Over the weekend of Sept. 23-25, clergy and laity in the Southern Conference (SOC) of the UCC came together to celebrate something new under the sun: the SOC Environmental Justice Network (EJN) which was formalized this past June. We kicked off our EJN summit weekend with a clergy luncheon at Union Chapel in Burlington, NC. The Rev. Brooks Berndt, the UCC’s environmental justice minister, spoke of his recent experience of standing in solidarity with the native peoples of Standing Rock, while Dr. Gail O’Day, Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, spoke of the school’s Food, Faith, and Environmental initiative with which we hope to partner in the future. (Read more.)
The parable of the Good Samaritan presents us with two possible responses to suffering. There are those like the priest and the Levite who respond with avoidance and pass by on the other side of the road. Then, there are those like the Good Samaritan who respond with compassion and tend to the man’s wounds. Since I enjoy doing children’s sermons, part of me is glad the parable does not include a third option so appalling as to seem almost unfathomable: the sadist who stops to rub salt into the wounds of the afflicted man. Imagine trying to convey a lesson about this to children. “Now, children, this is not how you want to treat little Billy when he skins his knee at recess time." Yet, such a grotesque and obvious moral wrong is what the flooded parts of Louisiana are now facing.
Written over 45 years ago, Frances Moore Lappé’s book, Diet for a Small Planet, revolutionized the way we think about food. As a follow up to her book, her daughter, Anna Lappé, wrote a book that puts food at the center of the climate crisis. Our food system is responsible for 1/3 of all greenhouse gas emissions. In Diet for a Hot Planet, Lappé shows that such statistics are just a tip of the melting iceberg. (Read more.)
The Fourth in a Series on Infrastructure Justice
In the poetic lyricism of the King James Bible, Proverbs 29:18 tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The urgent truth and relevance of that statement is perhaps nowhere more visible than the question of how our nation envisions its future with regard to infrastructure and climate change. Yet, I suspect that statement would seem dubious to some for the simple reason that no one seems to be discussing it. Op-ed pages, television newcasts, and political stump speeches have little to nothing to say on the subject. For this reason, let me make the case as direct and as plain as I can in five points. (Read more.)
Bill McKibben -- one of the most prominent and inspiring leaders of the climate justice movement -- gets a lot of questions. One of those questions, apparently, comes up pretty often, and he has developed a short and surprising response.
Q: "What is the best thing an individual can do for the climate?"
A: "Stop being an individual."
The Third in a Series on Infrastructure Justice
Some years ago, legal scholars Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres turned the plight of the miner’s canary into a parable for race in the United States. As the parable goes, miners would carry canaries with them into the mine to serve as a warning signal. When dangerous levels of gas filled the air, the canary’s respiratory system would become distressed and cause the canary to collapse as an alert to the miners. Guinier and Torres argued that “those who are racially marginalized are like the miner’s canary: their distress is the first sign of a danger that threatens us all.” As with almost every environmental crisis, the parable of the miner’s canary is readily applicable to the current state of our nation’s water infrastructure. (Read more.)
Part of an ongoing series on best practices for Creation Justice Churches.
Among the liturgical seasons celebrated at my church in North Hollywood is the Season of Creation. For those unfamiliar with this liturgical season, it starts on September 1st which Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Dimitri designated as a day of prayer for creation, and it ends on October 4th, the celebration of Francis of Assisi. In 2007, the Third European Ecumenical Assembly adopted this period to celebrate creation. The following year the world Council of Churches called for the observation for the Season of Creation. It is now celebrated by a number of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches as an addition to the ordinary time of the lectionary schedule which begins after Pentecost and ends with Advent. Each year new churches add the Season of Creation to spice up ordinary time. It brings a freshness to the lectionary cycle of readings and our churches. (Read more.)
Before General Synod approved a resolution urging responsible stewardship of the outer space environment at its 2015 meeting in Cleveland, a young aerospace engineer and UCC member explained to delegates why she supported the measure. Space debris is the biggest problem her profession faces, she said, but nobody else is talking about it. The church needs to help engineers and scientists put it on the public agenda. Read more.
For many, “creation justice” might be a new and unusual concept. Why not speak of environmental justice or green justice? However, this biblically rooted concept has powerful meanings related to our faith. It also transcends some of the limitations of past language in describing one of the most important ministries Christians can undertake today. Read more.
Dan Spencer is a professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. Spencer is an ordained clergy member of the United Church of Christ and has Ph.D. in environmental ethics from Union Theological Seminary in New York. Spencer’s insights into climate change from an international perspective are evident in this interview conducted by Brooks Berndt, the Environmental Justice Minister for the United Church of Christ. (Read more.)