One of the key concepts of climate change mitigation is integration.

Documents produced by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) consider integration as an assumption for ecological renewal. And rightly so.

In these documents, integration is described as the common efforts of many different people groups in many different areas, such as food security, water, energy, economy, social inclusion, biodiversity and so on.

Climate change affects everyone and its mitigation requires everyone’s participation. Therefore, integration is important.

Yet, there is something more to the concept of integration than simply a coordinated action plan.

So, I invite you to explore the concept of integration alongside the trinitarian reflections of Jürgen Moltmann, a Protestant theologian who celebrated his 95th birthday earlier this month.

The English word “integration” comes from the Latin integrātus, meaning “having been made whole.” It can also be translated as “renewed,” “restored,” “re-created” or “refreshed.”

Therefore, the original meaning of the word draws attention to a co-existence of all different parts or characters in a way that is pleasing for all. This is how the whole can be formed.

So, how can such a reciprocal and pleasing co-existence be achieved? What does it require from the characters involved?

In his book, Sun of Righteousness, Arise, Moltmann develops a concept that he calls “the new trinitarian thinking.” This leads to a better understanding of integration.

The central notion of Moltmann’s understanding of the Trinity is perihōrēsis. It originates from the Greek fathers and means “interpenetration” or “reciprocal indwelling.”

This dynamic image describes the movement between and among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as surrounding, embracing and enclosing. It is often described also as the divine dance.

The main idea of the perichoretic understanding is that God is relational.

God is not a result of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit coming together and complementing each other. Neither is the Trinity about a mystical divine substance that they share together.

Instead, it happens in relationship when, in “the power of perfect love,” each person goes “out of itself to such an extent that it is wholly present in the others.”

Moltmann concludes that the perichoretic approach understands each “person” of the Trinity not only as a “person” but also as an “open space,” which offers a dwelling place for the other two.

This happens only because all trinitarian “persons” limit themselves to make space for the other two to dwell in them.

As spiritual and physical beings, the space humans have available is spiritual as well as physical.

Baptists understand the importance of the spiritual space well when describing our relationship with God. We talk about Christ living in us or becoming rooted in Christ. This happens in worship, prayer and fellowship.

However, too often we undermine the physical space that encompasses the various reciprocal relationships in our common ecosystem. The physical space is a source of well-being, and it is becoming more and more crucial.

For example, a new concept – environmental migrants – has emerged in recent years to describe people who have fled their homes because of extreme weather conditions triggered by ecological degradation that destroyed their living space.

International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports that about 9.8 million people in the first half of 2020 were displaced because of different nature disasters.

In 2019, this number was 5.1 million people, including the displacements of the previous years’ disasters. These figures are growing dramatically, offering insight into the level of human suffering.

To this data, we need to add extinct animal and plant species, as well as destroyed habitats, loss of fertile soils and the changing climate.

This space, which the current environmental migrants as well as animal and plant species share with each other as a source of life, has been taken over by others whose main desire is to increase their comfort and wealth.

Too often, a consumerist lifestyle has turned a space of life-affirming relationships into a graveyard. Therefore, everyone needs to consider their own choices and actions.

Is the space I shape and create with my consumption habits, daily work, social and political involvement, worship and so on a private comfort zone for myself alone?

Or is it an open, safe space that embraces others and invites them to dwell with me?

This is the core of integration.

It is only by limiting our own space and offering space for others that we can more fully participate in the redeeming and integrating work of the triune God who is embracing, renewing and bringing all creation to wholeness.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week for Earth Day 2021 (April 22). The other articles in the series are:

How Earth Day Aligns with Jewish Values | Leib Kaminsky

This Earth Day, a Sermon for the Birds | Jessica McDougald

Silence on Climate Change Spurs Millennials’ Migration | Don Gordon

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