Friday, April 16, 2021

Creation-care: Working toward net-zero carbon emissions

Five General Agencies of the UMC are joining together this year to commit to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions* in their operations and as a resource for the whole denomination.  We look forward to their initiative and the harvest of responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources that it will produce in years to come. For more information, take a look at this YouTube resource from our denominational agencies:

What a timely agenda as we approach Earth Day 2021, Tuesday, April 20. Though not a program of the UMC, “Earth Day” is an annual reminder that this planet urgently needs protection, care and respect. Founded in 1970, it now engages 190-plus countries around the world in that quest.  It is a clarion call for public consciousness and political action. (

From the creation of the world recorded in the Book of Genesis, God’s people are called to “work the garden and also to keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) “Keeping” it requires care and wise stewardship of the planet’s resources for all to enjoy. Our Earth is not to be exploited for monetary gain. 

Carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, climate change are a byproduct of industrialization and commercial enterprises of the wealthiest nations. We are reaping a baleful harvest of increasingly dire climate disasters as a result. The poor, disenfranchised and marginalized peoples of the world become the most harmed victims of these disasters, as they often live in the most undesirable and vulnerable places.

The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church call us to “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.” (2016 UM Book of Discipline, paragraph 160)

And from the 2016 Book of Resolutions (#1044 “Caring for Creation: Our Call to Stewardship and Justice”) we read “As United Methodists we therefore are called to participate in God’s healing of creation through acts of personal, social and civic righteousness.  Proclaiming and modeling a new lifestyle rooted in stewardship and justice, we work toward the day when all God’s children respect and share in the goodness of creation.”

So what does this mean for us personally and in our local churches? We can’t solve all the problems of the environment, but we can all do something to help make it better. Sometimes the enormity of the planet’s climate crisis causes us to overlook the power of the small but vitally important things we can do. 

According to the General Board of Church and Society’s “Faith and Facts: Environmental Justice,” we can all personally take action in the following ways:

  • Reduce: buy less stuff.
  • Reuse: pack a “no-waste” lunch using reusable containers instead of disposables; find innovative ways to repurpose old products.
  • Recycle: Paper, glass, aluminum and plastic.
  • Refuse: Do not use or accept plastic bags when you make purchases. Bring reusable bags with you.
  • Rethink: How much is enough? Once you decide you need an item make sure it was produced in a way that is both earth-friendly and worker-friendly.

We can all do these simple things.  Our churches are also places where numerous environmental protective practices can be employed and taught. In her book, Seven Simple Steps to Green Your Church, author Rebekah Simon-Peter invites churches to form a “Green Team” that analyzes the systems in the church building that can ultimately be adapted to lower its carbon footprint. 

Along with recycling practices, churches can install energy efficient forms of heating, cooling and lighting. They can create community gardens and encourage “green” practices in the kitchen and office—for example, the use of non-toxic cleaning products.

Most importantly, we can be teaching these principles and practices to our church members and our young people. That way, we can begin to create a culture of Creation-Care that can encourage Biblical principles of stewardship—stewardship of God’s Creation—far into the future.

I encourage you to do something new in your personal life and at your church that can demonstrate your commitment to “keeping the earth” and respecting God’s amazing gifts bestowed upon us. 

*Net zero means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out. ... This state is also referred to as carbon neutral; although zero emissions and zero carbon are slightly different, as they usually mean that no emissions were produced in the first place.

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