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General Conference Priorities: Creation Care

by Rev. Dr. Denyse Barnes, Director of Justice & Compassion EMT

Creation care has been a topic on which we in Cal-Pac have become more focused over the last year and will continue to do so in more diverse ways as each year progresses. The re-ignition of our Eco-Justice strategy group has allowed us to focus that work in different and new ways, for example with the publication of the Creation Care Toolkit which was launched recently.

As I started to read through the large and lengthy tomes which make up the Daily Christian Advocate, I was pleased to see that there are many new legislative resolutions and changes proposed for the General Conference. These come from both Church and Society and Global Ministries. Our call to care for all of God’s created order is clear throughout many of the different proposals and is a clear echo of much of the work we have been doing around our annual conference in our various locations and missions.

The revised social principles have a strong emphasis on creation care, acknowledging our lack of care the God’s creation and the resulting peril which we are in as a result. They are focused on the destruction of Ecosystems, Global warming and climate change, dependence on Fossil Fuels and how we can become better stewards of all that God created and declared “good.” The principles’ call is to work hard in areas such as Environmental Racism, Sustainability, Food justice, caring for all creatures, protecting space, and affirming science and traditional wisdom. I think they take a good overview of all we need to be working on in our own annual conferences and the ways in which we need to educate ourselves to do better in this important and vital work if all of God’s creation is to flourish as God intended.

There is a petition to “Establish a Conference Caretake of God’s Creation Coordinator in each annual conference,” and I am pleased that we already have a strategy group in place which is taking care of this work to resource our annual conference.

We are called in the petition for “Care of Creation” to recognize climate change and its repercussions as biblical and moral issues which we must advocate for despite the political maneuverings which surround so much of this discourse.

Another petition calls for the reduction of resources in construction, advocating repurposing of buildings over demolition and building new wherever possible. A further resolution “Climate Rescue” calls for us to enact plans for the world to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050 (or net carbon negative).

A number of these positions ask us to call on our elected officials to ignore the special interest pressures which put financial gain over care of creation and call us to actively support global green new deal initiatives and legislative efforts which pay attention to reducing carbon footprints, taking care of creation, and stopping the depletion of the earth’s resources at such alarming rates. There is a particular call for us all to reduce our use of plastics and instead use dishes which can be washed and reused, or paper goods which can be recycled and reused.

Global Ministries have established a “Creation Care and Earthkeepers” program which has run a variety of programs and offered various resources to annual conferences. Some of our own strategy group members have attended the training sessions and used the resources on offer. Classes have been in eco-theology and offered strategies for social change. Resources have included solar campaigns, green teams for churches, and electrical charging locations in church parking lots.

I particularly like Petition R9999 which calls for all buildings and lands owned by our churches to be brought “back into harmony with God’s intentions and systems.” This petition offers examples such as evaluating the vegetation, planting new trees, creating a rain garden, converting to renewable energy sources, and avoiding purchasing and using items which contribute to deforestation.

I am hopeful that these resolutions will pass without any difficulty and are adopted into use throughout the global church. We will review each one in the strategy group following general conference and update you on both those which were adopted and offer resources which can be used in the local churches to help start implementing the changes needed for us to become more faithful stewards of all God’s created order, allowing it to flourish and thrive in ways which it has not been allowed for so many years now.

Additional Resources:

Revised Social Principles reflect increased attention to creation care (Resource UMC)