Let’s Partner Toward COP 21

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In a warming world where local fisheries are collapsing, soil is degrading, sea levels are rising, and more and more people are being driven from their homes, why has the church remained so quiet? Climate change is one of the most pressing moral issues of our lifetime, but when it comes to offering lament, seeking forgiveness, and working toward solutions, the church is often nowhere to be found.

The Christian Reformed Church believes that the global church has a crucial and necessary role to play if the world is to begin adequately addressing the threat of climate change. It’s high time that the church stands up and is heard, and the CRC is planning an exciting campaign to begin to do just that. Here are the basics:

Governments from all over the world will be gathering in Paris in November/December, 2015 for the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21), where a potential global treaty on carbon emissions will be negotiated.The CRC will spend the summer and fall of 2015 recruiting 30 congregations in the United States and Canada and providing them with resources to educate themselves on creation care in general and the COP 21 process in particular.

In November, a group of 3-4 CRC members will travel to Paris to represent the CRC and participate in the negotiation process. They will also communicate regularly with the 30 congregations back in North America with on-the-ground updates and analyses. After COP 21, these 30 congregations will be empowered to engage in a number of advocacy efforts to make sure that the progress emerging from the meetings in  Paris is translated into concrete policy back home. 

If this campaign is going to happen, we’ll need to partner with many others who also believe COP 21 presents the church with an opportunity to speak prophetically and to hope boldly -- people like you. People that are passionate about seeing something done about climate change, but not always sure where to start. 

Visit the Do Justice blog to learn more about the campaign and access the crowdfunding page. 

Will you partner with us?

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Let's Discuss…

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Community Builder

This is really exciting news, Kyle. I pray that congregations will be eager to partner with the denominational efforts to raise awareness, educate, advocate, and most importantly, steward the gifts we have in God's creation wisely. 

Participant

I may be in the minority here, but I don’t think “The Christian Reformed Church” uniformly believes and/or understands that Climate Change is a ‘threat.’ Many people in the denomination believe it, and many others do not. Maybe we need some better information on what exactly is going on and why. I understand that there have been some great videos produced by OSJ already, but I also believe there needs to be something that takes into account a lot of the questions about ‘climate change’ (which used to be ‘global warming,’ but now isn't) and puts it into perspective. 

For example, Al Gore said the world would be chaos by now – but it’s not (not the way he made it out to be). So, did all our environmental efforts since ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ buy us an extra 5 years? 10? How would you scientifically calculate that? If you can’t scientifically calculate that, then how are we to understand what our problem really is? How do we know certain changes in ‘climate’ are really due to carbon – and can we actually reduce enough carbon emissions to effect change? Can China?

We can sign a bunch of stuff, but without a broad agreement on what’s going on we will not have a broad agreement on how to fix the problem.

 

Community Builder

Thanks for engaging the post, Michael. I think you raise some good points.

You are right that the predictions of some of the effects of climate change have been revised as our data collection and models get better and better. Al Gore may have predicted catastrophe by now (I'll have to talk your word for it because I'm not sure what exactly he is on record as predicting to have happened by 2015), but I think it would be disingenuous to infer that this then throws all of climate science into question. While secondary and tertiary hypotheses have been honed and sharpened as scientists continue to learn more (as happens with all good science), the fundamental hypothesis of climate science has remained constant and continues to grow more and more certain: human activity is accelerating natural climatic events at an alarming and unprecedented rate.

To your comments about members in the CRC, you are certainly correct that there is diversity of thought on this issue in the denomination, and thank God for that! It means that we get to push each other and continually be challenged to think critically and deeply about this issue. This happened perhaps most profoundly through the synodical process whereby the Creation Stewardship Task Force Report was discussed, challenged, and defended in 2012. In my opinion, it represents not only expert science (it was primarily written by Tom Ackerman and Cal DeWitt, two acclaimed climate and earth scientists) but also a deep concern to see the church wrestle well with this issue. It was a gift from our denomination's scientists to the rest of us--to help us understand better this complicated issue. Out of that process came the CRC's official position that it is the near-scientific consensus that human-induced climate change is occurring and that, as the church, we have a moral and religious responsibility to do something about it. From this report comes the directives to the OSJ to, among other things, educate members about climate change and creation stewardship and participate in advocacy for public policies that work toward net-zero carbon emissions. That is the background for this campaign.

To some of you other more technical questions about climate change and carbon, I would direct you to the Creation Stewardship Task Force Report referenced above. It includes extensive analysis of the peer-reviewed and refereed literature on climate change, and is well worth the read, IMO. It can be found here: http://www.crcna.org/sites/default/files/CreationStewardship.pdf.

Thanks again for your post, Michael, and for engaging this important topic!

I may be out of the loop on this subject.  I didn’t realize that the CRC denomination has taken a definitive position on global warming or climate change.  Kyle, you talk in this article as though there is already an established position that the denomination needs to act on.  Has there been a study committee from Synod with a resulting majority and minority report on the subject?  It sounds like someone is jumping the gun on getting a denominational group sent to Paris, especially when you say that “governments from all over the world will be gathering in Paris” for this conference.  We’re not a government.  I’m not so sure that this is even the kind of thing that a church or denomination should be getting involved in.  As a church, we have no expertise in things like global warming.  Is the next thing, for our denomination to get involved in, going to be the promotion of organic foods, or boycotting the dairy industry, or cell phone radiation?

Community Builder

Here is the full statement from Synod 2012:

Statements:

  • That synod recognize that:
    • It is the current near-consensus of the international scientific community that climate change is occurring and is very likely due to human activity. —Adopted (The following negative vote is registered: Rev. Tom Van Engen (Heartland)).
    • Human-induced climate change is an ethical, social justice, and religious issue. Grounds:
      • 1) Such climate change poses a significant threat to future generations, the poor, and the vulnerable
      • 2) Such climate change poses a significant challenge to us all
      • 3) We are called to “commit ourselves to honor all God’s creatures and to protect them from abuse and extinction, for our world belongs to God” (Contemporary Testimony, par. 51). —Adopted (The following negative votes are registered: Rev. Tom Van Engen (Heartland) and Mr. Roger Sparks (Minnkota).
    • Therefore, even when scientific uncertainties are taken into account, the precautionary principle (e.g., Overture 60, Agenda for Synod 2012, p. 594) compels us to take private and public actions to address climate change. —Adopted The following negative vote is registered: Rev. Tom Van Engen (H​eartland)).

(Acts of Synod 2012, pp. 803-4)

Following the statement were several recommendations, all of which can be found at this link on pages 804-6. The ones that are particularly germane to this campaign are below:

  • That synod call upon the churches, members, and denominational bodies to be voices for justice and public examples in the effort to live sustainably within our God-given resources, to promote stewardship in our own communities and our nations, and to seek justice for the poor and vulnerable among us and for future generations. —Adopted
  • That synod call upon the churches and their members to consider and advocate for public strategies that reduce carbon emissions and move us toward very low or zero net emissions. —Adopted
  • That synod call upon the churches, their members, and appropriate denominational agencies and institutions to respond with generosity and compassion to people and places negatively affected by climate change, as well as to make efforts to mitigate it. This includes advocating with our governments to take the necessary actions in an effective global framework to assist populations that are bearing the brunt of the negative effects of climate change while being the least able to cope. —Adopted

I would encourage you to read pages 802-7 of the Acts of Synod 2012 to learn more fully about the CRC's statement on climate change and how it has called the church to respond. The Creation Stewardship Task Force Report linked to in my comment above to Michael offers the context of these actions.

Thanks Kyle for the update and info on our denominational position.  Obviously, I spoke before I should have.  My bad.  I’m on board as far as climate change and our human responsibility.  I’m not so sure that this is an issue that the church should be directly involved in.  I can better understand our colleges, such as Calvin, Dordt, and Trinity getting involved with this issue, where their science departments have some expertise in this area.  In my mind its hard to grasp that this is the arena that the church should be directly involved in.  It would seem to open the door for a host of other issues for the church to get involved in that is outside of the church’s field of expertise.  It doesn’t make sense to me for theologians to attempt to speak with authority on the issues of nuclear science.  Nor does it make sense to me for an expert biologist to speak with authority in the field of theology.  I don’t expect a computer programmer to also be an expert in the field of medical science.  It would make more sense (to me) to call on members in our churches who are experts in this field to take part in such a conference, rather than trying to educate (with bias) members who are not experts.

I suppose this is part of the new directions that our denomination seems to be going.  So I guess, if seems to be part of new movements and directions for us, I can only wish you well.

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