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Creating a World that Works for All

by Jojo Gabuya

Havel’s introductory essay in Sharif Abdullah’s book, “Creating a World that Works for All,” discusses humankind’s lack of responsibility to avert the threats on our planet, particularly on our growing population and to save our environment from dangers and destruction caused by our own wasteful ways. Havel suggests that “the most important thing we can do today is to study the reasons why humankind does little to address these threats and why it allows itself to be carried onward by some kind of perpetual motion, unaffected by self-awareness or a sense of future options.” He also opines that the differences and dominance of great religious systems in the world have intensified political and armed conflicts, which are happening within an atheistic civilization. Havel thinks that the fundamental differences among these religions are more important than their differences; thus, we have to search “for what unites the various religions — a purposeful search for common principles.”

In the preface of Abdullah’s book, he describes our world as an insecure and unsafe one, where “family violence, cancer, a polluted environment, and a diminished outlook for all of the world’s children cloud the future for us all.” However, Abdullah adds that these threats, come with a rare opportunity “to craft a society that actually reflects our deepest values,” where we can choose our future. He describes his book as a “testament of hope,” a gift for the future generation who will give their blessings instead of blaming us for our lack of care and concern for this planet and all creation.

Abdullah laments how “our social, ecological, even spiritual lives are out of balance” (p. 1) because we have ignored some early warning systems for danger and treated them as the problem, and have severed our relationship with the environment. Because of this, Abdullah encourages us to “change the way we think and the way we act,” by learning “to act toward each other and our environment in profoundly different ways.”

In Abdullah’s book, “Creating A World That Works for All,’ he encourages us to “ask ourselves: What are we trying to achieve as a society?” He stresses the importance of goal setting that gives us “a clear vision of an achievable goal, and an understanding of the philosophy and value behind that goal.” Abdullah introduces the Mender goal, that is, “an inclusive human society on a habitual planet, a society that works for all humans and for all nonhumans,” where the needs of both those at the top and those at the bottom are fulfilled. Everyone has enough, and no one feels deprived or oppressed. To achieve this goal, Abdullah suggests that we need to “take fundamental change” that starts from within you, the newly elected leaders of this country and their recently appointed Cabinet, and all of us who are the emerging leaders of this day and age.

As an environmentalist, who has been living a vegan lifestyle and practicing the Tao philosophy for more than two decades, I have always been concerned about the preservation of the earth’s natural resources and the promotion of unity and solidarity with all forms of life. My unceasing concern for the protection of the environment, including its fauna and flora, began in my primary years when I heard the story of Noah’s ark from my teacher in Catechism. Because of this, I have always envisioned a society and a world where all creatures, including humankind, are happily living in solidarity and unity with one another. We take care of the earth’s bounties and assume responsibility for whatever we do.

When I reached the age of puberty and up to this time of the pandemic, I have realized that my earlier vision is still a work in progress. There is so much greed and selfishness in the minds and hearts of most of our leaders whose insatiable desire to amass wealth, abusive and violent ways to gain power, and manipulative methods to monopolize the planet’s resources have led to famine, hunger, and wars of all types (civil, drones, biological, nuclear and others), and some pressing issues and problems, at the expense of the poor and marginalized sectors who have been suffering from the impacts of these exploitive practices in most societies in particular, and the world in general. Political leaders such as Hitler (Holocaust) and Abraham Lincoln (Dakota 38) perpetrated these heinous crimes against humanity and all creation. But, it is sad to note that some religious leaders are also accessories to these dehumanizing crimes because of differences (gender, race, religious affiliation, political conviction, other demographics) that have kept them separated (Albert Einstein calls this notion as a “delusion of consciousness) from others who are not wearing the same cloak/robe, since time immemorial.

Thus, I totally agree with Abdullah’s s suggestion that “we need a change of heart that leads to changes in our priorities and systems.” This change, however, starts from ourselves – the way we think, feel, and act. Then, we can proceed with changing our culture and institutions.

And, as an emerging spiritual, who is trying to be a religious, leader, I find the three criteria of “A World that Works for All” useful in determining when we have reached our goal: The criteria of enough-ness, exchangeability, and common benefit can be applied to most of our current domestic and foreign problems and issues, such as homelessness, homophobia, inequality, poverty, racism, and wars. A caveat, however, exists if we fail to see our problems as blessings that are leading us to think of creative ways in solving these problems. So, I have been confident and optimistic that we are can solve our pressing problems, if we all strive for inclusivity, solidarity, and unity with all forms of life – animals, humans, and natural resources; mountains, plants, rivers, seas and others. And, I am hoping that we can continue to strive for inclusivity, solidarity, and unity this day and onwards.


Jojo received their M.Div from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Before coming to California in 2016, they worked with the United Nations Development Programmes, as Regional Coordinator for its Bottom-up Budgeting Project in Mindanao, Philippines. Prior to this, they worked as VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) Volunteer, as Results-based Management Advisor for the Ministry of Gender in Zambia, Southern Africa.

Jojo is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort, and their writing focuses on how Jesus would respond to the racism, xenophobia, microaggressions, and gender. 

Loving the Earth Boldly as People of Faith

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Rev. Ken D. Fuquay is curating a series featuring an eclectic group of voices responding to the question, “Does church matter? And if it matters, how, and if it does not, why?” Some of the voices speak from the center of the PC(USA); others stand on the periphery. One or two of the voices come from other denominations while some speak to us from the wilderness and barren places. “To every age, Christ dies anew and is resurrected within the imagination of humans.” These voices are stirring up that imagination in their own way. May your imagination be stirred as you consider their insight. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by abby mohaupt

When I was 5, I spent most of my summer days outside with my sisters. We were mostly barefoot and wild, wandering and playing in the gated confines of our family’s backyard. We had a pool, a swing set, and a sandbox.

A wooded grove, however, grew as the centerpiece of our childhood. The trees, gnarled and spiky, grew together, forming a canopy of leaves. We rooted around in the shade, imagining home and creating stories together.

I fell in love with the earth during the summer days, that love deepening as the leaves changed colors and drifted to the ground.

That love for the earth grew with me as I aged. I learned to respect the power of fire and the strength of waves. I felt awe at the tops of mountains and the rims of canyons.

It grew deeper still when I encountered theologies of ecology. Out of the first creation story in Genesis 1 (and throughout the Bible), we learn that God loves creation desperately and deeply. Throughout Genesis 1, God calls creation good, and in Genesis 2, humanity is made from the topsoil from which all the plants and animals come from and rely upon. Understanding that God’s love extends to all creation helped me see that everything that is alive is part of my family.

And because I love this earth, my heart broke as I learned more about environmental degradation, environmental racism, and climate change.

We humans have created incredible damage, changing the natural greenhouse. In the last century, “the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make CO2. The effects of this burning emerges in many ways, and strikingly in raised global temperatures.”1 What’s more, climate “exacerbates nearly all existing inequality” as a crisis that “dangerously intersects race and class.”2

This socio-scientific data tells us that we people of faith need to respond to the earth with radical love. We do so with the understanding that our collective “we” power is more powerful than our individual actions. Collectively we respond to climate and environmental injustice, knowing that women, people of color, and people who are poor are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation.

We must respond if we believe in the God who created all things out of love and called it good.

But we must also respond quickly. The National Climate Change Assessment Report released in 2018 noted that we have just 12 years to slow and stop climate change. Our ecosystems, agriculture, atmosphere and more are all degrading quickly with the ongoing complicity of fossil fuel companies and our individual and ecclesial use of and investment in fossil fuels.

Twelve years is not many years at all.

I am no longer that 5 year old girl enamored with the trees of my childhood. Now I am a woman entranced by the whole world.

Still: we must again love the earth in the ways we did when we were children. We must harness our imaginations and create a new story together. This story must be one that loves the leaves and the tree — and also other people. This story must be one that’s willing to take risks and bravely abandon business as usual.

If God loves the world, we need love to it extravagantly if we are going to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To be church, whether now or next, we must boldly act with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength…and with our wallets too. What we love, study, advocate for, worship, and invest in are marks of what and in whom we believe.

Nothing less than our whole selves will do.

1 “A Blanket Around the Earth,” Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, last modified December 11, 2018, https://climate.nasa.gov/causes
2 James B. Martin-Shramm. Climate Justice: Ethics, Energy, and Public Policy. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010), 12. A synthesis of that ground-breaking report is available here: Larry Bernstiein et al., “Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Plenary XXVII, November 12-17, 2007, https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr.pdf, 128.


abby mohaupt is Senior Advisor for Education and Training at GreenFaith, Director at the Green Seminary Initiative, Adjunct Professor at McCormick Theological Seminary and Moderator at Fossil Free PCUSA.

Stewardship as Intentional Caring

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Deborah Rexrode is curating a blog series called “A New Perspective on Stewardship.” We’ll hear from some stewardship experts across the country on a wide range of what stewardship means for them. What are ways stewardship can be a spiritual practice? How might we come to a new understanding of the role of stewardship in ministry? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Jordan Davis

When I was a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary, “stewardship” might as well have been a four-letter word. My understanding, at the time, was that stewardship meant a request for money (of which I had very little!) and stewardship month was the most painful month of the church.

When I was asked to write about stewardship and the seminary student, I groaned but also prayed that maybe my experience was a unique one. I have learned a great deal about stewardship since those early years, but also I have been working on a capital campaign at Union Presbyterian Seminary for three years. I knew that our students have heard a lot about money and I hoped that we hadn’t clouded their minds in the recent months.

And so, I took to social media and asked “What do you think of when you hear ‘stewardship’?” Preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, I began to read the responses and y’all… the future of the Church is in good hands!

Rather than worrying about money, seminary students are worrying about — wait for it — caring! An overwhelming number of responses came in highlighting that stewardship is about caring for God’s creation through the use of our time, talents, influence, and (of course) money. Special concern was shown for stewardship of the earth, in the way that those resources are both cared for and used.

One word that was used in these responses was “intentionality.” I think that this is what sets seminary students apart from so many: their intentionality. Our seminarians are being taught to think critically and act intentionally. Papers and actions are dissected as every word and movement is looked at through the lens of an “other” in hopes that they can learn more and therefore model better. Seminarians are learning that ministry is not just about preaching on Sunday morning and visiting hospital rooms during the week. Ministry in the 21st century is about breaking down barriers as we both look at and refine the way we live with one another in God’s creation. This intentionality, this thoughtful care, is quickly becoming the new face of stewardship.

I spend a great deal of time with congregations of all shapes and sizes, and I have heard my (not so fair) share of stewardship sermons and campaigns. I am always so disappointed at the focus placed on money, especially in areas where I know that money may not be the best or most accessible resource for that particular congregation. I have grown weary and frustrated with the idea that no ministry can happen without someone sitting poised and ready to write a check! If we will give these students a chance, if we will welcome them into our congregations and give them the space they need, they just might change the way that we minister in the 21st century.

Yes, Jesus spoke of money, but he mostly spoke of care and love for one another. I fear that many of us have lost focus of this crucial message in our attempts to “save the church.” Every year when the “ask” is made for a financial pledge (which IS vital, but maybe not the most important), more members grow tired and our congregations grow weaker. If we give these students space as they begin their ministry and heed their advice in our own ministries that have already changed multiple times, maybe our congregations will find new energy and endurance in their care for one another and God’s creation!

I also asked current seminary students how they are involved in stewardship.  One of my favorite answers was simply, “Through immersion.” I think of the students I regularly see in my work, and I think of the time they spend carrying compost buckets, serving in multiple capacities within congregations, cleaning kennels at the animal shelters, and hosting prayer vigils. They help to fundraise and they remind those of us who are so focused on money the importance of coming together to play.

Stewardship is about caring, and I think it is time that we allow these students to be our teachers.


Jordan B. Davis received her Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary in 2014 and has a passion for building relationships within the Church and the world. Jordan devoted her time at Union to finding ways to strengthen the community through fellowship and worship. Taking a call as a Church Relations Officer for the seminary was a natural next step after graduation. She enjoys working in a setting allows her to continue learning both from congregations and students, recognizing that the church is already very different from when she started on this journey! Learn more about her ministry at www.congregationalcorner.wordpress.com.

Book Review: Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible and the Ecological Crisis

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During September, Leanne Pearce Reed is curating a month of blog posts exploring stewardship of all creation. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Walter Canter

Patricia Tull’s book Inhabiting Eden searches the wisdom of the Old Testament for a way of ideal relationship with God and creation. Tull ends up in Genesis and Isaiah (along with a supporting cast of plenty other texts from across the OT and gospels) basing her approach to the ecological crisis in humanity’s identity and prophetic call.

Photo from: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Gtu0Wp1TL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Tull begins with a broad assessment of human relationship with God and creation—she finds that the relationship we have isn’t the ideal depicted in Scripture. After the broad overview, Tull assesses the implications of this less than ideal relationship in regards to commerce, food, animal life, and human rights. Inhabiting Eden ends with a hopeful prophetic call to renewed relationship with God and creation through living within the planet’s means.

Throughout Inhabiting Eden, Tull challenges contemporary understandings of ‘environment.’ Environment, to Tull, is not isolated to the nearest wetland, national park or forest. The environment that needs our care and respect in Eden is everywhere. All humans live in an environment and human action affects both the immediate environment as well as the beautiful places of wilderness. The story of creation includes everything, no part of this world is out of God’s reach and all parts of this world are loving gifts from its Creator. Using this all-encompassing definition of environment, Tull develops a theology of gratitude.

Within the ordered and fundamentally good creation, humans have the vocation of caretakers. God provides what we need, and in response to that providing, human beings have the task of preserving these gifts. In Tull’s words, “We were intended to draw sustenance from creation’s bounty. With each breath, we take in God’s provision of air; with each drink, the precious water supply; with each bit of bread, the manna for one more day of love and service. We can begin to uphold the world that upholds us by recognizing these gifts with gratitude, especially our place in an ordered world that is full and fundamentally good, and our vocation to preserve the goodness and health of this living, teeming, exuberant world” (30).

Tull, along with the biblical prophets, shapes her call for justice around an understanding of change in the world. The ecological crisis comes out of dangerous change, but hope comes out of an acknowledgement that just as change in human behavior brought danger, a new change in human behavior can overcome that danger.

Tull’s writing style and structure is accessible; she dives into current ecological issues and scriptural study with clear and concise language. Tull’s accessibility makes it tempting to read quickly, but the depth, poignancy, and relevance of the information often left me pausing to assess my own handling of these sacred texts in relation to my everyday activity. There were even a few moments in Inhabiting Eden where I paused mid paragraph to google things like, “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” hoping that Tull’s description of our planet’s state was hyperbolic (it wasn’t… and ew).

Inhabiting Eden is an excellent read that reminds the reader of the timeless power of Scripture as it challenges the reader to see these old texts in a new light.


Provided by: Walter Canter

Rev. Walter Canter is pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church of Big Lick in Crossville, TN. He’s an avid soccer fan and enjoys hiking with his wife (and occasionally his dog). Contact him at canterjw@gmail.com.

Tracking Energy Savings with Portfolio Manager

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During September, Leanne Pearce Reed is curating a month of blog posts exploring stewardship of all creation. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter! Read more

Stewardship of Creation

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During September and October, Leanne Pearce Reed is curating a month of blog posts exploring stewardship of all creation. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

Read more