Two weeks ago, I attended the Disciples of Christ biennial General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio. Disciples are a founding partner of Blessed Tomorrow, so I was invited to join and help announce our partnership, share fellowship, and dialog with Disciples clergy and leaders about climate change and creation care.
At the Restoring Creation workshop, Green Chalice Minister Carol Devine and Associate Minister Scott Hardin-Nieri asked me to invite participants into a conversation about creation care and climate change, connect with them on both the grief we feel and the hope we have for our future, and share some tangible ways to act with God’s help on behalf of creation, people, and communities.
Knowing that Disciples of Christ are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world who seek to do justice and care for the least among us, I thought it best to start with the story of a friend whose situation illustrates what others might encounter with global warming impacts.
Val Lomillo is a Christian veterinarian and missionary working in Uganda. A few years ago, Val told my husband and me about a woman in her village whose crops failed three years in a row due to successive droughts and floods. Because her crops failed, the woman’s husband declared her to be a bad wife and kicked her out of their home. Having nowhere to go, she sought refuge in another village, where she became pregnant by another man. As she eventually made her way back to her home village, the woman had her baby, and then died. The baby, a girl, had no one to care for her, so the villagers, knowing our friend Val to be a woman of faith, decided to give the baby to Val. They named the child Muya Val in her honor.
With the accelerating realities of climate change that we’re seeing around the world – droughts, floods, wildfires, extreme weather, and rising sea levels – it’s likely you know someone who has been impacted or have been impacted yourself. But not everyone is being impacted equally. The poorest and most vulnerable are bearing the greatest consequences. In terms of sheer numbers of people being impacted, climate change is the biggest justice issue the world has ever known. As a mother at a feeding station in Africa put it, watching her young daughter die, “As far as I’m concerned, God did not make us all equal – I mean look at us all here. None of us has enough food.”
We know we need to reduce our global warming pollution quickly to avert the worst impacts of climate change. We know that we can do it. But will we? The American public is trending in the right direction, but we aren’t fully addressing the urgency with which we need to transition to a positive energy future.
That’s why the Disciples’ leadership is so hope-inspiring. Disciples General Minister and President Rev. Sharon Watkins, Disciples Home Missions President Rev. Ron Degges, Green Chalice Ministers Carol Devine and Scott Hardin-Nieri, and all the committed Disciples leaders are faithfully working to reduce their global warming pollution, green their churches, care for creation, and engage others. By translating their passion for justice into action, they are showing that by working together, we can overcome global warming and help heal and restore our world for people like Val and Muya Val, who have already been impacted, and all those who will be.
They are showing that solving global warming is part of what it means to be a person of faith today. This is so important now, because the number of people impacted mean we will need people of all faith traditions to lead by their own example and engage others in solutions.
As a religious leader or person of faith, you have an opportunity to accelerate leadership and collective action for climate solutions by helping catalyze the moment provided by Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. in September.
On Thursday and Friday September 24 and 25, Blessed Tomorrow and other partners will host Coming Together in Faith on Climate, bringing together religious leaders at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. to express interdenominational support for Pope Francis’ call to action on climate change and creation care and announce supporting initiatives.
On Thursday September 24, the evening of Pope Francis’ historic speech to Congress, we will gather 1,000 faith leaders at the National Cathedral for two hours of prayer, sermons, songs, and poetry to refresh and inspire faith and climate leaders in their work. On the following day, we will gather 150 faith leaders at the National Cathedral to watch the Pope address the United Nations in New York City, and share experiences and ideas on building support for climate solutions through faith in our congregations, our communities, and our nation.
We invite you to join us at these events and invite others. If you can’t join in person then prayerfully consider hosting a live stream viewing party and discussion or maybe a potluck to engage your ministry or congregation.