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The National ELCA Office of Advocacy offers updates from what’s going on in our capital and news from various affiliate offices around the country. Be sure to stay up-to-date with your area by signing up for these – CLICK HERE.
2016 Churchwide Assembly Passes Memorial To Move Towards A Responsible Energy Future
From minutes of Plenary 8 session – August 13th, which can be found in full here.
To receive with gratitude the memorials of the Saint Paul Area, Metropolitan New York, Northeastern Pennsylvania, Upper Susquehanna and Northwestern Pennsylvania synods related to climate change and fossil fuels;
To urge all ELCA members, congregations and synods to inform and educate themselves about the effects of climate change through the lens of the “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” social statement, and to advocate for policies that reduce energy use and our dependence on fossil fuels and encourage development of renewable energy sources as an expression of our commitment to address climate change and caring for God’s creation;
To affirm the action of the 2013 Churchwide Assembly and subsequent action of the Church Council in 2014 related to the development of revised or additional investment screens on fossil fuels, and to support and commend ELCA members, congregations, synods, the churchwide organization, and related institutions and agencies such as ELCA Endowment Fund and Portico Benefit Services for their leadership efforts to invest in companies that are taking steps toward a sustainable environment;
To affirm Portico’s balanced approach to supporting this church’s principles and directives as stated in the social statements — including the commitment to help transition to an economy less dependent on fossil fuels.
That approach includes has included:
1. shareholder advocacy (filing and supporting resolutions on environmental issues, including 150 resolutions in 2015),
2. focused investment screening, which has identified 113 companies screened for environmental reasons, and
3. ramping up positive social investments, such as investments in companies that develop solar, wind and water power generation systems, repurposing waste products and reducing toxic emissions;
To call upon Portico to evaluate the viability of an optional fossil -free fund for retirement plan participants; and To call upon the ELCA to heed the call of the Lutheran World Federation Council in 2015 to member churches “not to invest in fossil fuels and to support energy efficiency and renewable energy companies, and to encourage their institutions and individual members to do likewise”; and
As part of this church’s response to the Lutheran World Federation’s call, to request that the ELCA churchwide organization review the ELCA’s applicable social teachings and Corporate Social Responsibility policies and procedures, with the goal of not investing in, and removing the largest fossil fuel companies as identified by Carbon Tracker, and investing in corporations which are taking positive steps toward a sustainable environment.
Take the Paris Pledge, as an individual or as a congregation, and commit to reducing your carbon pollution. Together, we can make a real difference. Interfaith Power & Light will provide you with helpful resources and tools so you can reach your goals.
Resources for preaching on climate change from A New Awakening, an ecumenical movement for climate solutions.
Climate Change and Poverty in the Household of God
Brian Konkol served in South Africa as ELCA Country Coordinator of the Young Adults in Global Mission program.
Since the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) came into force in 1995, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNCCC has met annually to assess progress in dealing with global climate change. From November 28 until December 9 in Durban, South Africa, the Conference of the Parties will meet again, for the 17th time, thus the title “COP17”. Among other things, COP17 will bring together various world leaders in order to adopt decisions and resolutions, publish reports, and attempt to establish legally binding legislation for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. While some are skeptical as to how much progress may be achieved due to power politics and global economic stagnation, there is a growing sense of optimism surrounding COP17 and enthusiasm is expected to increase as the gathering draws closer.
While one could reflect upon a wide range of topics surrounding climate change and the complexity of multi-national negotiations, I find it necessary to offer a few observations from the perspective of a North American Christian residing within the borders of South Africa. In specifics, as I prepare for my own involvement surrounding COP17 in Durban through the local faith-based community, the following observations come to mind: 1) Climate Change skepticism seems to be a USA-based phenomenon, 2) Climate Change and Poverty are intimately linked, and 3) The Christian Church has much to offer surrounding resistance and responses to climate change and poverty.
Climate Change skepticism seems to be a USA-based phenomenon
According to the Pew Research Centre, a 2009 survey found that only 57% of USA citizens believed in global warming, which was a twenty-point drop from a similar survey taken in 2006. In addition, the study found that only 36% of the 1,500 adults questioned believed that human activities – such as pollution from power plants, industry, and vehicles – are behind an increase in global temperatures, which is down from 47% in 2006. While there are many reasons given for a decline in environmental emphasis, the numbers reveal that USA citizens tend to be more skeptical of climate change when compared to the majority of people from other nations. As a result, it is not surprising that the USA government has a reputation around the world as the primary roadblock to global legislation that would require more legally binding sustainable environmental standards.
In contrast to the ongoing public and political debate in the USA surrounding the legitimacy and urgency of climate change, the global scientific body of knowledge appears to be overwhelmingly clear, as highlighted in The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding:
With the above thoughts in mind, it is clear that – from the basis of consensus scientific knowledge from credible specialists around the world – climate change is real, serious, and is growing worse due to human activity. While a number of skeptics will persist, and frequent streams of propaganda – often funded by energy companies and political lobbyists – will continue, humanity cannot continue to live in denial, for failing to take action will have dramatic and far-reaching implications. In many ways, the science reveals that climate change is merely not about politics, religion, money, or morality, but it is about the survival of the planet and the existence of life as we know it. In other words, climate change is an issue that impacts each and every living being that God has created.
Climate Change and Poverty are intimately linked
While some argue that an increased emphasis upon environmentalism is a hindrance to economic growth, the scientific body of knowledge reports to the contrary, for climate change actually increases poverty, especially within the developing world. Among other things, extreme weather has an impact upon productivity and can raise the price of staple foods, such as grains, that are important to households throughout the world. In addition, studies have shown that global warming will likely increase the frequency and intensity of heat waves and drought in many areas. These various and significant realities will have a deep and dramatic impact upon developing nations, and because of the growing inter-connectedness of globalization, they will also have a impact upon Europe and the USA. All together, the choice between environmental sustainability and economic growth is no choice at all, for one cannot exist in the long term without the other.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), climate change is a global concern, for it increases poverty and halts sustainable development in the following ways:
With all the above thoughts in mind, it is clear that the world cannot afford to engage the false debate of having to choose between environmental sustainability and economic growth, for the two go hand in hand within an interconnected system of globalization. In many ways, the current global economic downturn and debt crisis within Europe and the USA proves how a failure to promote sustainability will drive economies into further crisis, not only in the developing world, but also within those countries that have enjoyed generations of prosperity. And so, as increases in climate change lead to dramatic rises of inequality and poverty, those who are most responsible for climate change are called to take responsibility in order to offer sustainable livelihoods for people and places throughout the world. The issue of climate change – and the resulting consequences of economic crisis, inequality, and poverty – has reached a breaking-point, and a lack of significant and far-reaching action will lead the world further down a dangerous path.
The Christian Church has much to offer surrounding resistance and responses
In order to resist and respond to climate change and poverty, a wide variety of world church companions are seeking innovative and respectful methods to accompany one another in God’s mission of reconciliation, transformation, and empowerment. As stated by the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makogoba, during his sermon on creation and greed: “God calls us to be part of the solution, not part of the problem – part of the coming of the kingdom, partners in his working of redemption and salvation.” And so, while many would argue that COP17 should be left to government leaders and scientists, the call of Jesus to seek life in its fullness for all people in all places draws people of faith toward prophetic action, for the common identity as Children of God takes precedence over national boundaries and political agendas. In other words, as people of faith who believe in a God that created the heavens and the earth, we are called to be faithful stewards of creation in a way that brings life, rather than takes life away.
With such thoughts in mind, the late South African theologian and activist Steve de Gruchy promoted “An Olive Agenda” that is of great importance for churches and people of faith around the world seeking ways to mobilize, for he provided a significant contribution toward the pursuit of resistance and responses to climate change and poverty. For example, de Gruchy offered a theological metaphor – the olive – that transcends the duality between the “green” environmental agenda and “brown” poverty agenda “that has disabled development discourse for the past twenty years”. As a result of de Gruchy’s work, instead of falling into the false debate between “green” environmental sustainability and “brown” poverty reduction, an Olive Agenda combines green and brown into olive, and thus provides a “remarkably rich metaphor” that “holds together that which religious and political discourse rends apart: earth, land, climate, labor, time, family, food, nutrition, health, hunger, poverty, power and violence”. Among other things, de Gruchy’s Olive Agenda is of exceptional value as churches and people of faith around the world seek to understand the mission of God within the context of climate change and its impact upon inequality and poverty.
According to de Gruchy, an Olive Agenda finds its theological foundation in the concept of “oikos”, translated as “the household of God”. As ecology (oikos-logos) concerns the wisdom of how a home functions, economy (oikos-nomos) is about the rules that should govern the home, and because there is only one “home” for humankind (the earth), economy and ecology are thus “both intimately concerned about the earth, about the way human beings live upon the earth, relate to the earth, make use of the earth’s bounty, and respect the integrity of the earth”. Therefore, the social implications of these theological affirmations are that while both brown and green agendas are “fundamentally right, taken in isolation each is tragically wrong – and thus we must integrate economy as oikos-nomos, and ecology as oikos-logos in search of sustainable life on earth, the oikos that is our only home.” As stated previously, this Olive Agenda has the potential to dramatically transform the ways that world church companionships and people of faith respond to economic and ecological exploitation and other factors that prevent fullness of life around the world.
One of the common metaphors of social development is “give someone fish and they eat for a day, but teach someone to fish and they eat for a lifetime”. In the 21st century this statement is not fully accurate, for one has to consider who has “access to the pond”, and of course, we need to recognize that climate change is causing “the pond” the shrink. When the pond, both literally and figuratively, is shrinking, it creates a global situation in which competition and warfare surrounding limited resources takes priority over cooperation, and survival of the fittest takes precedence over mutuality with humanity and creation. With such realities in mind, and in light of the Olive Agenda as first articulated by Steve de Gruchy, we recognize that environmental sustainability is not merely an option for the future, but it is the only option if a future is what we truly seek.
While climate change and poverty are global concerns, one recognizes that certain nations have additional responsibility for the challenges, and as a result, must take bold leadership in promoting solutions. For example, according to the WorldWatch Institute, the wealthiest 500 million people in the world (roughly 7% of the global population) are currently responsible for 50% of carbon dioxide emissions, while the poorest 3 billion are responsible for just 6%. In addition, from 1900-2004 the whole of Africa generated just 2.5% of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions while the USA accounted for 29.5%. Although these gaps have narrowed slightly in recent years, historical emissions are relevant because carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere to exert a greenhouse effect for many decades, and thus the negative impact of emissions upon development persists long after the pollution is first created. And so, the scientific body of knowledge is clear in stating that those who are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change are those that carry the least historical responsibility for its existence. As a result, while the entire world must rally around answers for climate change, the primary responsibility to promote such resolutions and reverse environmental injustice falls most upon the wealthiest global citizens, for anything less would be unjust, short-sighted, selfish, and irresponsible.
With all the above in mind, the time has come to recognize that God’s mission is about the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, not merely for life after death, but also for life after birth. As a result, the time for silence on matters such as climate change and poverty is finished, for as Martin Luther King, Jr. stated: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transformation was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people”. As a result of the crippling ecological and economic impact of climate change, the time has come for Christian Churches around the world – especially those within the USA – to seek responsible and respectful systems that reverse injustices and offer life for all that God has created. The time has come for churches to call upon wealthier countries to repay their climate debt by undertaking severe cuts in emissions. In addition, it is time for people of faith to model environmental values and advocate for the increased financial support of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. In other words, it is time for churches to insist that all countries involved in COP17 support legally binding legislation that values the entirety and integrity of God’s creation.
The scientific evidence surrounding climate change is clear, and the implications for both the environment and humankind are many, thus the response to such global challenges needs to be persistent, organized, and significant. As Jesus calls upon humankind to “love they neighbor”, and as the Old Testament prophets remind us to strive for justice, we recognize that within a deeply connected world “neighbor” implies all that God has created, and injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. And so, an implication of Jesus’ words and actions is to share and receive the Good News not only on Sunday mornings, but through daily acts of long-term advocacy that promotes sustainable livelihoods. With COP17 in South Africa on the horizon, the time has come to mobilize around an Olive Agenda, as silence or neutrality on such matters will allow climate change and poverty to continue and grow worse. The time has come when humanity can no longer afford to fight over the limited resources remaining in our shrinking pond, and the moment is upon us to pass legally binding legislation that values the gifts of creation that God has entrusted us to manage. The time is now. God has allowed humankind to serve as stewards of creation, and the time has come to embrace this sacred responsibility, value the resources that God has so graciously offered, and ensure that all of God’s creation – in this generation and the next – receives the fullness of life that God has promised.
Now updated and with a new afterword, Field Notes from a Catastrophe is the book to read on the defining issue and greatest challenge of our times.
Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth by Larry Schweiger of the national Wildlife Federation (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2009).
“This is an unabashed call to each and every American to moral duty for the future of life on earth,” begins National Wildlife Federation president and CEO Larry J. Schweiger in this stirring exposé and call to action. Speaking to us not just as a conservation leader but also as an outdoor lover and a parent, Schweiger describes the causes and effects of global warming on our wildlife, ecosystems, and human life as we know it.
Forecast: The Consequences of Global Climate Change, from the Amazon to the Arctic, From Darfur to Napa Valley by Stephen Faris (New York: Henry Holt, 2009).
A vivid and illuminating portrayal of the surprising ways that climate change will affect the world in the near future—politically, economically, and culturally
While reporting just outside of Darfur, Stephan Faris discovered that climate change was at the root of that conflict, and began to wonder what current and impending—and largely unanticipated—crises such changes have in store for the world.
Forecast provides the answers.
An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergence of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2008).
An Inconvenient Truth—Gore’s groundbreaking, battle cry of a follow-up to the bestselling Earth in the Balance—is being published to tie in with a documentary film of the same name. Both the book and film were inspired by a series of multimedia presentations on global warming that Gore created and delivers to groups around the world. With this book, Gore, who is one of our environmental heroes—and a leading expert—brings together leading-edge research from top scientists around the world; photographs, charts, and other illustrations; and personal anecdotes and observations to document the fast pace and wide scope of global warming
Climate Change Begins at Home: Life on the Two-Way Street of Global Warming by David Reay (New York: MacMillan, 2005).
Packed with provocative case studies, calculations and lifestyle comparisons, this entertaining and authoritative book makes the complexities of climatology understandable and challenges readers to rethink their notions of ‘doing their bit’. The paperback edition features a new preface from Mark Lynas, author of High Tide: News From a Warming World
Green Living: The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth (New York: Penguin, 2005)
Knowledge of environmental issues and sustainability is increasingly important as industrialization and climate change continue to wreak havoc on our ecosystems and our psyche. As temperatures rise—and icecaps shrink and storms lash our coastal areas into oblivion—being smart about carbon footprints, waste streams and consumer choices becomes increasingly important for all of us.
Green Living, from the award-winning editors of E: The Environmental Magazine, offers a thorough, step-by-step plan for every making aspect of your life earth-friendly, from the laundry room to the kitchen.
10-Minute Energy Saving Secrets: 250 Easy Ways to Save Big Bucks Year Round, by Jerri Farris (Gloucester: Fair Winds, 2005)
Energy bills are going to be sky-high this year –that is, unless you are prepared! 10-Minute Energy Saving Tips will arm you with hundreds of easy, innovative ways to cut your heating bills (and your cooling bills next summer!).
A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming by Sallie McFague (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008).
A New Climate for Theology not only traces the distorted notion of unlimited desire that fuels our market system; it also paints an alternative idea of what being human means and what a just and sustainable economy might mean. Convincing, specific, and wise, McFague argues for an alternative economic order and for our relational identity as part of an unfolding universe that expresses divine love and human freedom. It is a view that can inspire real change, an altered lifestyle, and a form of Christian discipleship and desire appropriate to who we really are.
A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming by Michael Northcott (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2005).
In this groundbreaking book Northcott examines theological attitudes to climate change, from the complacent to the apocalyptic, and the ethical implications for all Christians.
Climate Justice: Ethics, Energy, and Public Policy by James Martin-Schramm (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010).
Energy issues and climate change have loomed up from issues at the horizon to confront humanity directly and vitally. They are now pressing public-policy challenges of monumental scale and import. James Martin-Schramm draws on decades of involvement with ethics, public policy, and environmental ethics to provide this lucid and astute analysis of the problems and options for addressing energy and climate change.
Christianity, Climate Change, and Sustainable Living by Nick Spencer, Robert White, and Virginia Vroblesky (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2009).
Amounts and patterns of consumption and production in the West have reached a level that cannot be maintained. Lifestyles based on our present way of creating and using energy are no longer environmentally sustainable – and are threatening the health and well-being of both planet and people. Our activities and the policies that shape them need to change. In light of those realities, Spencer, White, and Vroblesky offer serious Christian engagement with the emerging issue of Sustainable Consumption and Production. They analyze the scientific, sociological, economic, and theological thinking that makes a Christian response to these trends imperative and distinctive. And they offer a practical conclusions that explore and explain what can be done at the personal, community, national, and international levels to ensure that next generations will have the resources necessary for life. Firmly rooted in the good news of the Christian faith, this is, above all, a constructive and hopeful book that offers a realistic vision of what the future could and should look like.
Click here to view this film to understand the urgency of action on climate change. Online and free.
On May 19, 2015, LSTC Professors Kadi Billman, Barbara Rossing, and Vítor Westhelle, reflected on A Bishops’ Letter about Climate Change published by the Church of Sweden in 2014. The Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelén, archbishop of the Church of Sweden, concluded the session presented for the LSTC Board of Directors and faculty. Click here to watch the four videos.
Click here to read “A Bishops’ Letter about the Climate” from the Church of Sweden.