The world just got its most urgent warning yet about rising temperatures and the suffering they will cause. Earth’s climate continues to erode faster than expected, a United Nations panel said in a Feb. 28 report.
But there’s still time to limit the breakdown, and people of faith can help, church leaders said.
“The vulnerable and impoverished are at the very center of our mission and work as churches and people of faith,” said the Rev. Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches. “… We are not true to our calling as Christians if we are not doing everything we can to prevent the global temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
What churches can do
“The role of churches at this time is not simply to raise awareness and alter our consumer habits,” said the Rev. Brooks Berndt, United Church of Christ environmental justice minister. “We can and should do these things. But at the same time, the role most needed from us is the prophetic role.” That role, he said, requires “public action in confronting those in power.”
“Today, Congress is the institution with the power to act on the scale necessary to address this crisis,” Berndt said. “They are who we must confront.”
Current UCC opportunities to plan and take action include:
- Earth-action webinars on March 23, April 13 and April 23
- A national climate summit March 28-31
- A new internship, with applications due March 15
Church resources are also available for Earth Day (April 22), Earth Sunday (April 24) and Faith Climate Action Week (April 22–May 1).
Here is information on all of these. More about the latest U.N. statement appears below.
Current online opportunities
Three chances to learn, talk and plan are coming up from UCC Environmental Justice Ministries and its partners:
- Wednesday, March 23, at 1 p.m. ET: “Restoring Nature: What People of Faith Can Do to Heal the Earth.” The focus will be on restoring natural habitats: “The solution can be as close as your backyard or the property surrounding your place of worship.” Wildlife ecology professor and author Douglas Tallamy will be featured.
- Wednesday, April 13, at 1 p.m. ET: “Getting Ready for Earth Sunday: Resources for Congregations.” Avery Davis Lamb, co-leader of the ecumenical Creation Justice Ministries, will introduce “Weathering the Storm: Faithful Climate Resilience,” designed to help local churches become hubs of climate action.
- Saturday, April 23, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. ET: “The Faith of Prophets: Lessons for the Climate Crisis.” It will discuss “what the Hebrew Prophets can teach us as well as what current prophetic leaders have to say.” It will also show people how to “deliver a community climate collage to the district office of your congressional representative or senator.”
American Climate Leadership Summit, March 28-31
Another online resource is the American Climate Leadership Summit. The UCC is again a major sponsor of the annual event. It will be held live online March 28-31. Among the speakers will be two UCC ministers:
- The Rev. Jim Antal, a special UCC climate advisor, will speak Tuesday, March 29, and again Thursday, March 31. The latter speech will be during a section of the summit called the “National Faith + Climate Forum.”
- The Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Chicago’s Trinity UCC, will also address the March 31 faith-and-climate forum.
People can get details about the summit and register for it here.
Earth Month actions
In addition to the opportunities above, UCC environmental ministries recently suggested “four things your church can do to celebrate the earth.” Three are in the webinar descriptions above:
- Being prophetic;
- delivering a climate collage to political representatives; and
- “becoming a hub of resilience.”
A fourth is to “focus on the children” by taking part in Faith Climate Action Week, April 22–May 1. Sponsored annually by Interfaith Power & Light, its theme this year is “Sacred Trust: Our Children’s Right to a Livable Future.” According to the IPL website, the week focuses every year on “how we can all take action to protect our climate.”
Climate fellowship open
A new, two-year, full-time fellowship in environmental justice is open in the UCC’s national setting. The position has a specific, action-oriented goal.
According to the fellowship’s online description, whoever takes on the job will be “devoted to developing and implementing a national program that encourages, supports and equips local church members in taking public actions in their congressional districts with the ultimate aim of passing climate legislation.”
People can get more information and apply online here. The application deadline, originally March 2, has been extended to March 15, 2022.
What the report said
The Feb. 28 U.N. statement came from its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It offered hundreds of pages of detailed science — and pointed warnings.
“The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health,” a 36-page summary said. “Any further delay” in global action “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the report “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”
“With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change,” he said. “Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone – now.” And “the world’s most vulnerable” will continue to be hit hardest, he said.
Urgent ‘moral language’
“Climate advocates have observed that this report differs from previous reports in its notable use of a moral language of ‘equity’ and ‘justice,’” Berndt said. “The climate crisis can no longer be seen outside the context of who has power and who does not.
“We are not simply talking about a science problem in need of technological solutions. We are talking about a social change problem in need of prophetic action — action that confronts the kings and pharaohs of our own time.”
“There is no excuse to wait to transform our world and carve out a just, sustainable and climate-resilient path to the future,” said Sauca, the WCC leader. “The urgent call for climate justice is a cry from the Earth and from the poor. We must heed these cries.”
“Now is the time to turn rage into action,” Guterres said. “Every fraction of a degree matters. Every voice can make a difference. And every second counts.”
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