Digging Deeper

Creation Care & Episcopal Climate News

Larger and more frequent hurricanes, devastating churches and everything else in their path. Intense inland droughts and wildfires. Wildlife with no place to go, bringing about the planet’s sixth mass extinction. Disappearing Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. As Icelandic glaciers melt and uncover ancient volcanoes that burst forth molten rocks, Luke 19:40 comes to life and the stones literally cry out.

Human-made (or anthropogenic) climate change is not just an environmental issue, it is an everything issue, threatening everything we care about as Christians fulfilling our Baptismal vows to love our neighbors as ourselves and to strive for justice and peace: Poverty and racism. War and peace. Jobs. Public health. Food prices.

The church is partly to blame for this scientific and humanitarian catastrophe. Theologies of the past encouraged humans to see ourselves as the planet’s masters, lording over the earth as a “dominion” to be exploited. We were told that the planet had no value other than its ability to give us “natural resources,” resources created just for us. This led to greed, excessive consumption, and the rampant destruction of sacred places at the wicked hands of fossil fuels.

The church had a hand in creating climate change, and now we can have a hand in solving it. We can take stock of our church resources, we can consume less, we can celebrate God through the lens of nature, we can advocate for systemic social change, and we can teach a new story and a new theology: God did not create human beings to be separate from or above nature–God created us as part of nature. We may be the smartest and most sentient species in the earth community, but that does not remove us from that community. Instead, it gives us a special responsibility to care for our fellow members of nature, and to live in right relationship with the rest of creation.

We remember that when Jesus wanted to pray, He did not go to the temple. He went to the wilderness, or to the garden. We can likewise find God in our gardens, our city and national parks, and our seashores and hiking trails. It is time to protect these places and the spirituality they inspire, and stand up to climate change.

Episcopal Climate News was started and is currently edited by the Rev. Nathan Empsall, a transitional deacon, environmental-studies graduate student at Yale, and former Sierra Club employee. The team has grown to include Perry Hodgkins Jones, a self-described “happy member of the Episcopal laity” who works for an environmental education non-profit in western North Carolina and holds a Masters in Theology and the Environment from Sewanee’s School of Theology. Both Nathan and Perry serve on the Episcopal Church’s official Task Force on Care of Creation and Environmental Racism, and were members of the presiding bishop’s delegation to COP23, the United Nations’ 2017 climate-change conference.