Yakima: Wesley UMC dedicates its solar panels in honor of Earth Day in 2016. A representative from Pacific Power addresses the audience with Sara Cate, leader of the church’s “Green Team”.
By The Rev. Ronald Hines
How hot will it get in 2017? Our new president has called the global warming crisis “(expletive)!” and he is proposing leaders of agencies tasked with responding to the global climate crisis persons who think the concern is a hoax. Will United Methodists respond to the challenge with “holy dissatisfaction”?
For the third year in a row, 2016 was the hottest year since records have been kept (1880). Sixteen of the last 17 “hottest years” have been since 2000.
Climate change is real; ninety-seven percent of scientists agree. Climate change has dire consequences for life on our planet home, and that it is human-caused. In fact, some say that we are entering the Anthropocene Era, a geological time when major features of the planet are determined by human activity. The scientific community’s urgent consensus that we must deal with global climate change is matched by a strong consensus among faith community leaders across the globe — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Confucian, and others.
When I read this week yet another confirmation of our changing climate, I am reminded of “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action”, issued by The United Methodist Council of Bishops in 2009. Already then we heard that “God’s creation is in crisis,” and that “We must begin the work of renewing creation by being renewed in our own hearts and minds. We cannot help the world until we change our way of being in it.” The bishops pledged to practice “Wesleyan holy dissatisfaction.” The pledge to measure the “carbon footprint” of church offices and seek to reduce it was part of their call to “practice social and environmental holiness.”
Fortunately, there is a groundswell of movement across the globe, leading into a transition from a fossil-fuel intensive global economy into one that is powered by renewable energy sources. United Methodist Sunday School teacher and journalist Bill McKibben, a founder of 350.org, is a significant voice in that movement. Our Conference’s decision to divest from fossil fuel investments also boosts the trend.
Now we are entering a new political climate where some key players, with authority over government programs that might move us forward on a path of environmental awareness, and transformation for resilience and sustainability, are actually blocking such progress with their “climate change denial.” Many ground this denial in their faith in God! Who are we to think we could control the climate, when God the Creator is in control?
In this Anthropocene Era humans must accept our responsibility as co-creators with God of our planetary life-support community. As we make history in this new era, let us learn to cooperate with all who are responsive to God’s aims for climate justice that responds to the cry of the earth and the cries of the poor who are impoverished as life in our earth home is diminished.
There are many ways to do this. One concrete way to begin is to do what the bishops proposed in 2009. Measure your carbon footprint, and find ways to diminish it. Several years ago, Wesley United Methodist Church in Yakima did this, with help from Earth Ministries in Seattle. It has led them on a journey that now produces electricity on-site with over 50 solar panels!
How will you practice your “holy dissatisfaction” with the practices that pump more greenhouse gases into our common atmosphere and overheat our Earth Home?
The Rev. Ron Hines is a retired minister within The Pacific Northwest Conference.