I was certainly the only person in my UMass Boston cohort of Senate-aspiring public policy classmates to research a church as the focus of my capstone project in 2006. As an environmentalist growing up in the Lutheran church, I had always been frustrated by the assumption that I was a bit of a hippy because I respect nature and conserve resources. In academic settings, I felt need to muffle my faith in fear that it cast me as some sort of sheep following a herd. However, wasn’t it church communities throughout history who influenced progress in the public sphere and challenged the status quo? Reformation, Liberation Theology, the Civil Rights Movement…
I was compelled to do a research project investigating the “social capital” of my congregation and tried to determine what factors were preventing this relatively progressive church from making simple changes like: ending the use of Styrofoam cups at coffee hour. After reading a lot of sociology and conducting a number of interviews with a spectrum of church members and staff, I realized the lack of progress often came from simply having no catalyst. So, there was my calling: stop feeling isolated as the token “tree-hugger” and integrate my passions into existing work of this House of Prayer. I could make it part of our faith conversation – not a guilt-trip or response to outside political pressure.
Six years later, after trying to instigate some changes in group behavior from my corner of the ring, I was invited to attend a Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC) training in Chicago. I got to meet then diaconical minister (now Deaconess), Kim Winchell, whose work I referenced in my master’s research (she never expected anyone else to read her thesis, much less source it!). Since then, I have been grateful to discover a whole network of fellow Lutherans who see this work as critical to our mission in caring for one another as God’s gifts. The inspired writings of theologian, David Rhoads, gives legitimacy and focus to our work. Opportunities to meet with one another across the country refreshes and empowers us, just as every worship service sends us into the world. While there are many other parallel faith-based organizations within the larger eco-justice movement, LRC offers a unique invitation for Lutherans to connect and empower one another to be proud “green sheep” in their congregations and help those who may not yet understand our collective vocation to care for God’s good creation.
A decade after meeting the founders of this grassroots movement I am honored to be its Executive Director as LRC moves into the next chapter of its existence. With a foundation of materials from theologians, educators and clergy, our network is now prepared to ensure these treasures are used to help people connect and empower their congregations to live their faith into the world… for the sake of the world.
Louis Tillman recently finished a yearlong internship at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is expecting to earn his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago in May 2017. As part of the GreenFaith Emerging Leaders Multi-faith Climate Convergence in 2015 he went to Rome as one of 100 young leaders, ages 21-40, selected from around the world. He says, “I have had the honor of being in Rome among 100 amazing and incredible climate activists from every corner of the world. We all came from different faiths but we breathe the same air, we share the same trees and we live on the same earth…The multicultural and enriching discussions exploring the deeply connected faith teachings we all have showed me that our common cause of protecting our environment transcends borders, cultures, religions, race and background and means we are truly one family of God’s creation on earth appointed to protect all the things we love. Now let’s start changing the world, one person at a time,” Tillman says.
Womanist Kwame Pitts is Pastor of Crossroads Lutheran Church and WNY-LuMin Network, an STM Candidate at Chicago Theological Seminary.
Read: “Reclaiming Blackness: the Treasures of Blackness” her recent entry in AllCreation.org
Listen to her podcast: Opposite Ends: Two Pastors in Unlikely Spaces Fighting for Justice.
“Being involved with LRC renews my commitment to the caring of Creation and also gives me the opportunity to be immersed in current issues that are impacting both urban and rural areas and to be that voice, and bring these public issues theologically to the Seminaries as well to the laity.” While Pitts earned her M.Div. from Lutheran School of theology at Chicago she co-founded Seminarians for Justice, a student social justice group dedicated to utilizing our academics towards practical theology with involvement with the community outside its walls. Pitts also worked for several summers at Lutheran Outdoor Ministries in Illinois. She joined 35 faith leaders at a workshop in June 2016 at Union Seminary in New York on the science of climate change, resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure, environmental justice, and climate communication, including training from former Vice President Al Gore. You can read her work via her blog: and see her interviewed as part of the video series, EarthBound.
Rev. Mark Peters is currently serving as pastor at French River Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minnesota. (Read about his path to get there here.) He has served on the Board of Lutherans Restoring Creation since inception (2017) and was part of the original Steering Committee who convened in 2015.
Mark was the Executive Director for the Lutheran Coalition for Public Policy in Minnesota (LCPPM) from 1995-2013. Mark’s advocacy and education efforts at LCPPM focused on the passage of mercury reduction, renewable energy, local control, children’s environmental health (biomonitoring and health tracking – often referred to as tracking toxins) and Global Warming. A significant part of this work has been to establish and provide faith-based resources to congregation creation care teams in faith communities. Mark also manages his family farm in Wisconsin that has recently been awarded the Wildlife Habitat Stewardship Award for Richland County, Wisconsin for conservation practices and is a lifelong hunter and fisherman.
Mary has been engaged with LRC throughout its formation. Mary was director of environmental education and advocacy for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Washington Office from March 2006 to January 2016. During that time, she served as the North American representative to the Climate Change Advisory Group of the ACT Alliance, a global network of faith-based relief and development organizations; as president of the board of Creation Justice Ministries, formerly the National Council of Churches eco-justice program; and on the executive committee of the National Farm Worker Ministry board. Prior to joining the ELCA, Mary worked for a number of secular environmental organizations, serving as vice president of the Earth Day Network, legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters, and staff attorney with the National Audubon Society’s endangered species program and its trade and environment program. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in English literature from Stanford University and a juris doctor degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. She is a member of the bar in California and the District of Columbia. Mary is currently at Mercy Investment Services as director of shareholder advocacy.
Ruth is ELCA’s Program Director for Environment and Energy. She has had careers in chemical engineering, as a corporate legal counsel, and brings legal specialties including environmental law and climate change. She is married to Chuck Moore. They have two children and two grandchildren. She enjoys travelling; spending time with family and friends; and particularly planning large family gatherings. She continues to beinvolved with Christian education leadership in her church. Her other volunteer work includes chairing a young adult and youth leadership summit in southern Virginia. She is a member of the board of Creation Justice Ministries and a member of ACT Alliance’s Climate Change Group. She has given speeches or various environmental and climate change subjects.
Veni, Creator Spiritus!
An Ecological Reformation
Veni, Creator Spiritus! Once a World Council of Churches program theme, “Come, Holy Spirit, renew your whole creation!” surfaced again in an ecumenical gathering in Greece in March 2016, this time as a “Manifesto for an Ecological Reformation of Christianity.” The authors note the Reformation Jubilee of 2017 as the opportune moment for the manifesto. The backstory is the urgent call of Christians from areas most vulnerable to the constellations of economic power, whether in the Pacific, Africa, Asia, Latin America, or from minority populations in Europe and North
America. Add the Pope’s ringing encyclical, Laudato Si’ , and Protestant countries in the North keenly aware of the environmental degradation of their consumerist life style, and we have an ecological cry that is as clear, strong and emphatic as
Beethoven’s Ninth. [read more]
Behold the Lilies, by the Rev. H. Paul Santmire, draws from the riches of the author’s long-standing work in the theology of nature and ecological spirituality, especially from his classic historical study, The Travail of Nature (1985), and from his Franciscan exploration in Christian spirituality, Before Nature (2014). In this new volume, Santmire maintains that those who would follow Jesus are mandated not just to care for the earth and all its creatures but also to contemplate the beauties of the whole creation, beginning with “the lilies of the field.” His first-person reflections range from “Scything with God” to “Rediscovering Saint Francis in Stone,” from “Taking a Plunge in the Niagara River” to “Pondering the Darkness of Nature.” Behold the Lilies offers brief spiritual reflections that can be read in any order, over a period of time. This accessible primer will be welcomed not only by those who have already identified themselves with the way of Jesus but also by others who are searching for a contemplative spirituality attuned to global ecological and justice issues.
Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, a professor of Christian ethics, is the author of the 2013 book, Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological-Economic Vocation (Fortress Press). She gave a lecture at USU in the Tanner Talks series from the College of Humanites and Social Sciences. Dr. Moe-Lobeda joins us for Access Utah today, along with Rev. Scott Thalacker, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Logan.
By Nathan Detweiler
“Climate change is the biggest challenge that we face. Because of climate change we are forced to relocate within three decades,” Esau Sinnok said during a recent phone interview about Shishmaref. Esau was born and raised in this village in Alaska. He has recently become an outspoken advocate for Shishmaref and environmental conservation. [read more]
Russ Senti served as the inaugural Board of Directors President of Lutherans Restoring Creation from 2016-2021. Russ has been involved with caring for creation from a very young age helping his Dad out with the family farm in upstate NY from 1963 – 1975. As the retired Executive Director of the Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center (LOMC) in Illinois, he enjoyed caring for LOMC’s 640 acres that God has entrusted and educated other leaders in the ELCA on how they can be better stewards of what God has given them. His real passion is helping youth discover their role in caring for creation. That continues as he is happing “living the dream”, retired in Texas and frequently spending time with his grandchildren exploring God’s good earth.
Share your sermons, prayers, liturgies, ideas, and pictures.
Send resources or comments to Nick Utphall: email@example.com
The Role of ELCA Pastors in Care of the Earth
Stewardship of the Earth: The people of God are called to the care and redemption of all that God has made. This includes the need to speak on behalf of this earth, its environment and natural resources and its inhabitants. This church expects that its ordained ministers will be exemplary stewards of the earth’s resources, and that they will lead this church in the stewardship of God’s creation.
—From Vision and Expectations for Ordained Clergy of the ELCA.
“Tell the truth about the ecological state of the world
So discipline yourself in life and teaching that you preserve the truth, giving no occasion for false security or illusory hope.”
—From the ELCA Ordination Service. Bishop’s address to the newly ordained.
1. Be informed. Make it part of your continuing education and professional reading to be informed about the ecological state of the world and about theological, ethical, spiritual and practical resources to address caring for creation in your congregation.
2. Be a Spokesperson. As leader of the congregation, you can speak out and create an ethos that caring for creation is an important and integral part of the ministry of the congregation. Through sermons, newsletters, bulletins, and announcements, you can generate interest and awareness.
3. Become a Creation Care congregation. Spearhead and/or support efforts to become a Creation-Care congregation by making care for creation a part of the mission statement and visionary goals of the congregation. Establish an Earth-keeping team/committee. For steps to accomplish this, see the Self Organizing Kit for congregations here.
4. Support your Creation Care team. If a green team already exists, support their efforts and projects. Encourage your staff, the church council, and committee chairs to be aware of the importance of creation care in their work and to respond cooperatively to the work of the Green team. For example, promote efforts to incorporate creation care into the worship planning (see the site we sponsor at http://www.letallcreationpraise.org) or promote efforts to lower energy use and carbon footprint.
5. Be a model. Model creation care in your personal and family life (http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/covenant-with-creation). Green your church office (http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/greening-your-smo-office).
6. Encourage others. Encourage members to live out commitments to care for creation in their homes and work.
7. Witness in church and society. Promote creation care in the life and witness of the synod. Witness to our church’s commitments your local community.
8. Pastoral care. Guard creation care efforts so that they are done out of a rootedness in the gospel of grace and the presence of God’s love in all creation. Support people who are impacted or become disheartened by ecological crises.
Lutherans Restoring Creation has resources for all these actions and initiatives. We stand ready to assist you in any way we can.
author: Leah D. Schade
Informed by years of experience as an environmental activist and minister, Leah Schade equips preachers to interpret the Bible through a “green” lens, become rooted in environmental theology, and learn how to understand their preaching context in terms of the particular political, cultural, and biotic setting of their congregation. [Read more and buy.]
The GreenFaith Fellowship Program is a wonderful, challenging 18-month program that prepares lay and ordained leaders from diverse religious traditions for religiously based environmental leadership. Through this program, GreenFaith offers a unique opportunity for educational, spiritual and vocational growth and skill development in religious environmentalism.
The Fellowship Program consists of three three-day residential sessions in varied settings (one urban, one rural/semi-wild, and one suburban), conference calls, mentoring, an e-mail list serve, a Facebook group, networking both within the program and at each Fellows’ local/regional level and reading/writing assignments before and after each retreat.
The Fellowship curriculum is designed to integrate historical perspectives, scientific information, socio-economic considerations, religious, ethical, spiritual and practical dimensions. It works with an expansive understanding of the “environment” which encompasses suburban, urban and indoor settings as well as wilderness or biodiversity-rich areas that are the focus of much traditional environmental work.
GreenFaith draws Fellows from a national audience of ordained and lay leaders, to be selected through a competitive application process. Each Fellowship class is intended to be diverse in ethnicity, geography, religious tradition, and socio-economic background. Over 110 Fellows – from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Unitarian Universalist backgrounds have taken part – from over 35 states, 3 Canadian provinces, and from Europe.
For over 6 years, the GreenFaith Fellowship Program has provided cutting-edge training to leaders from diverse religious communities. We hope you’ll be interested in joining this special community.
For more information visit http://greenfaith.org/programs/fellowship