This past weekend I sent an email to the ELCA Bishops with the subject line: “Climate change is real.” With Texas experiencing unprecedented hurricane damage, and Montana experiencing an unprecedented fire season, climate change is real.
In May, the Lutheran World Federation met and passed a resolution on climate change. Among the 11 points in the resolution (which you can find at www.lutheranworld.org) were:
7. Strengthening the theological work concerning climate change.
9. Advocating for environmental care and protection.
10. Urging member churches to incorporate goals and advocate with governments.
11. “The Assembly affirms the fact that the global ecological crisis, including climate change, is human-induced. It is a spiritual matter. As people of faith, we are called to live in right relationship with creation and not exhaust it.”
While many people consider climate change to be a political matter, our churches have declared it to be a spiritual matter. So how might we respond spiritually? When asked what people can do to respond to the ravages of Hurricane Harvey, Bishop Mike Rinehart says: “Pray. Give. Serve.” (see related article.) The same can be said about responding to the drought and the fires that are devastating the arid. “Pray. Give. Serve.”
Praying is something that people of faith can do that is different from what government agencies, private charities and the National Guard do. Praying is our number one response. We pray for the safety of those affected by the fires and the floods. We pray for the people who are working for others’ safety, for first responders. We pray for hurricanes to go back out to sea; we pray for rain to put out the fires and nourish the thirsty land.
We pray for justice for those displaced. We pray for wisdom and compassion for those who make decisions about relief. We pray for transformation so that we may find new ways to live in harmony with creation that ameliorate rather than exacerbate climate change. We pray for our neighbors. We pray for our families. We pray for those we love. And we pray for those who wish us ill. Climate change does not just affect the United States. It affects the entire globe. Drought, floods, and other natural disasters affect every part of the globe, and we include all in our prayers.
Giving is second nature to people of faith. We give to our congregations, we give to disaster relief, we give as we are prompted. Once again, I encourage you to give to Lutheran Disaster Response or to the Montana Synod Disaster Fund. What we hear is that what is most needed is money, not goods. Even as Houston begins the cleanup stage, Hurricane Irma—an even stronger storm—is pounding the Caribbean. The oldest ELCA congregation is on the island of St. Thomas, in the Caribbean Synod.
Serving is what God’s work. Our hands. Sunday is all about. Whether it is serving meals to the hungry, cleaning up a park, or reading to the blind, we serve our neighbors.
In response to the assembly resolution, the Lutheran World Federation has invited its member churches to observe a Season of Creation, from September 1 through October 4. The tradition of a season of creation comes from the Orthodox. Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios began the tradition in 1989, declaring a day of prayer for creation. Many faith groups have followed.
There are resources for celebrating and praying for creation at www.elca.org, at www.creationjustice.org, and at www.lutheranworld.org.
“By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God or our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.
Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.” (Psalm 65: 5-8)
Taking climate change seriously as people of faith ultimately involves repentance, changing our own habits and lifestyles, and advocating for change in local, state and national laws.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA