In the beginning...
Restoring Eden, officially Christians for Environmental Stewardship, was formed in the early 1990s by Peter Illyn, an evangelical pastor from the Pacific Northwest. Peter, an avid wilderness hiker, a few summers earlier had taken two llamas – Frank and Jesse – on a record-setting thousand-mile llama trek up the spine of the Cascade Mountains. According to Peter, "I went into the mountains a minister, but I came out an environmental activist." After he returned from this four-month trek, Peter started a wilderness outfitting ministry, taking families and small groups onto the wilderness areas surrounding the Cascade volcanoes.
A Skewed Perspective
During that time (the early 90's), federal judges ruled that the relentless logging of the Douglas Fir forest ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest was driving to extinction the elusive spotted owl who lives only in those ancient trees. This federal ruling curtailed logging of the old growth forests and caused lumber mills that could only process the large logs to cease operations. Unfortunately, these lumber mills were major employers in many of these small towns. Tensions grew high and environmentalists were vilified - even though timber barons had been warned for 30 years that they were logging the remaining forests at an unsustainable rate.
In response, some private property-rights groups (the "Wise Use" movement) attempted to dismantle the Endangered Species Act, believing instead that private property rights should allow a property owner to do anything to their land, no matter what the consequences are or what the impacts may be.
A Renewed Perspective
Instead, Peter saw that the need to protect species was a wise choice, worthy of the challenge and costs involved. His views were based on the idea that the earth is the only place in the known universe that supports life and that the fruitfulness of the earth is a function of the diversity, interconnectedness and cycling of the web of life. According to Peter, "How can we be pro-life and yet cavalier with the very systems that create life? If we love the Creator, we must take care of creation." This thinking was summed up in one of his favorite verses,
"In wisdom you made them all, the earth is filled with all of your creatures." (Psalm 104:24)
Raising a Voice
Peter created a sermon built around the ideas that God created the different species and called them good; God blessed the different species and told them to fill the earth; God protected them by calling them to the ark of Noah; and lastly, God made an eternal covenant with them. Peter believed that to destroy what God created, blessed, protected and covenanted with is the opposite of faithful and wise stewardship - it is foolish and hard-hearted.
Peter joined with other religious leaders and was able to convince Congress to not dismantle the Endangered Species Act. His meeting with a key Republican congresswoman was filmed for a segment on the PBS news show, McNeil-Lehrer Report, launching Christians for Environmental Stewardship into the national limelight.
Birth and Growth
From these efforts emerged Christians for Environmental Stewardship, which became Restoring Eden in 2001, dedicated to helping Christians rediscover the biblical call to environmental stewardship. Ten years later, we have increased in staff and reach, and grown into a national ministry that empowers Christians from many denominations and backgrounds to love, serve, and protect God’s creation.