The Rev. Terry Gallagher calls himself an "odd duck" when it comes to his chosen career path. The former engineer and manufacturing plant manager became a reverend later in life, currently serving at First Congregational UCC of Gibraltar (Mich.). He saw firsthand the demise of Michigan's manufacturing industry, and also knows a thing or two about technology and the importance of embracing it to survive. With the experience from his former profession, Gallagher is working to generate support for Michigan's Renewable Energy Amendment from churches across the state.
"Michigan used to be the manufacturing center of the Midwest, but we suffered because we were slow to embrace new ways," he said. "This amendment would benefit us economically, benefit us in terms of creating new jobs, benefit us in terms of health and, to boot, we would be doing what God would want us to do. It's a win-win."
The legislation calls for an amendment to Michigan's constitution to mandate that 25 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2025. If passed, Michigan would be the first state to have a renewable energy standard in its constitution. The amendment will appear on the ballot this November, and needs a majority vote to pass. Gallagher recently garnered an endorsement for the amendment from the UCC's Michigan Conference and its 150 churches statewide, in addition to churches from other denominations that have already expressed their support.
He also works closely with Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, an ecumenical organization providing a religious response to global warming, and conducts educational workshops through Sacred Conversations Detroit, a part of the Social Justice Ministry of the UCC's Detroit Metropolitan Association.
"You have to call people to turn away from focusing on ‘just me' and ‘right now' and focusing on caring for God's good creation and what we have to do so our grandkids have a chance at a future," he said. "That's where the voice of the church becomes very important."
Despite the support, Gallagher's efforts are not without opposition. The state's two largest utility companies have invested more than $3 million in advertising campaigns that Gallagher says lie about the impact the amendment will have on the state's economy. But Gallagher is empowered by the recent support of faith organizations, and he will continue to do radio and press interviews and hold educational workshops and lectures up until Election Day.
"I'm optimistic, except the opposition is trying to scare people," he said. "We don't have that kind of money, but we have the power of voice and people. In spite of what we are facing, I am optimistic that the truth will ultimately win."
The United Church of Christ has been working for environmental justice for almost 30 years, and recognizes the opportunity for a shared mission campaign to live out our faith — in unity, as one church — for the sake of our fragile planet Earth.
With the help of UCC congregations everywhere, Mission 4/1 Earth, which begins Easter Monday 2013 and runs for 50 days, hopes to accomplish more than 1 million hours of engaged earth care, 100,000 tree plantings across the globe, and 100,000 advocacy letters written and sent on environmental concerns.