Earth Care: Responding to Pope Francis’ Call

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“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” Pope Francis, Laudato Si, Chapter 4, paragraph 139

September 24, 2015.

kepley1I live in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC, which can sometimes be both a blessing and a curse. Yesterday, when Pope Francis addressed Congress, it was a huge blessing! My wife and I joined a number of our friends from Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, an interfaith group in Fairfax County, VA, and the National Capital Presbytery Earth Care Network, a group of 10 churches in the National Capital Presbytery dedicated to earth care, to hear what the pontiff had to say on the National Mall. Oh sure, we could have watched it at home on TV, but being there in-person among an incredibly diverse crowd of people who are passionate about the environment was electrifying! After much speechifying and good music, we got to see and hear His Holiness on a jumbo-tron. Pope Francis did for Congress and the American people what pastors from before Jesus’ time have always tried to do – discern God’s Word for our time and place. The crowd on the grass all around us cheered wildly, as if we were in the chamber. But as my pastor once said to our congregation: “What are you going to do after the cheering stops?”

That brings me to the second event that I attended that day. It was an interfaith gathering at the National Cathedral entitled, Coming Together in Faith on Climate. It included faith leaders from about a dozen different faith traditions from Jewish to Muslim to Episcopalian, Catholic, Evangelical Christian, and AME.   It even included a sitting US Senator, Sheldon Whitehorse of RI. Imam Ebrahim Rasool summed the prevailing sentiment best telling us that the current ecological/social crisis was so threatening to our world that we needed to put aside our religious differences, as Pope Francis had said earlier in the day, and work together to address the situation. The imam reminded us that this is a moral issue with deep theological roots in all of the major world religions, be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. These faith leaders then called on all people of faith everywhere to adopt this five-point strategy “to lead by example.”

  1. Engage: Engage our Congregations and Communities for Climate Solutions. Beginning today, we’re asking every person of faith to go to their house of worship as soon as possible, and speak from their heart to their clergy or spiritual leaders. We’re asking the same of clergy and spiritual leaders – to speak personally, from your heart, to your congregation. Tell them you agree with Pope Francis and a wide array of multi-faith leaders that we have a moral obligation to take action today on climate change and build a sustainable future for our children. Tell them you will lead by example to build support for climate solutions by engaging and inspiring others and take actions that will help restore a healthy atmosphere, and you hope that will lead by example too. And make sure to take this personal pledge: blessedtomorrow.org/join
  2. Energize: Form or Join a Clean Energy Group in our Faith Communities. Thousands of congregations already have active climate- and environment-oriented groups leading the way in switching to clean, renewable energy. But we need thousands more. At the site below, you’ll find links to the amazing organizations that are doing wonderful work helping congregations and individuals energize, so you can (a) maximize energy efficiency; (b) switch to clean, renewable energy for your community of faith, your home, and your neighborhood; and (c) so you can energize your people to push for needed political action. interfaithpowerandlight.org
  3. Divest/Invest: Clean up our Personal and Congregational Investments. Denominations, universities, and seminaries are divesting from fossil fuels, and investing in clean, renewable energy. Now, it’s possible for us as individuals to do so as well – transferring our personal savings, IRA’s, and other investments into companies that are part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Make your personal pledge at idivestinvest.org
  4. Vote: Make Climate One of our Top Three Issues When (Not If) We Vote. We’re asking you to demand needed action from every candidate and elected leader in every election. We’ll provide you with resources to help you learn which candidates are supporting climate change solutions, and which are ignoring or opposing them. faithinpubliclife.org
  5. Educate: Stay Informed and Educate Others. Through your social media and in-person networks, you can become a trusted source of information and inspiration for others. To stay informed and keep learning, sign up for Common Good News for regular updates: convergenceus.org/common-good-news.html

I hope you cheered the Pope’s words, but now that the cheering has died down, what are you going to do about it?


 

David Kepley

Ruling Elder and Deacon

Providence Presbyterian Church

Fairfax, VA

Kepley.david@gmail.com