Ponderings of the General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley
April 24, 2023
Last Saturday the United States, along with 190 other countries around the globe, celebrated Earth Day which was founded in 1970. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of other first of their kind environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. These acts have protected millions of men, women and children from disease and death and have protected hundreds of species from extinction. Going global in 1990, today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national, and local policy changes.
But of course, being mindful of our earth and our impact on it is not a one-day activity. Indeed, the earth itself faces an existential crisis. Global warming – the fact that the earth is heating up (1.8 degrees F from 1901 to 2020) has created climate change the effects thereof we are already feeling and include:
- Hotter temperatures which put communities at risk
- More severe storms (we know first-hand about that)
- Increased areas of drought
- Less yearly snowpack which, in turn, leads to less available water for both human consumption and for the crops that feed us
- Rising sea water levels which threaten coastal communities most especially those in the global south
- Loss of habitat for many of the world’s creatures (ultimately including its human creatures)
And it is getting worse despite global efforts to reduce emissions of carbon monoxide and methane gases and while we are already feeling the effects, the truly dire consequences will fall upon our children and grandchildren.
We, as Christians, have compelling Biblical and theological reason to be at the forefront of seeking a change in course. We affirm a Creator who made all things, pronounced them good, and charged humans with wise and loving stewardship of the earth and its resources. We have compelling reason to take leadership action on behalf of the planet. As an example of that action, five of our congregations (Immanuel in Montgomery, Montevallo, First in Livingston, and Independent and First in Birmingham) have become “Earth Care” congregations, PCUSA. As such, they have taken and are held accountable to the following pledge: (For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
Earth Care Pledge
Peace and justice is God’s plan for all creation. The earth and all creation are God’s. God calls us to be careful, humble stewards of this earth, and to protect and restore it for its own sake, and for the future use and enjoyment of the human family. As God offers all people the special gift of peace through Jesus Christ, and through Christ reconciles all to God, we are called to deal justly with one another and the earth.
- Our worship and discipleship will celebrate God’s grace and glory in creation and declare that God calls us to cherish, protect and restore this earth.
- In education, we will seek learning and teaching opportunities to know and understand the threats to God’s creation and the damage already inflicted. We will encourage and support each other in finding ways of keeping and healing the creation in response to God’s call to earth-keeping, justice and community.
- Our facilities will be managed, maintained and upgraded in a manner that respects and cherishes all creation, human and non-human, while meeting equitably the needs of all people. In our buildings and on our grounds we will use energy efficiently, conserve resources, and share what we have in abundance so that God’s holy creation will be sustainable for all life and future generations.
- Our outreach will encourage public policy and community involvement that protects and restores the vulnerable and degraded earth as well as oppressed and neglected people. We will be mindful that our personal and collective actions can positively or negatively affect our neighborhood, region, nation and world. We will seek to achieve environmental justice through coalitions and ecumenical partnerships.
Modest initiatives on behalf of the earth? Perhaps. And yet I am thinking of that day when Jesus taught 5,000 people and when they got hungry, Jesus asked the crowd if anyone had any food and one little boy offered five small loaves of bread and two fish. With this humble act, Jesus fed the whole crowd and ended up with leftovers at that. Which is to say, that whatever action we take on behalf of the planet God entrusted to our care is multiplied by the God who can do far more than we can think or even imagine.
What actions are you taking, as an individual and as a congregation, to turn the tide on global warming and restore the earth to the Shalom in which it was created and for which God longs?
As ever in prayer,