Listening and Looking

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Bethany Benz-Whittington is curating a series that will explore the idea of different generations in ministry, and what gifts each generation particularly have to offer the church. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

by abby mohaupt

More than twelve years ago, I was being examined by my home presbytery to move from inquirer to candidate for ordination. I talked about how I found God most clearly in the natural world and that I felt called to care for the earth as an extension of care for God’s people.

A man stood up and asked how my call to environmental ministry had anything to do with Jesus and the church.

I was flummoxed. Partly because I could not separate my call to ministry from my call to love God’s beloved earth.

Partly too because I felt powerless. I was twenty-three and staring into the faces of members of my presbytery… people who were supposed to mentor and guide and hear me.
They did not hear me then.

Now I’ve been ordained for 6 years. Most of that time has been spent in calls to organize people of faith to respond to climate change and food injustice. Everything about my call is about God’s beloved earth and God’s beloved people. All of God’s good creation is groaning.

As creation groans, our church makes money off of the fossil fuel industry, the industry most responsible for climate change. For the last 6 years, I’ve worked alongside of hundreds of Presbyterians calling on our denomination to divest from that industry. A critique I often hear is that we cannot “just” divest. We have to do more.

It’s true. We as a denomination have to do more to respond justly and faithfully to the devastating reality of climate change.

And whenever that critique emerges, I look at my church, wondering how many people know that we as a denomination have been faithfully responding to climate change with our heads and hearts and souls and strength for decades.

I wonder to whom and to what we have paid attention.

As a millennial serving a church that often does not listen to or empower my generation of pastors, I’m committed to listening to voices that are often left unheard.

And so, in our divestment movement, we have tried to do our work in ways that are feminist, antiracist, inclusive, and nonviolent. Indeed, our work for all of God’s beloved creation must also work toward the dismantling of white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, and violence, or it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ that means the liberation for all. We have sometimes failed, and we have been rightly called out when we have failed to live into that intersectional identity. We try to do better.

In less than twelve years from now, we will have lost our window of opportunity to respond to and mitigate climate change. I’m still looking at my church as we listen to children and young adults who call all of us to understand that we face an urgent climate emergency.

I’m looking at my church as I listen to this next generation—most of whom are younger than I was when I told the church about my call to love the earth. This younger generation is saying: we cannot do business as usual. We cannot sit at the table with people who have funded the escalation of climate change and still expect to be welcomed to the table with people who are suffering already.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. It is a love that demands we hear our collective call to love creation with all that we are as part of our ministry of the Church. May we be brave enough to do it.


abby mohaupt is a Teaching Elder in San Francisco Presbytery, PhD student at Drew University in New Jersey, and a farmer in rural North Texas. She is also the senior advisor for education and training for GreenFaith.

abby’s heart work is devoted to living with integrity at the intersections of eco-feminisms, social justice, and spirituality. abby is a long distance runner, yoga teacher, mixed media artist, and climate justice activist. She brings each of these pieces of herself into everything she creates, with a commitment to disrupting systems of oppression through the radical reclamation of our bodies. she regularly guest lectures on religion and ecology, with emphasis on the intersections of race and gender.

She semi-regularly blogs at www.featheology.org, and her writing on earth care has appeared in Sojourners, the Presbyterian Church USA’s Unbound, and Ecclesio. She can usually be found with at least one crayon in hand.

1 reply
  1. W
    W says:

    It seems to me this is not about age, but about communication. The man asked how you could connect your beliefs with Jesus and the church, and you didn’t or couldn’t answer. Your post also does not answer this or focus on Jesus and the church. They *didn’t* hear you: they couldn’t hear an answer you didn’t give! I do sense that you want to share that answer.

    And when you do I think you’ll have to, like Jesus Christ, “sit at the table” with sinners (“people who have funded the escalation of [CO2 emissions]”) — especially since that’s all of us!

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