Story last updated at 3:31 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2002

Environmental evangelist carries word to Homer
By Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

Peter Illyn, a preacher cut from a different cloth, delivered his unconventional message of Christian environmentalism at the Homer United Methodist Church on Monday.

Illyn's story is unusual. After spending years preaching the message of salvation as an evangelical Foursquare minister, Illyn took a sabbatical and traveled a thousand miles up the Pacific Crest Trail with a Bible in hand and a pack-laden llama by his side. While he was in the wilderness, he found God, again.

"I call it being born again, again," Illyn said.

During his wilderness awakening, Illyn said he discovered that his calling on earth was to preach a message of environmental stewardship.

He now brings that message around the world <> after a stop in Alaska he will visit Papua New Guinea in hopes that he can use his Restoring Eden organization to focus Christians and non-Christians alike on issues such as extinction and ecological degradation.

"I'm trying to make a biblical connection between faith and ecology," he said.

His presentation was largely based on the scriptural backing for his ideas. Not only did God make a covenant with mankind, Illyn said, he made one with creation.

Using the parable of the "Faithful and wise Servant" to make his point, Illyn asserted that our role is to see that God's household is well cared for.

The audience of about 20 received Illyn's speech warmly, though many brought forth challenging questions during the discussion that followed. The issues of evolution, population control and Armageddon were raised. Specific environmental issues such as oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge did not.

Illyn admits that there are fundamentalists on both sides of the issue who will not be swayed by his message. You try for the people in the middle.

"You can win a debate and not win a heart," he said. "What's the point of that.

"These are tough, tough, questions and there are no easy answers," Illyn said of the broad spectrum of environmental problems facing mankind. "We start (facing those problems) by recognizing that we have a God-given duty to care for creation."

The bearded Illyn often takes his message to summer Christian rock festivals, where he can find a receptive audience. Often with his llama in tow, Illyn will mingle with the thousands of kids at the festivals, hoping to see what he calls "the raised eyebrow."

"You just hope to make a connection with one person in a crowd of a hundred," Illyn said.