Dorhauer amplifies Pope’s call to action on climate
Pope Francis brings a very important missive on creation care to America this week, and religious leaders from around the United States will be gathering in Washington, D.C. to amplify the message.
United Church of Christ General Minister and President, the Rev. John Dorhauer is one of them.
“I believe that climate change is the most pressing moral issue of our time,” said Dorhauer. “If we fail to resolve this crisis, in time every other justice issue will be settled by a planet that will lose its capacity to sustain human community as we know it. Because I believe this to be the case, I also know that religion that on the one hand ignores the moral imperative that climate change presents and that, on the other hand, does not utilize its full agency to effect meaningful changes will not only be seen as irrelevant – it will, in fact, be irrelevant.”
His Holiness, who ramped up the worldwide discussion on creation care with his Encyclical letter, Laudato Si, released in May, arrives in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday Sept. 22, with a planned meeting with President Obama at the White House the next day. Pope Francis will also gather in prayer with U.S. bishops on Sept. 23, and celebrate an outdoor Mass at the Basilica of the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception.
On Sept. 24, Pope Francis’ attention is focused on a historic morning address before a joint session of Congress, the first-ever for a pope. Beginning that morning, religious leaders from around the country will gather in our nation’s capital to express inter-denominational support for the Pope’s call to action on climate change and creation care.
Dorhauer will be joined at the Washington National Cathedral by the Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity UCC in Chicago, the Rev. Sharon Watkins, president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and a host of interfaith leaders.
“I cancelled everything when I was invited to participate in this event,” said Dorhauer. “It became my most important thing. The Papal encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si, may well be the most important document of our time. It is also important that this event will bring key interfaith leaders together from across the country. In a world where so much is threatening to tear religious movements apart, there is something noteworthy in an event like this that unites us in common cause.”
The Rev. Cameron Trimble is the executive director and CEO of the Center for Progressive Renewal & Convergence Network, one of five organizations that banded together to put together this two-day event, Coming Together in Faith on Climate, which will be livestreamed across the country. She hopes the program of inspirational messages, meetings and discussion connect people of faith and get them working together to save the planet.
“It has been easy to get people involved because this is the defining issue for our world, and these leaders know it must also be for our faith communities,” said Trimble. “That’s what Convergence is all about: Tapping into our shared potential to transform the world into a more just and generous place for all.”
Dorhauer believes that faith leaders should be the agents of meaningful change, and that will be his message this week in D.C.
“If religion is to claim any legitimacy, have any meaning, or maintain any relevance in the unfolding of our future, it must use its agency to effect meaningful and sustainable changes to our current lifestyle,” Dorhauer said. “No one should doubt that this is going to mean dramatic sacrifices on the part of every person. Christianity is well positioned to talk about how such sacrifices for the common good are a part of what it means to be faithful.”
“Climate change is the greatest moral issue humanity has ever faced,” writes the Rev. Jim Antal, president and conference minister of the Massachusetts Conference UCC. “If you are a pastor who has yet to engage the issue from your pulpit, the time has come. If you are in a congregation which is yet to engage the issue and step up to the defining challenge our generation is facing, the time has come to speak with your pastor and chart a course of commitment.”
Antal is actively encouraging people of all religious traditions to join the Blessed Tomorrow coalition, a network of faith leaders committed to walking more gently on the earth and inspiring others to lead on climate solutions in their homes, congregations, and communities.
Dorhauer says that another role religion plays in the climate conversation is that it can and must reimagine hope.
“This cannot be a hollow hope that is used as a tool for helping desperate people to find something to cling to, that eases the angst and fear and anxiety without really promising or offering any substantive change,” Dorhauer emphasized. “This new articulation of hope must be borne of action that promises an alternative to climate change’s current prognosis. THAT is no small task.”
The Rev. Dorhauer, with a column on climate change ‘Burning Down the House‘ in the Huffington Post, will also be participating in an ecumenical ‘Service of Worship for the World and Those Within’, centering on passages from the papal encyclical Laudato Si, Friday evening at the Riverside Church in New York City.
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