Climate Change and the Church’s Response
2016 Book of Resolutions, #1035
The natural world is a loving gift from God, the creator and sustainer, who has entrusted it in all its fullness to the care of all people for God’s glory and to the good of all life on earth now and in generations to come. The image of God in us (Genesis1:27) is reflected in our abilities, responsibilities, and integrity, and with the power of the Holy Spirit we are called as God’s coworkers in dialogue and covenant to live and serve for the good of creation. We confess that we have turned our backs on our responsibilities in neglect, selfishness, and pride. And yet Christ’s redeeming and restoring work through his death and resurrection embraces all of creation. Even in the face of destruction and disaster, we believe that God’s vision for the world is of peace and wholeness and that God offers to us a future filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11). This vision has a present and a future in the promise of a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-8).
One manifestation of our neglect, selfishness, and pride is our sinful disregard for creation that has given rise to the injustice of climate change. Human-induced climate change is caused by the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, for which the strong economies of this world carry the vast responsibility. Those economies that have benefited from fossil-fuel development rightly bear the responsibility to rapidly reduce emissions and support less wealthy economies in their journey toward sustainable and climate resilient development.
Unless we change our ways, the average global temperature by the end of the twenty-first century is on course to increase by 4 degrees Celsius resulting in sea level rise, shrinking glaciers, extreme weather, droughts, and flooding. The United Nations’ World Food Program estimates that climate change will place 20 percent more people at risk of hunger by 2050.
Leaders in some developed nations continue to debate, from places of comfort and privilege, the “reality” of a changing climate in order to perpetuate their polluting ways. As the church we witness firsthand the consequences of climate disruption in our communities and in the lives of those Christ calls us to be with in ministry. Recognizing our complicity and responsibility, we seek to chart a new path rooted in economic and ecological justice. We understand climate justice not simply as an environmental or economic concern but rather as a deep ethical and spiritual concern that the Church must address so that abundant life is ensured for our children and future generations.
As we continue to call for bold leadership and advocate for policies rooted in justice and sustainability, we understand that God is calling each of us to respond and that as a denomination we cannot hope to transform the world until we change our way of being in it.
Therefore, we call on United Methodists to: Study the pastoral letter from the Council of Bishops entitled “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action.” Clergy and laity should use the letter and accompanying resources to preach and teach on the care for creation as part of our discipleship;
Prayerfully explore lifestyle changes as individuals and faith communities that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support a cleaner, healthier future;
Support communities impacted by climate change as well as those currently dependent on fossil fuel extraction and production as they transition to a new energy economy;
Challenge all United Methodist institutions, organizations, and local churches to incorporate climate stewardship, reducing the use of fossil fuel, into the design of facilities and reduce the carbon footprint of meetings;
Utilize resources available through the General Board of Church and Society, the General Board of Global Ministries, the General Board of Discipleship, and United Methodist Women to support locally-appropriate climate actions;
Advocate for national policies that shift resources, including subsidies, away from high-carbon development and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources; and
Advocate for a fair, ambitious, and binding international agreement to address climate change built on nationally appropriate commitments to both mitigation and adaptation.
See Social Principles, ¶ 162.
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Copyright © 2016, The United Methodist Publishing House, used by permission