christians became vegetarian, world hunger could be eliminated.
 
4) Protecting the environment:  Our desire for meat contributes towards many environmental problems, including water depletion, soil erosion, pollution, deforestation and species extinction.
 
5) Preservation of peace:  The demand for meat of wealthy countries generates poverty and instability overseas, which often perpetuates war.
 
6) Protecting our bodies:  Our health suffers because God created us as plant eaters. Our fingers, teeth and entire digestive systems are designed for plant-based nourishment. However, improvement in our health should be considered the reward, rather than the reason, for adopting a vegetarian diet.
 
Without making a claim that vegetarianism will banish the world's ills, it is imperative that meat-eating Christians become aware of the above facts. God's people must realise that they are unwittingly supporting one of the most pernicious industries ever devised by humanity.
 
Vegetarianism is not just a fad but an eschatological means through which to bring a part of God's new creation, the peaceable kingdom, into today's world. To embrace, rather than oppose, what we pray for each day; "...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
 
Thank you once again, for your time and interest.
 
May God guide and sustain each of you, in your daily duties and challenges.
 
Yours in Prayer
 
*Points 1-6 drafted by Don Gwillim of CVAUK: www.christianvegetarian.co.uk

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