Our home planet faces a growing environmental crisis. The problems are so serious that many believe there is irreversible climate change, which will have significant impact on our lifestyles and properties. Gordon Kaufman, Harvard Divinity School professor, poses a question that rings in my heart and mind: “Should theology be done as usual in view of the ecological and nuclear crisis facing the world?”
I believe that we as United Methodists have already answered this question in our “Social Principles.” Paragraph 160 of the 2004 Book of Discipline states:
creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we
use and abuse it ... God has granted us stewardship of creation. We
should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and
respect ... Therefore let us recognize the responsibility of the church
and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic,
political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more
ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher
quality of life for all of God’s creation.
As a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School in the late 1970s, I was inspired by Sallie McFague. She was the school dean who also became my senior thesis adviser. It was Sallie who most influenced my understanding for inclusive language and the social responsibilities we share as Christians living in a secular society. In her book, “Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril,” Sallie wrote:
We are living on this planet as if the earth
were a hotel. After using the clean towels and sheets and piling them
in the middle of the room for the housekeeping staff, we then drive
down the street to another hotel. But if we regard the planet as a
home, we will share the resources, clean up after ourselves, and make
necessary repairs so another generation may inhabit the house.
It is well past time to act. Under the leadership of the Outreach/Advocacy Team and its chair, Steve Hodges, Holston Conference has recently formed a Creation Care Action Team. Our goal is to provide a voice and witness for environmental and justice concerns in Holston. The team currently includes: the Rev. David St. Clair (chair), Steve Hodges, Diantha Hodges, Anne Travis, Annette Spence, the Rev. Nicole Hill, Ed Stead, Mike Hartsell, Rob James, the Rev. Bill Nickle, Lou McNutt, the Rev. Edwin Blair, Danny Howe, the Rev. Dennis Loy, and the Rev. Ron Matthews.
If you have ideas to share or wish to help organize a Creation Care group in your church and community, please contact David St. Clair at (276) 646-8718 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Steve Hodges at (423) 733-4195 or email@example.com; or any of the other team members listed above. The Call will feature related stories, and ministry news and ideas are available online at environment.holston.org.
I believe every caring parent wants to do his or her part to “make the necessary repairs,” so that their children and grandchildren will have a “house” to live in.
The Rev. Ron Matthews is executive assistant to Bishop James Swanson and Holston’s director of communications.