Don Gwillim, Co-Founder & past Administrator of the Christian Vegetarian Association UK (CVAUK) speaks to Sarx about the spiritual benefits of a vegetarian diet.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts. Having retired I can no longer speak for CVAUK.
- Tell us about coming to faith in Jesus?
My spiritual journey started in 1976 when I married my second wife Audrey, a Catholic. I had just gone through a painful divorce and was surprised by the peace I experienced through her faith in God. We joined a C of E church in 1986 and after a “Saints Alive” course, I had a spiritual experience and unconditionally gave my life to Jesus.
- What prompted you to adopt a meat-free diet and what personal benefits have you found from it?
In 1987 due to the violence of the meat industry, my family gave up red meat. However, once you embark on a journey you uncover even more horrifying facts, so in 1990 we became vegetarian and vegan in 1996. However, when eating out or dining with friends we will eat cheese, being too pedantic can be counter productive, as it takes time to establish a firm commitment based on our hearts.
Benefits: the joy I feel knowing that three times a day, I am establishing God’s Kingdom here & now, by following the non-violent teachings of Jesus. Contrary to medical opinion, at 84, I am still alive and enjoying my spiritual journey.
- What would Christ make of the way we treat animals in today’s society?
Many have worshipped Jesus, but few have understood him and fewer have received his message and put it into practice. The Bible and Jesus’ words have been deliberately misinterpreted to mean anything you want them to mean and his name has been used to justify crimes against humanity and God’s other creatures, the Christian Church has often condoned what he opposed most strongly, namely violence, in his name.
Jesus is the embodiment of peace, compassion and mercy, not just for humankind but for all of God’s creation. The church is changing however, only a short time ago it indorsed slavery and opposed equality for women.
So what would Jesus make of a) our rearing and killing of a whopping 70 Billion animals a year*, and b) our indifference to the million people who die of hunger each year, as food is diverted to feed these poor animals, just to satisfy the unnecessary carnivorous diet of the rich? He would be appalled.
- What led you to found the UK Christian Vegetarian Association?
It was not long before I began to realise the spiritual benefits of a vegetarian diet. Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom come” not sometime in the future but here and now, how? By following the non-violent teachings of Jesus. Jesus twice quoted Hosea 6:6 “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, Mathew 9:13 & 12:7.
So in 1998 I joined the “Veg4Lent” team and in 2004 CVAUK was born. I did not do it alone, my heartfelt thanks to the Rev. John & Brenda Ryder, Philip & Miriam Sampson and Tony Neesham. CVAUK was also blessed by support from America: the late Rev. J.R.Hyland, Stephen R Kaufman M.D. CVA USA and Dr Richard H Schwartz of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. CVAUK owes it’s existence to all these wonderful people.
- How might the Church present a uniquely Christian contribution to the matter of animal welfare?
As Christians, we know a power that can resist the destructive, violent, inequitable, economic and governing systems of today’s world. Due to vested interest, neither industry or governments will act to alleviate these problems. The church is in a unique position to encourage other world faith communities to unite and use their authority to divert humankind away from this destructive path. The C of E Church highlighted these problems at their Lambeth 98 conference :
Read complete Resolution 1.8 Creation & 1.9 Ecology at: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/Lambeth1998/LC98res/sec1.html
- What advise would you have for Church leaders who want to encourage their communities to take the first steps towards a more peaceable lifestyle?
Faith Leaders must be honest about the devastating effects our lifestyle is having on the rest of God’s creation and become instrumental in inaugurating the cure, God’s Peaceable Kingdom, a non-violent, sustainable community of love.
Contrary to popular belief God cannot inaugurate his kingdom, it can only be established by those who become one with Jesus, God’s perfect human, who rejected our violence and became the first to demonstrate how God’s Peaceable Kingdom can be established here on earth.
Modern forms of communication have now given us the unique opportunity to proclaim God’s loving image globally. Faith leaders must therefore encourage a world community of autonomous faiths united in it’s allegiance to a non-violent, loving God and for humans to become the servant species God always intended us to be.
Accreditations and Further Information:
Compassion in World Farming: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/news/2012/07/factory-farming-by-numbers-2012-update/
“Sharing God’s Planet” 2005: http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1258771/gs1558.pdf
Interfaith messages on Humanity and Nature: http://www.arcworld.org/downloads/THE%20ASSISI%20DECLARATIONS.pdf