By The Rev. Ron Hines | Photos by John Hill, Jesse N. Love, and Jenny Phillips
In their many Ways, people of faith across the planet care for our common earth home! That’s the theme I’ve been sharing with folks in classes at Wesley Homes, Seattle First, Puyallup First, and Yakima Wesley United Methodist Churches.
The April 22 March for Science and the participation of many faith communities in the April 29 People’s Climate March converge on this prophetic message: Global climate change is real. Humans are causing it. It’s bad. There is hope. We can sustain the Earth as God’s gift of a Living Planet.
Just after last November’s U.S. presidential election results were announced the Rev. Jenny Phillips addressed a news conference at Marrakesh, Morocco, the site of COP22, the UN Climate Change Conference to implement the Paris Agreement (already 137 of the 194 nations who signed the agreement have officially ratified it). She said: “The world can trust that the people of The United Methodist Church will offer ourselves as partners…as faithful resisters to any effort to turn back the clock or to deny climate change.” Here’s the essence of her testimony:
- The climate crisis is real, a moral crisis that demands a moral response. “Our church is in ministry with people on the frontlines of the climate crisis” from small farming communities in Africa to the indigenous communities in the Philippines.
- “Our church’s strong, clear voice will keep rising up alongside those communities,” working for a “healthy and hope-filled future…rooted in our faith and nurtured by our relationships.”
- The global movement to take action “is unstoppable.” Built from the ground up, climate action is not dependent on any one country’s leader or one election. “Our churches are an integral part of the people’s climate movement.”
The negative impact of global climate change is no respecter of religions. Rising tides impact Muslims in the Maldives island nation. Melting arctic ice impacts hunting habits of indigenous Inuit people in Canada. Desertification threatens much of Jewish Israel. Hindu farmers in India are committing suicide because of extreme drought. Beside our own Jenny Phillips on that panel at Marrakesh were other faith leaders: the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, a Muslim climate policy advocate from Texas, and a Jewish woman representing the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life.
We can learn from the wisdom of many Ways. People of many faith traditions bring resources to the climate crisis conversation, raising humanity’s awareness of the moral response required to meet the challenges scientists are confirming.
Muslims reinforce Allah as creator of the careful balance (mizan) in the community (ummah) of all living creatures, and role of humans as stewards (khalifa). Jews stress the goodness of God’s creation, but they also speak of the human role in “mending” (tikkun olam) a broken world. In one Jewish midrash on the creation, God informs Adam and Eve in the Garden, “You must tend it well, because there is no one to come after you.”
Hindu affirmation of Brahman, the divine energy in all things, has led to court decisions recently in India in which rivers are recognized as having legal rights that must be defended! And Buddhist emphasis on Right Livelihood, and not desiring too many consumer goods, has appealed to many thoughtful Americans for decades. In Chinese cultures, Confucian emphasis on the continuity of generations leads not only to respect for our ancestors, but concern for generations to come.
You can learn more about these faith resources in the book published by Abingdon, “Green Faith,” by Fletcher Harper. You can also join classes on Care for the Earth at this summer’s Mission u. Bring your faith to the table as we seek a Way to nurture life on our Earth Home.
The Rev. Ronald L. Hines is a retired minister within the PNWUMC.