Tag Archives: eco-reformation

Take the LRC Reformation Day Preaching Challenge

Preach the Good News for all Creation on Reformation Sunday
“When anyone is in Christ, creation is new. The old has passed away. Behold! Everything is new!” II Corinthians 5:17

Why an eco-reformation?

There are voices across the ELCA calling for a reformation of the church to encompass care for all of God’s good creation.

We have spent centuries rightly nurturing our relationship with God (Love God) and one another (Love your neighbor). However, we have neglected God’s relationship with creation, our relationship with the rest of creation, and God’s relationship with us through the rest of creation (love creation). Now it is time to turn to this task with our full resources.

God’s Earth is in great trouble—pollution of air, land, and waters, ozone depletion, loss of forests and loss of farmable land to desert, proliferation of waste, global climate change, and much more. These changes are wreaking unjust havoc upon Earth, especially the poorest and most vulnerable humans, and on innumerable other creatures and plants of the entire natural world.

The overwhelming majority of scientists believe that these conditions are due in large part to the accumulative impact of human activity since the industrial revolution. To stop the destructive activity and to embrace practices that restore Earth, we will need sweeping changes in our society and our world.

Let’s begin with ourselves as a church. This will involve more than modest reforms such as adding a few hymns or using green cleaning products. This issue is not an add-on or simply a cause for those so interested. It involves all of us together. We need a transformation in our life and mission as a church, individually and together. We need to reform our worship, our theology, our ethics, our practices, and our spiritual disciplines.

As a church, we have always chosen to focus on care for the most vulnerable. We have rightly chosen as a church to emphasize feeding the hungry. Can we now broaden our commitment to the most vulnerable so as to care also for vulnerable earth and to address the connection between hunger and our ailing planet.

Our church needs a New Reformation as radical and transformative as the first one in the sixteenth century. We need to address the signal issue of our time (the restoration of Earth), as the sixteenth century reformation addressed their signal issue of that time (the salvation of the individual). We need to shift from being human-centered in our understanding of salvation to being Earth-centered in a way that seeks the well-being of all Earth Community.

We are approaching the observance of the five hundredth anniversary of the Sixteenth Century Reformation in 2017. As preparation for this event, Lutherans Restoring Creation urges us to consider embracing a New Reformation, an Eco-Reformation, as our means to rise to the greatest challenge of our time.

The Preaching Challenge: LRC invites you to take the occasion of Reformation Sunday to preach to your congregation the good news of God for all creation and to challenge your parish to respond to the love of God for creation and the grace of God in all creation so as to commit ourselves “to the care and redemption of all that God has made.”

We invite you to look at the resources available here as well as other resources you may wish to consult as preparation for preaching on Reformation Sunday on the church’s need to address the crises of creation.
We also invite you to submit your sermon to us sometime during the week after Reformation Sunday so that we can post it for others to see.

Here are some resources for you to consult in giving thought to this invitation:

  • For the ELCA Social statement, “Caring for Creation: Vision, Justice, Hope” and the study guide, click here.

Fourth Sunday of Easter in Year C (Susan Henry)

Revelation’s Easter Message

Readings for Series C (2016, 2019, 2022)

Revelation 7:9-17 **Acts 9:36-43 **John 10:22-30

Sermon from Pastor Susan Henry at House of Prayer Lutheran Church,  Hingham MA

More than Just Weird

Grace to you and peace from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

After Sunday worship last week, Kurt Lundin leaned in conspiratorially to greet me, saying “Did you notice – hymn number 666?” Indeed I did, and I told him I suspect that the people who put the hymnal together thought long and hard about what song should go with that infamous number.  It’s “What Wondrous Love Is This,” and there are clear references in it to the book of Revelation — which is where 666 and all that “mark of the Beast” stuff comes from.  In the third verse of that hymn, we find, “To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing . . . To God and to the Lamb who is the great I AM, while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing.”   So there, 666!  “To God and to the Lamb” we will sing, we will sing.  You can’t scare us!

In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, a seer named John who is in exile on Patmos, likely for being a thorn in the side of the Roman empire, writes to seven churches in what’s now Turkey about a heavenly journey he experienced in a series of strange visions.  Through what John has received, he wants believers to find hope and courage so they can live faithfully in even the most difficult times and circumstances.

John’s visions are weird stuff, to put it mildly, although the meaning of the coded language was clearer in its own time and culture than it is to us.  Rome was an oppressive empire, and it expected blessing and honor and wisdom and power to be given to Caesar, the ruler Nero at that time.  It was dangerous not to do that, but Christians then (and now) rightly give honor and blessing and glory and might to God, not to imperial rulers or authoritarian leaders.  Just as Voldemort in the Harry Potter books was sometimes referred to as “He who shall not be named,” Nero was alluded to by believers in other ways.  For example, since Jewish numerology assigns numbers to the letters of the alphabet, when you spell out Caesar Nero, you get – ta-dah! – 666.   He who shall not be named.

The book of Revelation was controversial enough to be the last book accepted as part of the Bible, and Martin Luther was never convinced Revelation really belonged there – although he felt free to appropriate some of its imagery to viciously attack the pope.  Revelation has been used and misused throughout the centuries, and the current iteration of misuse is the well-known series of Left Behind books and movies.  In them, born-again Christians get “raptured” up to heaven out of their beds, cars, or planes, leaving behind their clothes, glasses, hearing aids, and maybe even their hip replacements.  The rest of us get left behind.  Lutheran scholar and professor Barbara Rossing recalls how her seminary students once left clothes carefully arranged on their chairs for her to find when she came to class.  Nobody got raptured, she said – “I found them in the cafeteria.”[1]

The whole rapture thing, she insists, “is a racket.”  It was invented back in the 1830s as part of preacher John Nelson Darby’s system of biblical interpretation.  The word “rapture” doesn’t occur anywhere in the Bible, so the concept got pieced together from a verse here and a verse there.  The Left Behind books are grounded in Darby’s system, and they lead to what Rossing sees as a preoccupation with fear and violence, with war and “an eagerness for Armageddon.”[2]  For fundamentalist Christians – who are politically influential right now — all of this has significant implications for American foreign policy in the Middle East, which should give us pause.

It’s only on All Saints Day and during the Easter season every three years that we hear readings from Revelation, so it’s a perfect time to leave behind the misuses and abuses of it and wonder how it might be the word of God addressed not just to first-century Christians, but to us today.  It’s full of rich images for worship that are meant to be read more as poetry than prediction.  And while John hears about the coming Lion of Judah – fierce and violent – what he sees is “the Lamb who was slain” – vulnerable and victorious.

As I was studying Revelation this week, I found myself thinking about the baptismal font in the church where I grew up.  It was white marble and on its cover stood a little lamb with a tall, thin pole leaning against it.  At the top of the pole was a narrow signal flag.  Oh, I realized, that’s “the Lamb who was slain [who] has begun his reign.”  And we who got baptized in the water in that pure white font were washed in the blood of that slaughtered Lamb.  It’s a shocking image that we’ve thoroughly domesticated, and of course it’s not meant to be taken literally.  However, it bears witness to how life is stronger than death and how God’s vision is about new life, restoration, renewal, and healing.

When chaos threatens, people of faith can live as people of hope, enduring through struggles and suffering because we trust that ultimately God’s power is greater than any other power, God’s grace is stronger than the world’s sin, and God’s reign has already begun, even if we don’t see it.  Revelation is a pretty bracing witness – encouraging us to not give up or give in to whatever is not “of God.”  We sometimes pay lip service to how a life of faith is a counter-cultural way of life, but Revelation amps that way up and exhorts us to resist the cultural and political forces that work against God and seek to thwart God’s desire for an end to violence and oppression.  The Lamb who was slain becomes the shepherd who leads the flock to green pastures and springs of water, and through places of danger to where “God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”  John wants believers to listen in worship to his visions so that they will find courage and discover strength for the present because they have hope and trust in God’s future.

A week or so ago, Kris Niendorf came to the Thursday Bible study with a bunch of origami peace cranes she’d made as signs of hope while watching the not-so-hopeful news on tv.  It seems to me that, through these tiny symbols of resistance to the world’s injustice and violence and oppression, Kris was refusing to give in to the despair that I suspect can tempt us all.  Images, gestures, and actions can embody hope and offer strength in anxious times like our own, and worship itself is full of such images and actions.  We come to remember who God is and who we are.  We come to be put back together after the past week so that we can be signs of peace and hope in the week ahead, bearing witness to God’s power to sustain and encourage us and to lead us to live ever more deeply into our identity as people of faith.  Revelation speaks as powerfully about our call to live with hope and courage in the face of injustice and violence as it did in the first century.

Revelation offers us a word from the Lord in another way, too.  In a couple weeks, we’ll hear a reading from Revelation in which John sees the holy city, the new Jerusalem, “coming down out of heaven from God.”  He hears a voice saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals.  He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.”[3]  In John’s vision and God’s plan, the earth matters.  We don’t go up to God; God comes down to us and makes God’s home with us.  If we took that image seriously, how might it affect how we care for the earth and for all life on this planet we call home?

The language of Revelation is filled with images of all creation being restored and redeemed, and of all who make earth their home singing praises to God.  As part of the Great Thanksgiving in the liturgy during the Easter season, I say, “And so, with Mary Magdalene and Peter and all the witnesses of the resurrection, with earth and sea and all its creatures, with angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, we praise your name and join their unending hymn. . . .”  Did you catch that?  It’s not just us who sing but it’s the earth itself, the sea, the creatures who walk and swim and fly.  We all sing “to God and to the Lamb” and “millions join the theme” as we sing, as we sing.  We’re part of a cosmic chorus.

We humans are smart but not necessarily wise, and technology allows us to exploit our planet’s resources faster than the earth can renew itself.  That has never been true until now.  We who are called by God to care for and protect what God has made are surely called to repent — not only for what we have done but also what we have left undone in caring for God’s creation.  From the beginning, we were created for partnership with God, for joining all creation’s song of praise.  We were not made to wreak havoc on creation, which humankind increasingly is doing.

In that holy city that comes down from God, the water of life that we know in baptism flows through the city from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  John sees that “On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  Can you picture in your mind God’s new creation where water flows freely, all are fed, and healing marks all kinds of relationships?  Where our allegiance is to God alone?

That’s the vision John describes, and we are called to live into it, to let God’s future draw us to it and to work for its fulfillment.  A clear-eyed look at the forces, fears, appetites, and institutions that resist what God desires makes it clear that courage and hope will be crucial if we are to live faithfully.  A community of worship that sings “with earth and sea and all its creatures” and receives the Supper of the Lamb will help sustain us.  The book of Revelation – which, as you see, is not just weird — will ground us in a deep ecology that is the word of God addressed to us today.

And so, let us be faithful people of hope and courage, of strength and healing.  Let us be faithful people together in worship and praise.

Amen.

 

[1] Amy C. Thoren, “Barbara Rossing:  The Wittenburg Door Interview,” Issue #202, November/December 2005.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Revelation 21:2-3

Johan Bergh: Luther as Environmentalist

Download, read, and share widely this brief reflection from active disciple, Dr. Johan Bergh.  In his piece, published in the Trinity Review (2013), Bergh relates the framework of grace and neighbor love with how we are to understand the role of public action in our church.  Read more recent reflections on his blog: www.greengracepostings.blogspot.com

“God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Download the six-page excerpt from Trinity Seminary Review here: Johan-Bergh-Published-Journal-Article-Luther-as-Environmentalist.pdf

Dr. Johan Bergh, ACC

Johan serves as Pastor for St. Philip Lutheran Church, Mt. Dora, FL., and is an International Coach Federation ACC Coach, ELCA Coach and Coach Mentor and ELCA Licensed Coach Trainer. He volunteers his service by coaching ELCA leaders and mentoring ELCA Coach-In-Training rostered leaders. He currently serves as Coaching Ministry Coordinator for the Florida-Bahamas  Synod and serves on the ELCA Churchwide Coaching Ministry Team as well as a level II Natural Church Development Coach. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 2006 with a concentration in Discipleship and Leadership (M.Div., Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH 1981). His Bachelor of Science, Natural Resources, Environmental Interpretation (The Ohio State University) degree provides an environmental studies background for his current work as a Green Faith Fellow (www.Greenfaith.org)

He and his wife Janet have been married 39 years and have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.  He enjoys golf, running, hiking, fitness exercise, reading, biking, spinning, and good friends!

-Life and Missional Coach: http://www.beinganddoingmatters.com

-Coaching Ministry Coordinator, Florida-Bahamas Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: http://www.fbsynod.com

What does church have to do with it?

As many faith-based organizations are struggling with their place in relation to people’s daily lives, so does the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America look for ways the world can use what we offer.  As part of an appeal for our churches to take on the uncomfortable challenge of being engaged in the public sphere, let’s take stock of how other sectors of our society ask the church for help.  If you have articles or stories to share please submit them to info at lutheransrestoringcreation dot org.

Comments from BBC’s NewsHour Jan 22, 2019 Davos, Switzerland as Global Business leaders meet at World Economic  Forum:

Listen in to this conversation from global leaders and their call to us all to act as leaders.

What does a “moral and empathic revolution” look like?

When are you tempted to make villains out of your neighbors?

How can prayer offer a way out of habits that take us further away from our goals?

A Theology of Liturgy in a New Key: Worshiping With Creation

Thanks to David Rhoads,  Paul Santmire, and Norman Habel who share here their Chapter 2 of “The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary” (Fortress Press 2011). Please download and share the excerpt here- then buy the whole book!

This resource is a timeless guide for anyone curious about integrating caring for the earth and its creatures as a part of worship to God.  It recommended for anyone who wants a solid theological foundation to build upon and enact their passion for creation care.

Find  the Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary (here) at Fortress Press. 

 

 

Articles by Panu Pihkala, University of Helsinki

Upper Susquehanna (PA) Synod Assembly passes three eco-related Memorials/Resolutions (2015)

At the Upper Susquehanna (PA) Synod June 2015 Assembly three eco-related Memorials/Resolutions were passed. The following is a summary of the voting experience from Pr. Leah Schade. Email Phoebe Morad if you would like to contact her personally for more insight.

Colleagues: The Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly (PA) just voted in favor of the Eco-Reformation Memorial. It appeared that the vote was about 60%-40%. The Assembly also voted in favor of a related Eco-Reformation Resolution. It appeared that the vote was about 80%-20%. The one pastor speaking against the motions stated that they appeared to be “hijacking” the 500 th Anniversary of the Reformation. I spoke in favor of the motions and explained that they were integral to Luther’s thought, Lutheran theology, and in keeping with the ELCA’s previous social statements.

The Assembly also voted in favor of the Memorial for Transition to Clean, Renewable Energy. This vote was close: 79 in favor, 67 against. Those speaking against the memorial said that the motion “went too far,” making demands on those who would not want to divest. “You’re trying to shove this down our throats,” said one pastor. Four people spoke in favor of the memorial (myself included) highlighting that it is a prudent fiduciary measure to divest from fossil fuels, that we need to keep the carbon in the ground in order to avoid further climate disruption, and that the memorial is in keeping with Jesus’ command to care for the “least of these.” I presented a workshop about the motions prior to their coming to the floor (powerpoint available here).

 

 

Synod Resolutions: Synod Actions

Resolution to become an LRC Synod
Central States Synod
Approved June 2015

Resolution to become a Green Synod
Northern Illinois Synod Assembly
Approved April 2008

Resolution on Establishing an Environmental Stewardship Committee
Metropolitan New York Synod, 2009

 

Central States Synod Assembly Resolution Calls for “Green Action” (2017)

At the 2017 Synod Assembly in Kansas City, voting members adopted a resolution that encourages “its leaders and congregations to make use of the resources of Lutheran Restoring Creation for faith-based congregational initiatives and addressing care of creation and the threat of climate damage.” Included in this call to action are efforts to conserve energy and/or the use of renewable energy, congregational educational programs and action plans that may include such things as installing solar panels to generate renewable electricity, utilizing the Lutheran study guide on the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis (Laudato Si, On Care for our Common Home), and supporting policies that seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Click here to view the Lutheran study guide.

Further, the adopted resolution states “the Central States Synod recommends that all members of its congregations be active environmental stewards and ‘green disciples’ by engaging in prayer for guidance, study to gain a better understanding of environmental issues, and action to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

To help you and your congregation carry out this resolution, the LRC Mission Table will provide regular Green Action items in the Synod e-newsletter. For more information on Lutherans Restoring Creation, if you’d like to host a Creation Care workshop, or if you need help in your setting, please contact Noni Strand, the LRC Mission Table chair at nonistrand@gmail.com.

 

 

Synod Resolutions: Divestment from Fossil Fuels

Transition to Cleaner Energy Memorial
Upper Susquehanna (PA) Synod June 2015

Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod’s Creation Care Task Force pledges to investigate what divestment would mean for the synod and the world. June 2015

Metro New York Synod
Approved May 29, 2015
News Release 

Saint Paul, MN Area Synod
Approved April 24-25, 2015
Oregon Synod
Approved May 18, 2013.
New England Synod
Approved June 7-9, 2013

New England Synod’s Bishop Hazelwood Connects with Catholics over Climate (and other) Changes

On the heels of the Pope’s Encyclical encouraging caring for our common home, two religious leaders in New England came together this month in agreement that the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is a time to see how churches can work together to solve some of our most pressing justice issues: including the state of our planet and those least capable of adapting to increasing natural disasters and public health concerns.

Read Boston Globe article here

Copy of Bilateral Letter from Cardinal O’Malley and Bishop Hazelwood’s linked here.

Oregon Synod Divestment Resolution (2013)

St. Luke Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution passes at Oregon Synod meeting

On Saturday, May 18th, 2013, the St. Luke Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution PASSED a vote at the ELCA Oregon Synod. Now it will be forwarded for consideration at this summer’s Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh.

In a meeting also attended by Secretary of the ELCA David Swartling, the synod Reference and Counsel Committee suggested an alternative “RESOLVED” clause that they believed had a better chance of being adopted on the national level. This alternative, mirroring one submitted at the NW Washington Synod meeting, requested an “opt-out of fossil fuel stocks” option for church employees in the Portico pension program.

St. Luke’s Pastor David Knapp, Council President Barbara Roady and Environmental Chair Michael Hall declined, stating that, given the magnitude and urgency of the issue, they wanted St. Luke’s request to fully encompass all ELCA-connected investment programs.

With two minor text adjustments, the resolution was allowed to go to the floor “with reservations” about its financial/legal ramifications and the feasibility of its requested actions.

Floor debate about the resolution was dramatic and the final outcome was far from obvious. In the end, the vote tally showed 102 in favor, 94 opposed and 14 abstaining.

 

 

Metro NY Resolution 2015 Release: Fossil Fuel Divestment

NYC-AREA LUTHERANS RESOLVE TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS

CULMINATION OF EFFORTS BEGUN SHORTLY AFTER LAST YEAR’S PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH

June 1, 2015 (New York, NY) – On Friday, March 29, the annual Assembly of the Metropolitan New York Synod, one of the most populous geographical divisions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), resolved to divest from fossil fuels within five years. The Synod Assembly also voted to ask the national body of the church to do the same at the Churchwide Assembly in 2016.

Reverend John Z. Flack, pastor of Our Savior’s Atonement in Washington Heights, Manhattan, introduced the two resolutions from the floor of the Assembly. One resolution calls on the Metro NY Synod to “cease any new investments in companies whose primary business is the exploration, extraction, production, or refining of coal, oil, or natural gas,” and to “ensure that, within five years, directly held or commingled assets” in such companies “are removed from its portfolio.” The resolution also urges member congregations to follow these steps.

The second resolution calls upon the 2016 Churchwide Assembly “to urge that, by May 1, 2017, all ELCA congregations and independent, cooperative, and related Lutheran organizations and investment corporations” take these same steps to remove fossil-fuel investments from their portfolios.

Both resolutions passed with very little opposition.

The resolutions were the culmination of work begun shortly after the People’s Climate March, a gathering of 400,000 people in New York City last September, calling attention to what many now refer to as the “crisis” of climate change. As Gerard A. Falco, Chair of the Synod’s Environmental Stewardship Committee, explained, “Lutherans, from our Synod and from across the country, were deeply involved in organizing the People’s Climate March and making it the success it was. The march galvanized public opinion, and our committee decided to build on that momentum to get these divestment resolutions passed.”

About $289,000 of the Synod’s current investment portfolio will be immediately re-allocated in response to the Assembly’s action. Altogether, the Synod’s investments total about $12 million.

With the passage of these resolutions, the Metro NY Synod joins the New England and Oregon Synods – and many other congregations and religious bodies, both in the US and abroad – in divesting from coal, oil, and natural gas companies because of their damaging effects on the climate. This religious divestment movement parallels the strong student-led campaign to divest colleges and universities, and the growing campaign to divest state and municipal pension funds.

Robert Rimbo, Bishop of the Metro NY Synod, said “With this action, our Synod joins the chorus of those who acknowledge that ‘if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.’ This is a fiscally responsible step, but it’s also the right thing to do. As Christians, we are called to care for all Creation. As Luther himself wrote, ‘God is essentially present in all places, even the tiniest tree leaf,’ so ‘to do harm to Creation is also to assault God. And when humans assault God, there is only one outcome, and it is not a good one for humans.’ With these resolutions, we’ve taken a further step in living out our Lutheran vocation.”

The Metropolitan NY Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church covers the five boroughs of New York City and Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties. The Synod has approximately 64,000 baptized members in 190 congregations served by about 300 pastors and 100 rostered lay leaders. For more information, visit http://www.mnys.org/.

#############

Contact:
Sarah Gioe
Director of Communications
Metro NY Synod, ELCA
212-870-2376
sgoie@mnys.org

Gerard A. Falco
Chair, Environmental Stewardship Committee
Metro NY Synod, ELCA
914-548-3108
gafsail@aol.com

Northeastern Pennsylvania to Study Divestment (2015)

The following resolution was passed at the June 2015 Assembly of the Northeastern Pennsylvania:
WHEREAS, Jesus calls us as his disciples to both love God and love our neighbor, and climate change is a direct threat to both God’s creation and God’s people, the church should be a leader in all efforts to preserve and protect creation;
WHEREAS, the current movement to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in sustainable forms of energy are an important part of the overall campaign to combat climate change and protect people and the planet;
RESOLVED, Resolved, that the Synod’s Creation Care Task Force be authorized to conduct a study to discuss and evaluate divestment from fossil fuels in preparation for a vote about possible divestment at the 2016 Synod Assembly.
For more information about issues specific to Pennsylvania go to the Lutheran Advocacy office in PA.

Memorial for Transition to Clean, Renewable Energy; Upper Susquenanna Synod Assembly (2015)

WHEREAS, God created heaven and earth and everything therein and proclaimed it good (Gen 1:1ff); and God has entrusted humankind with the care of the earth (Gen 2:15); and

WHEREAS, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has adopted social policy statements, “Caring for Creation” (1993) and “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood” (1999) that call for economic and environmental justice, to protect the health and integrity of creation both for its own sake and for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations, and for economic justice, to consider how our actions affect the ability of all people to provide for their material needs and the needs of their families and communities; and

WHEREAS, in 1993 with the Caring for Creation social statement, we realized the urgency was already “widespread and serious, according to the preponderance of evidence from scientists worldwide [of] dangerous global warming, caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide” from the burning of fossil fuels, and that “action to counter degradation, especially within this decade, is essential to the future of our children and our children’s children. Time is very short;” and

WHEREAS, climate research is clear that there has been a rapid rise in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with current levels (400 ppm) the highest in the past probably 2,000,000 years. This increase has occurred most rapidly in the past 200 years during the worldwide Industrial Revolution;[1]

WHEREAS, climate research is clear that burning fossil fuels is the major source of rising levels of carbon dioxide, negatively impacting our climate.[2] Consequently, the use of fossil fuels must be dramatically reduced; and

WHEREAS, the most recent report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims continued greenhouse gas emissions will cause “long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems;”[3] and

WHEREAS, in “Caring for Creation,” the ELCA declares that we will seek to incorporate the principles of sufficiency and sustainability in our life. Consequently: “We will, in our budgeting and investment of church funds, demonstrate our care for creation;” and

WHEREAS in 1990 and 2007 the ELCA Church Council approved an Environmental Social Criteria Investment Screen that recommends limiting investments made in corporations which are the most egregious in terms of damage to human health or the natural environment and investing in corporations which are taking positive steps toward a sustainable environment;[4] and

WHEREAS despite decades of shareholder engagement with fossil fuel companies, the industry continues to spend nearly $2 billion dollars a day searching for additional fossil fuel reserves and over half a million dollars a day lobbying governments for subsidies and support for further extraction;[5] and

WHEREAS fossil fuel divestment can have a major influence on how society responds to climate change;[6] and

WHEREAS the ELCA has historically divested during periods of great social need, including the movement to end apartheid in South Africa; and

WHEREAS by divesting from fossil fuels, the ELCA joins with faith partners such as the United Church of Christ[7] and the World Council of Churches[8] as well as large institutional investors such as Norway’s $850 billion Government Pension Fund Global[9] and a growing list of colleges and universities, cities, religious institutions and foundations in the fastest growing divestment effort in history[10]; and

WHEREAS, un-burnable carbon stored in fossil fuel reserves presents a material financial risk to investment funds that provide capital to these companies;[11]

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Upper Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA memorialize the 2016 Churchwide Assembly to call on the ELCA and its related institutions and entities, such as the ELCA Endowment Fund Pooled Trust – Fund A (hereinafter “Fund A”), the Mission Investment Fund, Portico Funds, colleges, seminaries, Social Ministry organizations, camps, synods, congregations and individual members to take leadership and make a public commitment to transition away from investments in fossil fuels to investments in clean, renewable energy sources as expeditiously as it is financially feasible to do so; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that by December 31, 2016, the ELCA follow its published procedure titled Social Criteria Investment Screen Policies and Procedures Development[12] to develop a social criteria investment screen designed to result in divestment of all fossil fuels investments held in Fund A,[13] which includes prayerful consideration of the following recommended components:

a)Publication of a list of the values of all fossil fuel investments currently held in Fund A;[14] and

b)Cessation of any new investments in fossil fuel companies with respect to Fund A; and

c)Ensuring that all securities of fossil fuel companies that are either direct holdings or holdings in commingled funds are removed from the portfolio of Fund A within five years; and

d)Publication of quarterly updates, available to the public, detailing progress towards divestment of Fund A as set forth herein; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Upper Susquehanna Synod memorialize the 2016 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, as part of the development of the new social criteria investment screen identified above, to direct the ELCA’s corporate social responsibility review team to consider and recommend to the executive director of the ELCA’s Congregational and Synodical Mission unit, for further review pursuant to the ELCA’s published procedure titled Social Criteria Investment Screen Policies and Procedures Development, the addition of a fossil-free investment fund that excludes the 200 largest fossil fuel companies as an option for ELCA retirement plan participants; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this synod memorializes the 2016 Churchwide Assembly to urge members of the ELCA and its related institutions to exemplify personal and institutional responsibility by practicing energy conservation, purchasing more energy efficient appliances and vehicles, investing in renewable energy systems, and advocating at all levels of government for public policies that support clean, renewable energy sources.

Respectfully submitted,

The Rev. Dr. Leah Schade, Pastor, United in Christ Lutheran Church, Lewisburg, PA

and

The Buffalo Valley Conference of the Upper Susquehanna Synod

[1] Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options, Lonnie Thompson, Ohio State University. Concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) over the last 800,000 years. Fig. 6, pg. 163. See http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/TBA–LTonly.pdf. 2007 IPCC Working Group. “Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has continued to increase and is now almost 100 ppm above its pre-industrial level.” See http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch7s7-es.html. EPA: Causes of Climate Change. “Since the Industrial Era began, humans have had an increasing effect on climate, particularly by adding billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.” See http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html.

[2] NRC (2011). Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to  Millennia. National Research Council. The National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA. “Emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have ushered in a new epoch where human activities will largely determine the evolution of Earth’s climate.” NASA: Global Climate Change; Vital Signs of the Planet. “Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by a third since the Industrial Revolution began. This is the most important long-lived “forcing” of climate change.” “Over the last century the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).” See http://climate.nasa.gov/causes.

USGCRP (2009). Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Thomas R. Karl, Jerry M. Melillo, and Thomas C. Peterson (eds.). United States Global Change Research Program. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA. “It is clear that impacts in the United States are already occurring and are projected to increase in the future, particularly if the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to rise.” See http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=UCg7inA-HksC&oi=fnd&pg=PA13&dq=USGCRP+%282009%29.+Global+Climate+Change+Impacts+in+the+United+States&ots=uXe7HdVN2I&sig=3OcIArtThzaK sX5JwzBrWNEj59A#v=onep age&q&f=false. NOAA, USGS: Climate change impacts to U.S. coasts threaten public health, safety and economy Coastal Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerabilities: A Technical Input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment. “…the effects of climate change will continue to threaten the health and vitality of U.S. coastal communities’ social, economic and natural systems.” See http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/20130125_coastalclimateimpacts.html

[3] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5.

[4] ELCA Environment Screen: http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource

%20Repository/Environment_Screen.pdf.

[5] Oxfam: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp191fossil-fuelsfinance-climate change171014-en.pdf.

[6] Climate Change: Implications for Investors and Financial Institutions: Key Findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. http://www.unepfi.org/fileadmin/documents/IPCC_AR5__Implications_for_Investors__Briefing__WEB_EN.pdf

[7] United Church of Christ: http://www.ucc.org/gs2013fossil-fueldivestment-vote.

[8] World Council of Churches:  http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/central-committee/geneva 2014/reportofthefinance- policy- committee/@@download/file/GEN_FIN06_APPROVED_Report_Finance_Policy_Committee.pdf.

[9] Article regarding Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/05/worldsbiggest– sovereign-wealthfunddumps-dozens-of coalcompanies

[10] This website lists the institutions that are committing to divest from fossil fuels:  http://gofossilfree.org/commitments/

[11] University of Oxford: http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research-programmes/stranded-assets/SAP-divestment- report-final.pdf.

[12] Policy is accessible at: http://www.elca.org/Resources/Corporate-Responsibility.

[13] ELCA Endowment Fund: http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource

%20Repository/ELCA_Endowment_Fund_A_Brochure.pdf

[14] By using the current list of 200 coal, oil and gas companies found here: http://gofossilfree.org/companies/. Source: Unburnable Carbon, The Carbon Tracker Institute; http://www.carbontracker.org/wp content/uploads/2014/09/Unburnable-Carbon-Full-rev21.pdf.

 

 

Southeastern Minnesota Environmental Stewardship Resolution (2009)

Resolution 2009 – 03: Environmental Stewardship

1 WHEREAS, the ELCA adopted the “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” Social 2Statement at the Churchwide Assembly in 1993 to address the church’s understanding of God’s 3 call to us to care for the earth; and,

4 WHEREAS, the ELCA has created materials to guide congregations, schools, and other groups 5 in conducting environmental audits; and,

6 WHEREAS, the knowledge and understanding of the impact of our individual 7andcongregational uses of natural resources is documented (for example, The 8MillenniumEcosystem Assessment) ; and,

9 WHEREAS, Scripture shows God’s love for creation and mandates humans to serve and keep 10 the earth; and,

11 WHEREAS, a Green Team can be a catalyst for transformation in a congregation; and,

12 WHEREAS, there is a relationship between global injustice and the degradation of nature. 13Our Companion Synods in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Colombia and the Central 14Dioces in Tanzania struggle from the imbalance of the use and exploitation of the world’s 15natural resources,

16 THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Southeastern Minnesota Synod live out more 17fully the “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” Social Statement actions; and,

18 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that each congregation of the Southeastern Minnesota 19Synod of the ELCA conduct the ELCA’s Environmental Audit; and,

20 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that congregations of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of 21 the ELCA study caring for creation issues in Sunday School and Bible Studies, to learn more 22 about our call to be God’s stewards of the earth; and

23 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA 24establish a committee or task force to address environmental issues in the synod and 25congregations; and,

26 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a goal be set for the year 2011 for 75% of all products 27 used by the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA office and its congregations be 28environmentally conscious. This goal would include attention to the use of fairly traded 29products.

Submitted by the congregational council of Bethel Lutheran Church, Rochester,Minn., authored and approved by the“BIGG Idea” team (Bethel Individuals Going Green) A similar resolution was passed by the Blue Earth River Conference Assembly.

 

 

Metro New York Resolution: Establishing an Environmental Stewardship Committee (2009)

Submitted by the Tappan Zee Conference, St. Luke’s (New Rochelle), St. John’s (Mamaroneck), Our Redeemer (Chappaqua), Chapel of Christ (Yonkers), St. Paul’s (Rye Brook), Trinity (New Rochelle), Grace (Yorktown Heights), Grace (Scarsdale), United Lutheran (Mt. Vernon), Ascension (Glendale), Trinity (Brewster)

Whereas, scripture teaches us that “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and guard it” (Genesis 2:15) and that “The earth and its fullness are the Lord’s” (1 Corinthians 10:26); and

Whereas, the issues of climate change and threats to biodiversity and natural habitats are not simply scientific, economic, and social issues, but also fundamentally ethical and moral concerns; and

Whereas, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice”

· decries “the despoiling of the environment as nothing less than the degradation of God’s gracious gift of creation,”

· calls for “action to counter (environmental) degradation” and “pray(s)… for the creativity and dedication to live more gently with the earth,”

· asks us to “commit ourselves to personal life styles that contribute to the health of the environment,” and,

· calls on our church community to be “a center for exploring scriptural and theological foundations for caring for creation” and “to incorporate the principles of sufficiency and sustainability in our life,” therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Metropolitan New York Synod will:

· educate our churches and members on issues of environmental integrity and creation care,

· encourage celebrations commemorating Earth Day, Rogation Days, Arbor Day and other environmentally conscious events as may be appropriate for Christian churches,

· promote and encourage specific actions each church community and its members can take to act with greater environmental responsibility, and

· promote and encourage actions synod-wide to “green” our operations, including energy audits, adopting cleaner and renewable energy sources, increasing our commitment to recycling and using recycled materials, reducing the amount of waste we produce, and working to protect the precious shared environmental resources of land, air, and water, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Metropolitan New York Synod, in support of the above ongoing efforts, will establish a standing committee on Environmental Stewardship. The Environmental Stewardship Committee may be formed immediately, but will be unfunded for the 2009 year. It will be financed out of the general budget beginning with the 2010 budget cycle.

 

 

Northern Illinois Synod Resolution to Become a “Green Synod” (2008)

WHEREAS, God’s first commandments to humanity are that we care for and take care of God’s good creation (Gen. 1:28 & 2:15); and

WHEREAS, Jesus came to bring salvation to the entire cosmos (John 3:16-17); and

WHEREAS, the Church, as the body of Christ in the world, is charged with calling the world to repentance and ushering in the kingdom of God; and

WHEREAS, “the whole creation is groaning” due to the abuse and misuse of God’s good creation by humanity;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Northern Illinois Synod become a “green synod” by taking the following steps:

Instituting all possible changes to improve energy efficiency in the synod office and other properties owned and/or operated by the synod, including but not limited to:
Performing a “green” audit (as per Green Synod Model proposed by Dr. David Rhoads, LSTC) that will make short and long term recommendations to lessen the carbon footprint on the earth,
Changing incandescent light bulbs to energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs,
Exploring and utilizing alternate, more environmentally friendly means of producing electricity and heat, and
Replacing as necessary windows, doors, insulation, and other structural aspects of the property that may result in loss of energy.
Being persistent about the reduction and recycling of disposable resources in the synod office(s) such as paper, ink cartridges, plastic, Styrofoam, etc.; and
Taking all possible steps to make all synod sponsored events more environmentally friendly by things such as:
Reducing paper use by utilizing projection where practical and encouraging participants to use electronic media such as laptops, PDAs, etc., and
Insisting that meals be served in a manner that reduces waste by things such as:
i. Serving buffet style when possible so people only take what they will eat,

ii. Insisting on the use of paper or washable cups and plates instead of plastic or Styrofoam,

iii. Requiring that all recyclable waste be divided out and recycled properly.

Encouraging, expecting and enabling participants to carpool to events; and
Replacing synod owned vehicles with those that are the most environmentally friendly available (currently hybrid vehicles); and
Providing necessary support and resources so that the Northern Illinois Synod Green Team can continue its work to help the synod, its congregations and agencies to become green; and
Identifying a symbol that expresses and promotes our care for creation that will be used whenever green steps are taken; and
Instituting other strategies that may emerge as science and technology continue to explore means of helping preserve and regenerate the environment.

Submitted by: Synod Green Team

Contact Person: Pastor Don Knowles or Pastor Jeff Schlesinger

Date Received: April 10, 2008

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Action of the Resolution Committee

Date of Action: April 25, 2008

Action Taken: Recommend Adoption