A rabbi in Jerusalem and a seminary professor in Kentucky are finding a way to help solve the global climate crisis: through the hearts and minds of the faithful, one congregation at a time.
Rabbi Yonatan Neril, founder and director of Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, and the Rev. Leah Schade, a professor at Lexington Theological Seminary [and Blessed Tomorrow partner], are among a growing number of religious leaders who are working to bridge the gap between faith and climate. Their joint effort, launched last year, offers clergy across the United States advice and recommendations in theologically-based tip sheets written by Schade, an expert at helping clergy bridge political divides in their congregations.
Neril’s and Schade’s vision is to unleash the power of the clergy as a change agent for climate action. They are working toward helping more of the faithful view climate change not so much as a political issue but as something rooted in religion. The goal, Neril said, is “that the current and next generation inherits a sustainable, thriving and spiritually aware planet.”
Voters of faith have a history of fueling social movements, on the left and the right, including the civil rights movement, the anti-abortion movement and the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump and his pro-fossil fuel agenda.
“I have always felt that the faith community is sort of the sleeping giant when it comes to climate and environmental issues,” said Schade, author of the 2019 book, Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide, which explores how clergy can use the Bible and careful dialog to address controversial social issues, including climate change. “In the same way that the civil rights movement in America was powered by churches and synagogues,” she said, “the same thing needs to happen and is starting to happen with the climate movement.”
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