Resurrection and Freedom In the Context of Climate Change

Jurgen Moltmann has gathered ten essays together into a challenging and enlightening book: The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis), 2007. Known for his extensive writings on the theme of hope, the threads of hope are here interwoven within the current climate crisis. Readers are encouraged to delve into his work directly. What follows here are some reflections stimulated by these essays, applications to the current climate crisis. This is one of many in a series of blogs based on Moltmann.

People argue they must be free. They argue, because they experience a threat to that freedom. They are not free. They feel rights are being taken away. Their comfortable lifestyles may be reduced. Jobs are threatened. Careers devoted sacrificially to provide the energy resources for our free and comfortable lives… are being criticized, shamed and blamed for environmental degradation and global death.

 
What’s the answer? More freedom! Maybe even the freedom to leave the confederation and create new, independent, self-determining provinces! Great rallying cry. But what does that really mean?

 
Perhaps we begin with freedom that is not trivial. Isn’t that the point? Freedom is not trivial; it is essential – to everything! True. But freedom is also not merely individual.

 
Consider that freedom, the struggle for freedom, is somehow determined over against someone other, someone else. And indeed, that tension, that conflict usually takes the form of reciprocity or revenge. That struggle for freedom begins with a sense of alienation. “I am not like you…. I will wrench my freedom, my rights, my independence from you!” But does this battle for independence really create “a better justice”?

 
Moltmann points to the disquiet Jesus caused. Moltmann quotes Herbert Marcuse who said, “In a world in which hate has been everywhere institutionalized, nothing is more frightful than the preaching of love.” (p.99). “Do not hate your enemy,” Jesus said. But continuing the thoughts of Marcuse… “Marcuse called the hatred of exploitation and oppression a humane and humanistic element in itself. But if justifiable hatred of exploitation does not go hand in hand with hope for the birth of true man (sic) in the exploiter, revolution will become more and more like the oppression itself.” (PP.99-100)

 
It could be argued that this climate crisis is all about degrading people and creatures and nature to things. People are consumers. Or cheap labor. Resources are commodities. Borders are raised against any who might want to immigrate and share in good fortune. Borders are lowered by trade agreements or defended by increasing tariffs and trade restrictions. Climate change is calling for more revolutionary schemes than reconciliation efforts. The inhumanity that has contributed to climate change is increasing, not decreasing.

 
We do not gain freedom by defending our individual interests. What is the source of evil threatening our freedom? Moltmann identifies that the various liberation movements point to equally varied “sources of evil.” (see page 100 of the text).

 
“Socialists maintain that capitalism is the source of everything that is bad, and call racialism and sexual discrimination merely capitalist epiphenomena.” Or maybe the problem is rampant, institutionalized, militarized racism? Or maybe the sexual oppression of women is the beginning of all oppression?

 
Ecologists rant against the material exploitation of nature. But then Moltmann queries, “Only seldom does anyone ask the question, why and through what have people arrived at capitalistic, racialist and sexist aggression?” (100). And he observes, “everywhere we find oppressed oppressors, who aggressively pass on to others the suffering which they themselves experience.” (100) It’s about fear changing into aggression.

 
Moltmann calls freedom a rare, dangerous and frightening blessing. “In order to take the risk [of freedom] we need an unshakeable hope, which would rather be disappointed than disappoint others, and a firm trust, which would rather be wounded than hurt others.” (101)

 
Sound familiar? The price of freedom is high. “It is true,” Moltmann says, “anyone who is prepared for freedom must be prepared for the cross. The messianic secret ‘man’ is seldom revealed in any other way than ‘as dying and behold we live.’ Freedom on the cross: that is the gospel.” (101)

 
But isn’t suffering a scandal? Isn’t that exactly why we groan in our bones for freedom? Listen again to Moltmann…

 
“The Job-like figure of Israel, the people of the Exodus, suffering for a thousand long years, remains a point of orientation for all liberation movements which in the depths their hope encounter the messianic kingdom of ‘man.’ And the fact that the liberty of the resurrection became manifest through the forsaken, oppressed and crucified Son of man remains the hope for the hopeless.” (101)

 
That should be all that needs to be said. Except, there is the encounter with Jesus who promises freedom but only to those who admit they are not free. And then the call to those who are made free, to, in turn set free the captive and the oppressed and the imprisoned.

 
What does that mean for climate change? There will be no freedom from climate change until people choose to accompany the suffering – the people, the creatures, the wind and the water and the land… and choose to sacrificially let go, to offer what we have to those who don’t have, so others also may be free.

Next time, the captivity of the church….

Stewardship of Creation – Involving More than Farmers

Jurgen Moltmann has gathered ten essays together into a challenging and enlightening book: The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis), 2007. Known for his extensive writings on the theme of hope, the threads of hope are here interwoven within the current climate crisis. Readers are encouraged to delve into his work directly. What follows here are some reflections stimulated by these essays, applications to the current climate crisis. This is one of many in a series of blogs based on Moltmann.

If we are serious about “Stewardship of Creation,” who needs to be involved? Who are the key players in the care of the planet? Imagine a gathering of people who sit at the table to contribute to the planning and acting to save Earth from the Climate Crisis…

 
You might begin with a farmer, someone working in agriculture, committed to the environment on a daily basis and working to feed the planet in a sustainable way, someone whose livelihood, whose family, whose way of rural life all hinge on saving the planet. Perhaps an obvious way to begin.

 
But wait… What does it mean to “save” the planet?

 
Moltmann speaks about resurrection as experiencing freedom, liberation. Salvation is about being set free and, in turn, setting free, as Jesus said. But, since all things are interdependent, salvation and freedom take place on multiple levels. It’s not just a religious thing. But it may require beginning with religious transformation.

 
Moltmann writes…
Liberation takes place today; In the struggle for economic justice against the exploitation of man (sic). 2) In the struggle for human dignity and human rights against the political oppression of man. 3) In the struggle for human solidarity against the alienation of man from man. 4) In the struggle for peace with nature against the industrial destruction of the environment. 5) In the struggle with hope against apathy in asserting the significance of the whole in personal life. (p.110)

 
Pope Francis, in his encyclical for the care of the planet, understands the stewardship of creation is more than science and technology, plants and animals. The care of the planet is about social justice, sustainable economics, shared power, and communal decision-making.

 
So, if we are really concerned about the stewardship of creation, and if we are honest about the interconnectedness of all things, the mutual interdependence of all things, then there is a community that must gather to plan and act for global stewardship. It’s not just about farmers.

 
We need bankers, investment brokers and economists who will create an economy that does not merely benefit the rich and, in fact, is sustained for the time-being by the rich, for the development of the poor.

 
We need politicians, lawyers and justices who will draft and enforce legislation that ensure the rights of the poor, the voiceless, the marginalized, including creatures that are not human, as well as the preservation of the earth, the air, and the waters.

 
We need communities no longer divided by walls, whether physical structures or the structures built by prejudice, bias and fear. Communities that cooperate and collaborate, sharing mutually in the responsibilities, the efforts and the well-being. Communities that are tied not just to the neighborhood and the local economy but are tied to other communities regionally, nationally, and globally.

 
We need scientists and technicians, research and development pioneers, who will imagine and take risks and invest money, time and effort into ways that will restore the balance of creation and ensure sustainable environments.

 
And we need poets, musicians, artists, psychologists, and spiritual leaders who will tame the fear, comfort the despairing, encourage the exhausted, and thereby tie individuals to something more than themselves individually, to some greater story, some greater meaning, some greater goal.

 
Moltmann would say if any one of those five sectors is not free, no one is free. So, we can’t do it alone. We can’t rely on someone else to do it for us. We need do it together. And we need to do it quickly.

 
As long as we defend our rights over the rights of others, our profit over the losses of others, our present comforts at the expense of others’ future survival…. we are not free. And neither is anyone or anything else.

 
Stewardship of creation is so much more than light bulbs, compostable bags, insulation and fuel efficiency. It is about justice and God’s preference for the well-being of the poor. It is about choosing to share in the suffering of creation, in order that it might be redeemed and raised up.

 
It means sharing in the image of God – the image of creativity and compassion, justice and shalom, forgiveness and grace.

 
Our problem right now is that we have scientists arguing among themselves. Politicians and economists are arguing with environmentalists.

 
Even Christians are arguing – but that’s fodder for another blog.

 
It seems, people are arguing for our rights – and our profits – and our platforms – and our jobs – and…. whatever else, instead of seeking understanding and imagining new possibilities for our planet and our common good.

 
Meanwhile, the poor in developing countries, the marginalized, people without access to education, health benefits, sustainable food, clean water, inexpensive and renewable power… have no voice even to argue.

 
What’s it going to take? Some say we need some global catastrophe – or at least a series of catastrophes closer to home – to wake us up, catch the urgency, and demand deep and immediate change – change involving everyone.

 
But isn’t that already happening? What’s getting in the way of seeking the common good? Individual and systemic, corporate, political greed! This is a spiritual problem, requiring a change of heart.

 
We need hope, common sense, community collaboration… and we need it now!

Freedom, Liberation and the Suffering of God

Jurgen Moltmann has gathered ten essays together into a challenging and enlightening book: The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis), 2007. Known for his extensive writings on the theme of hope, the threads of hope are here interwoven within the current climate crisis. Readers are encouraged to delve into his work directly. What follows here are some reflections stimulated by these essays, applications to the current climate crisis. This is one of many in a series of blogs based on Moltmann.

In an earlier blog (Aug. 22) I discussed the “apathy” of God, as Moltmann describes it. If, in the classic sense of God being” the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”; if God is immoveable, unfeeling, constant, therefore without passion, or the capacity for empathy; then God will not and cannot suffer. But that is not how God has chosen to be; that is not how God has revealed the Divine to be. God has emptied himself, in Christ. God has chosen to participate in the suffering of humanity, indeed all creation, by becoming fully a part of creation.

 

God watches, not dispassionately, and not from a distance, the suffering of humankind – economic exploitation, cultural alienation, the emptiness of personal life – the destruction of rampant capitalism, dictatorship, racism, sexual discrimination – “deeply ingrained primal fear” (p.97) expressing itself as aggressive inhumanity tearing people from people. God cannot ignore this. God will not be blind and deaf, but God hears the cries of God’s children and sees the stains of bloodshed and tears. There is no apathy in the heart of God.

 
God could respond with rage, and God has been described just so. But perhaps such rage is merely the projection of a people suffering indignity and rising in protest. But God chooses to identify with creation and take the wounds of the creation into the very being of the Creator. To suffer. And even to die.

 
But “the mystery of evil,” as Moltmann writes, is not in “the death of God,” but “the death of man” (sic p. 98). It is the cry of creation, the external creation and the human creation, torn apart in alienation. “Nature and our own bodies have become alien to us. We have turned the natural environment into material for our exploiting domination. We have debased the body we are into the body we have and thus have condemned them both to death.” (p.98)

 
But if nature and humanity are united in a common suffering, they are also united in a single hope. “Matter in us and round about us is hungering for the power of the new creation… They will be either destroyed by their division and enmity, or they will survive as partners in the new creation.”(p.98)

 
A new creation. Is there a new creation? Assuredly. Moltmann speaks of the glory of God beginning at the beginning and moving forward in time. Like the unfolding of a story, we look for what comes next. That is hope.

 
But eschatologically, beginning at the end, we see how the assured promise of God works backward! The new creation is not only what will be, but the new creation already is. The promise is already complete. “It is finished,” as Jesus said. So, our hope in the promise to come is already confirmed in the promise that is already fulfilled. This is the work of Love, drawing us into God’s intended purpose.

 
Listen to Moltmann: “[God] suffers with his people in exile, he suffers with his humanity which has become inhuman, he suffers with his creation which is enslaved and under sentence of death. He suffers with them, he suffers because of them, and he suffers for them. His suffering is his messianic secret. For he has created men for liberty – to be the image of himself. He created nature for joy – as the joy for his pleasure.” (p.98)

 
Our humanity seems to be driven by a spirit of fear. And that fear is destroying one another and the nature around us. But our true humanity is inspired, enlivened, and empowered to the same Love known and now lived in the image of God. The fear-driven humanity sees scarcity and seeks to keep doing what has been done until now, to insure there is enough profit to put food on the table and gas in the car and clothes on the backs of our children. Let the children in the third world fend for themselves. Let our grandchildren and great grandchildren develop their own technologies, economies, and policies to sort this all out.

 
And don’t bother about the animals, the waters, and the trees.

 
However, humanity in the image of God, sees the children at the table and breaks bread with them. But sees also the empty chairs and seeks to share bread beyond the table … and to comfort those who mourn the absence of their children never again to be at the table. Humanity in the image of God hears the sounds of the insects and the songs of the birds, delighting first in the lyrics present, but also recognizing the tones forever missing.

 

Humanity in the image of God, pulls up the sheets, turns out the lights, and turns the locks on the doors, thankful that the children are snug in their beds. At the same time, there is regret that others have no beds, have no sheets, have no lights and have no security this night. But humanity, in the image of God, gazes out into the darkness and says, “Tomorrow, this will be different….”

 
Next time… Resurrection and Freedom….

Thanksgiving – Climate Crisis and the Glory of God

Jurgen Moltmann has gathered ten essays together into a challenging and enlightening book: The Future of Creation: Collected Essays, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis), 2007. Known for his extensive writings on the theme of hope, the threads of hope are here interwoven within the current climate crisis. Readers are encouraged to delve into his work directly. What follows here are some reflections stimulated by these essays, applications to the current climate crisis. This is one of many in a series of blogs based on Moltmann.

 

The following reflection is based on Moltmann’s essay “The Trinitarian History of God,” pages 88-91.

 

How was your Thanksgiving? Besides giving thanks for friends, family, good food, a job, and good health, were you also thankful for the climate crisis? For the upcoming election? For the polarity of parties and leaders? The polarity over indigenous rights, women’s rights, gender rights? The polarity over the rights of refugees and immigrants, as well as the rights of the poor and homeless?

 
Give thanks? Why? Because they point to the glory of God!

 
Moltmann in this essay, of which these pages are but a part, speaks of the glory of God being revealed from the past forward, but also from the future to the past. From the past forward, the glory of the Father is revealed in the Son, who is revealed through the Spirit. Creation moves through incarnation, to suffering death and resurrection, and the expanding mission of the church. But from the future, from the eschaton, the final days backward, the glory of the Spirit, the Wisdom and the ultimate fulfilment of God’s purpose and time points backward to the glory of the Son, revealed in the resurrection, pointing to the power and glory of the Son’s suffering and life of obedience, back to the glory of the Father’s faithfulness in covenant and earlier in creation.

 
So, looking from the past to the present and on to the future, the crisis of creation and the oppression by the powerful over the “others,” the marginalized, the poor, the voiceless, there seems little glory right now. There seems little for which to be thankful. Indeed, these seem to be times of despair and failure.

 
However. Looking from the glory of God’s ultimate victory, vindication and restoration, this is the time of pending redemption, the time of promises fulfilled. Not the promises of industry, technology or economy but the promises of God. Trusting in the glory of God, not to come, but already revealed, this is a time of hope. We live already in the glory of God, life in glory becoming life for glory.

 
So, this can be a time of thanksgiving. God’s glory has been fulfilled. It is a time of peace, reconciliation, restoration, shalom. That is the end I expect now. That is the end I will work for. That is the end I intend, because God intends it and has accomplished it.

 
That glory is already known by faith. The power of the resurrection making suffering endurable, maybe even a chosen option. It is glory in sharing, rather than acquiring; glory in serving, not dominating; glory in inclusiveness, not isolation or disparagement.

 
These seem like dark times. But there is already a light, not a light to come, as interpreting glory from past to present to future, but a light already present, from the future to now.

 
This is new life, new being, new possibility. This is already a new creation. Lives are already reconciled. Lives are already embraced by Love.

 
So, what does this mean at times like these? There is abundance, not scarcity. There is justice, not missing, but already available, recognizable, waiting to be revealed, waiting to be lived into. There is a unity, not because we all agree, not because we all have the same advantages and opportunities, but because we are all one family, one people, one flesh and bone. We live now in the glory of God.

 
If we wait for the glory to come, wait for the glory that is not now but… wait, what if it does not come? In despair, we quit before we start. But, because the glory is already, because there is a new reality that comes from God’s future, the future of God’s making, not the future of our making, we have a different vision, a different motivation, a different energy, a different Spirit.

 
So, we really can and do sing Thanksgiving hymns. Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And glory to the Spirit who accomplishes the glory of the Son, so the Father may be glorified.

 
Happy Thanksgiving… and the future that is now.

Theological Concepts and Care of Creation – A Discussion Starter

The purpose of this blog is to stimulate reflection and discussion on theological matters related to the stewardship of creation in a climate crisis. The following are some common theological terms and possible descriptions or definitions. Binary (either this or that) thinking often isn’t helpful. But in this case, different understandings are offered in tension. This is not a quiz (ABABBA). Instead, use this as a help to differentiate your own thinking. This is not reflective of a complete, systematic theology. Use this as a discussion starter. Have some fun.

Creation: A collection of things in the world, living or not, to be enjoyed, used, and when profitable, marketed for human benefit. Creation changes over time; long, long time, and in short time. Creation has no intrinsic value except how it may benefit humankind. Or… Things in the world, living or not, are inseparably intertwined, interrelated and interdependent. Creation is not a thing, an “it”, a collective object, but rather creation is in relationship with itself and humanity. Creation has intrinsic value simply because it is; it has dignity and requires respect. Creation began billions of years ago and continues to evolve.

Human beings: Part of creation but more. Sometimes called “the crown of creation.” Human beings are the best of the evolutionary process. Capable of consciousness and autonomy. Or… As part of creation, human beings are deeply interdependent and interrelated with the rest of creation. As such, human beings have a responsibility to care for creation and insure its viability and sustainability. Human beings have an enormous capacity to benefit creation but could also do catastrophic harm. Human beings, together with the rest of creation, are evolving.

Stewardship: The capacity among human beings to manage, maintain and benefit from creation. Or… The responsibility of humankind to monitor and care for creation so the interdependence and interrelationship of creation remain beneficial and sustainable for the sake of all creation, not just human beings. Humankind does not own creation. Humankind remains accountable, to itself, or creation itself, as though to a higher authority.

Creation Crisis: Changes in weather patterns, global temperature, ocean levels and acidity; desertification; forest and prairie fires; are tragic but are part of the cyclical and seasonal patterns of creation over thousands of years. Or… Since industrialization, since the mid-eighteen hundreds, weather patterns; the loss of animal and plant species; rising temperatures; disappearing sea ice; the acidification of ocean and inland waters; rising tides; increasing levels of pollution in land, air and water; the loss of forests and accompanying desertification; and loss of habitat can be observable, measurable, and attributable to human industrial and commercial activity. There have been five catastrophic extinctions over the last four billion years. A fifth catastrophic extinction, called the Anthropocene, is possible and due to human activity. Should humankind not act immediately and responsibly for the reversal of its destructive behavior, the result will be loss of civilization as we know it and unrecoverable loss of plant and animal species. Some have said that human life is behaving more like an “invasive species” than responsible stewards.

Church: People of God united by specific beliefs, practices, rituals and doctrines. The chosen ones. Different from broader humanity and other religions. A body of people that holds firmly to its exclusivity. Or… People of God, united by common behaviors reflective of the values, teachings, and principles of the person of Jesus, the Christ. A body of people united by an inclusive spirit, practicing compassion, justice, humility and generosity, and seeking the well-being of all creation.

Image of God: Having special capacities for consciousness, initiative, autonomy, and creativity. A reflection of God on earth. Having superiority, sovereignty and dominion over creation. Or… The capacity and responsibility to act as God would act. Less an adjective, more a verb. Humanity acts “to image” the Divine in care, compassion, creativity, generosity, protection; reparative, restorative and sustainable justice.

The end times: God will intervene in history to bring all to completion. The good and righteous believers will be rescued. All else will be destroyed. In which case, there is no need to protect creation over generations of time. Or… God will intervene in history to bring all to completion. The good and righteous believers will be rescued. All else will be destroyed. In which case, there is no need to protect creation over generations of time. In fact, it may be to the assistance of God to initiate a cataclysm, such as a nuclear war, destroy this earth, and fulfill God’s intended purpose. Or… God in judgement will allow the failing of creation and the end of humankind. While human civilization as we know it will be destroyed, creation will continue to involve in new, reparative ways. Or… Humanity will respond politically, economically, technologically and scientifically. Humanity and creation will continue to repair itself and evolve. God’s “end” will be the continuation of life seeking Life and the fulfillment of Love.

God: A divine person, spirit or force existing apart from, above, or over creation. A Creator. May or may not override laws of nature and intervene miraculously. Authoritative, sovereign and judging, this God will ultimately hold all humanity responsible for its care or destruction of creation and violation of divine will. Or… Unexplainable. Indescribable. Source of Life. Source of Love. Wisdom. Consciousness. Deeply involved with creation. Known to have expressed the divine presence and purpose in the person of Jesus Christ, in creation. Suffers with creation. Seeks redemptive, restorative purposes. Benevolent, providing for the well-being of creation, seeking healing and restoration. Evident in the evolutionary process that becomes ever more complex, ever more purposeful, ever more conscious. Creation continues and evolves as life seeking Life.

Economy: The driving force for continual expansion and development. The exchange of goods and services. The management and use of resources for good and profitable purposes. Capable of ever- expanding growth, due to imagination, innovation, research and design, the discovery, reinvention and reapplication of resources. Associated with market principles but affected by human emotions, psychology and social dynamics. Or… Based on the root of oikonomia, the management of the household. Less about profitability and profit-taking for a few, the economy provides for the management and well-being of the whole. Modern social economy distributes resources to the advantage of few. Tariffs, treaties, contracts and agreements ensure that power and decision-making remain with those individuals, institutions and governments in power. The economy required for the care of creation ensures a wide distribution of resources, greater access to clean water, affordable housing and power, equitable education and healthcare. This economy lays greater burden on developed countries for the benefit of resources for developing countries. Laborers are paid a living wage and have influence in decision-making. A just economy provides for the security, development and protection of all affected, human and otherwise.

Prophecy: A criticism of what is. Sometimes loaded with shame and blame. Often spoken in anger, including a harsh warning or retribution. Frequently interpreted by listeners as without basis or authority. Possibly treated with skepticism and scorn. Or… A statement of truth spoken to power. More than criticism and blame, this prophecy holds up a vision, not only of what is, but of what might be. Authority for the message rests more on promises to be trusted. Often contains an unexpected surprise.

Hope: Hope is the expectation for future development based on expectations of past performance and current principles and agreements. This hope tends to expect the expansion and continuance of the status quo. Those in power stay in power. Or… Hope, in a theological sense, anticipates the possibility of change. The root of possibility is not in the reliability of things as they are, but in the trust that something promised will be fulfilled. In fact, the assurance of that fulfillment is guaranteed in the promise. The promise is not that “maybe” something will be done or happen, but the promise has been made, and the outcome will be fulfilled as promised. What will be is already assured.

This in no way completes the theological possibilities in reflecting on the ecological crisis. Watch this space for further theological terms and ideas, particularly those of a cross-centered, Christo-centric, and life-death- and resurrection of Christ natures.

Now That the ELCIC Convention Has Passed…

Our church in convention passed three motions relating to the climate crisis. These motions may be found on pages 34 and 35 of the Final Revised Bulletin of Reports, Section F, 05-28-2019. (https://elcic.app.box.com/s/ghr8b9rjgpsay5jjdtzepn2mq5zigqqh/file/464889545661)

 
The first motion has to do with single use plastics. Respecting that in some cases single use plastics, such a straws, are required, the motion encourages individuals and faith communities to reduce their reliance on single use plastics. But it’s the last point of the motion that carries the most weight: The Church “embraces an on going call to be mindful Stewards of Creation and to seek a healthy relationship with the earth.”

 
What might it look like to put this motion into action? Now congregations and faith communities are encouraged to think twice about what is cheap and convenient. What will be used at the next church picnic, banquet, or youth event? Will congregations develop this into a policy required of organizations that rent their space? And how will congregations support families and individuals to make the changes at home? And this is not just about straws! What about those pesky, filmy, hard-to-get-open bags for fruit and veg in the produce aisle? And if this is so important for our homes and congregations, what might churches do to advocate for sustainable packaging at the grocery, hardware store, and pharmacy?

 
It’s that last point that carries the church into the heart of the climate crisis. What does it mean to be a steward of creation? What does that look like in worship, education and public service? How will this engagement affect decisions about sustainable energy, energy efficient housing, sustainable transportation? When is this challenge less about light bulbs and more about justice?

 
Part of the answer lies in the second motion, to become carbon neutral by 2050. “The National Convention directs the National Church Council to investigate what would be required for the ELCIC to be carbon neutral by 2050, and to report to the 2022 National Convention.” What does it mean to be carbon neutral? What does that mean at the congregational level, in the synods, and at the national church office? How will this affect the required board meetings and conventions? And what about our commitments to partnerships with the global church?

 
The convention three years from now will have an immense challenge before it. But it’s the challenge now that matters! 2050? That’s a generation from now! And we won’t get there if we wait until 2022 to talk about what we might do.

 
People have this notion that climate change is a gradual thing. It happens slowly. There’s lots of time. And some other convention will deal with it and pay for it. Not so.

 
If our world, politics, and industry alike, is going to meet the goals of the Paris Accord, change has to happen before 2030… the turning point to reduce our increasing carbon crisis is in the next 18 months. 18 months!

 
So the challenge must go immediately to our synods to provide leadership now. Our congregations and faith groups need resources now – the vision now! Perhaps – and there will be push-back on this – perhaps the funds set aside for mission development need to be freed up and assigned to synods for the implementation of stewardship of creation. Perhaps synodical teams could be established for inter-synodical support, resource sharing and visioning, including stories of successful undertakings. Then these synodical teams would mobilize local and regional activities for the care of Our Common Home. And accountability would begin three months from now and would continue every three months until 2022.

 
The church in convention gave us the challenge. Now National Church Council and each of our Synod Councils must provide the resources to meet that challenge.

 
There’s one more motion to be enabled. The National Convention “encourages congregations, faith communities, ministry organizations, areas, and synods to participate in the ELCIC Stewardship of Creation: Greening Faith Communities.”

 
Remember the motion to empower the greening of our congregations? It was made a long time ago. And there was some progress when we had a person assigned to drive it. Careful reading of convention minutes in the ELCIC and ELCA reveal the church has been discussing and making motions for thirty-five years!

 
I’m thankful for the intention of this motion. But again, I ask, “what now?” Who drives this? And what resources will we put behind this? The convention met July 11-13. At least some of us are still talking about it. We can’t let it go. This won’t go on the shelf to gather dust and become forgotten.

 
We cannot ignore the cries of creation and the cries of the poor….

“Big Oil undermines U.N. climate goals with $50 bln of new projects report”

https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-change-oil/big-oil-undermines-u-n-climate-goals-with-50-bln-of-new-projects-report-idUSL5N25W3AG

 

The article (Reuters, September 5) began with very disappointing, if not dismaying, news:
“Major oil companies have approved $50 billion of projects since last year that will not be economically viable if governments implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, think – tank Carbon Tracker said in a report published on Friday.

 
The analysis found that investment plans by Royal Dutch Shell, BP and ExxonMobil among other companies will not be compatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

 
The article then stated that big oil and gas companies have welcomed the UN-backed Paris Agreement. The 1.5 degrees target is a “tipping point” scientists claim at which “sea-level rise, natural disasters, forced migration, failed harvests and deadly heat waves will start to intensify.”

 
Apparently, however, eighteen newly approved oil and gas projects worth US $50 billion could be left “deep out of the money” in a lower carbon world.”

 
Worse yet, oil and gas companies could be “wasting” US $2.2 trillion by 2030 if governments apply stricter curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.

 
The article went on to say that investors are exerting pressure to bring projects alongside the Paris goals. And indeed some companies are responding.

 
“While some companies including Shell, BP, Total and Equinox have increased spending on renewable energy and introduced carbon reduction targets, the sector says it needs to continue investing in new projects to meet future demand for oil and gas as Asian economies expand.”

 
The article further reports that Shell has set out “an ambition” to halve carbon emissions by 2050. Shell is reported to say, “As the energy system evolves, so is our business, to provide the mix of products that our customers need.”

 
BP is claiming that the company is evolving from an oil and gas focused company “so that we are best equipped to help the world get to net zero while meeting rising energy demand.” (emphasis mine)

 
Something is not matching here, is it? Carbon Tracker reports that “the big oil and gas companies spent at least 30% of their investment on projects that are inconsistent with the path to limit global warming to even 1.6 degrees Celsius.

 
It seems clear, at least in light of this report, that what is driving investment is the sense of competition with global producers. Companies want their share of the revenue pie, even if the pie is making the world sick.

 
As long as there is a market, as long as there is demand, there are companies willing to supply that demand. Wait, hasn’t society said that some demands are unhealthy, destructive and harmful to the common good? Hasn’t society said that when harm is evident and puts public well-being at risk, then such products are to de controlled, restricted, and even eliminated?

 
It seems clear that investors have some effective say in making changes, but until that say is louder and more insistent, the company directors are not willing to truly transform the company identity and direction into new, renewable and sustainable resources and products.

 
It seems clear that accountability for not-so-distant-future investment lies more in company policy and short-term profit margins than any agreement by our governments to compassion and justice-making, or any real consideration of a new bottom line, with benefits other than merely financial.

 
It seems clear that the company will evolve as the energy system evolves; when in fact Earth needs the energy system changes now and companies need to lead that change, not follow it! If the carbon emissions are to be reduced, so as to attain the target of 1.5 degrees C. over pre-industrial levels, then the turning point is not in twelve or thirty years. Target dates of 2030 and 2050 are misleading. The turning point is in the next eighteen months!

 
Companies do not stay in business by wasting trillions of dollars. It seems clear that companies are willing to waste $2.2 trillion dollars because they do not foresee, nor intend to achieve, Paris goals within that time.

 
I gave been giving the benefit of the doubt to companies making small steps toward innovation. I have publicly expressed my appreciation for the life-style our oil and gas companies have given us. I have expressed support for the protection of workers and their families dependent on energy development and resources, who bear the immediate risk to their livelihoods.

 
However, when forty million people are homeless – and another twenty million, at risk; when families are displaced by rising tides, raging fires, and devastating storms; when species of plants and animals are becoming extinct, never to be recovered; news like this about the actions of our major oil companies seems like a deadly slap in the face!

 
I appeal to the directors, employers and employees of these companies; I appeal to government leaders; I appeal to our international partners who make agreements in good faith but seem to be powerless to enforce them. I appeal to a voice of reason, a voice of compassion, a voice of justice, a voice of hope. There must be another way. Let’s truly invest our billions and trillions of dollars in what benefits our Common Home. We are all stakeholders in a common future.