Before Disaster Strikes

“Violating the integrity of our relationship with creation is sinful. Our failure to serve as faithful caretakers of creation has local and global consequences. Our inability to share the abundance that God has entrusted to us has given rise to ecological crises and extreme poverty. Our unchecked consumption and unsustainable patterns of development have exacted a toll on creation and are increasing inequality of opportunity around the world.”  

–Resolution 1033, “Caring for Creation: A Call to Stewardship and Justice,”

The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, 2016

United Methodists are people of faith and action, continually discerning the ways in which we are called to respond to the needs of the world. Our mission agency, Global Ministries, responds to vulnerable people worldwide through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. When war, conflict or natural disaster disrupt life, we provide humanitarian relief. When responding to a disaster, we are among the first to arrive and the last to leave. And before and after disaster strikes, our Global Health unit works with communities to build resilience and mitigate risk. But we still have work to do in addressing the factors that can exacerbate disasters.

We know that climate change and environmental degradation can intensify extreme weather events and contribute to conditions that lead to conflict and community instability. It is not enough to respond to crises; we must do all we can to prevent them. This means addressing the modes of living that cause climate change and environmental degradation, including over-consumption, deforestation, poor water management and agricultural practices that diminish the land. We believe that the church in mission has a crucial role to play in casting a vision for the transformation of the world that includes redemption for all people and all of creation. People of faith should be at the forefront of the change that brings about a clean energy economy, that ensures stable access to food and water for everyone, and that protects creatures and sacred spaces.

Global Ministries is launching a creation care program to equip United Methodists to participate in the church’s work of healing creation. We are evaluating our ministries and looking for more ways to integrate sustainable practices into our projects around the world. Our EarthKeepers program is training leaders to launch projects in their communities that promote sustainability both locally and systemically. Our Mission Theology unit is discerning how our understanding of God’s vision for love and redemption for all people and all of creation should inform our response to the environmental crisis unfolding in our midst. And we are working in conversation with other United Methodist agencies like our General Board of Church and Society (a partner of Blessed Tomorrow), whose leaders advocate for economic and environmental justice.

Our faith story begins with God’s affirmation of the goodness of creation. When the first humans consumed beyond the boundaries God set for them, they triggered consequences for everyone, but particularly for those living close to the land and for women. These same people are the ones who are most vulnerable to the consequences of the ways in which we violate God’s creation today. Leviticus 25:23 tells us that all land belongs to God and reminds us that we only live here for a little while. We must use our time here to participate in the healing of creation as we serve God and care for one another.

Rev. Jenny Phillips is Creation Care Program Manager at the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

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