Christian Reformed Church Celebrates Pope’s Call to Climate Action
June 18, 2015
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Dr. Steven Timmermans
Executive Director, Christian Reformed Church in North America
The Christian Reformed Church welcomes Pope Francis’s encyclical on environmental stewardship, integral ecology, and climate change released today. Since its inception, the Christian Reformed Church has boldly affirmed the inherent goodness of the created world and our responsibility, as caretakers and divine image-bearers, to be good stewards of the myriad gifts of creation. We confess that for far too long we have shirked our divinely-ordained vocation of earth care, and we lament the ways in which our abuse and neglect of the created world has led to poverty, hunger, and a dangerously changing climate.
The Christian Reformed Church affirms that the gospel must always be both proclaimed in word and demonstrated in deed, and that a central component of this task includes taking seriously God’s command in Genesis 2:15 to serve and to protect the rest of the created order and to exercise responsible stewardship. Along with the original goodness of creation, we affirm the integrity of creation as an evangelical witness to the power and glory of God and the cosmic scope of God’s redemptive work in Jesus as encompassing all of creation. These theological and evangelistic convictions, then, compel us toward faithful participation in the urgent global discussions around creation and climate care. We add our voice to the gathering cry of the global church out of gratitude for the saving work of God in Christ and out of concern for the integrity of God’s good creation.
We are doing more than raising our voice, however. The Christian Reformed Church is engaged in a number of concrete actions that seek to live out our conviction that we are called to serve and protect the creation. Due to a massive structural overhaul at our Grand Rapids headquarters, our denominational building was recently awarded ENERGY STAR certification, scoring in the 97th percentile of all US office buildings and becoming only the second denominational headquarters in the country to receive such a designation (the first being the PCUSA). A pilot project with seven congregations is hoped to yield four additional ENERGY STAR certifications for CRC church buildings in both the US and Canada. Our denominational offices have also developed educational materials for church and small group study on the topics of creation and climate care.
In 2012, the Christian Reformed Church became one of the first evangelical denominations in the US to affirm that human-induced climate change is a moral, social justice and religious issue and to call on its institutions, churches, and individual members to take steps to address it. As such, we affirm Pope Francis’s conviction that climate change is fundamentally a moral issue.
We have too many brothers and sisters around the world living on the edge of poverty whose livelihoods are threatened to believe otherwise. Brothers and sisters in Kenya, who are facing the impossible task of deciphering when the once-predictable rains will actually arrive to water their crops. Brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, whose lands are disappearing beneath the relentlessly lapping waves of ever-rising tides. Even brothers and sisters in Miami and southern California, whose lands are simultaneously choked for water and drowned by the sea.
We also have too many little ones in our congregations set to inherit a dangerously broken world to believe otherwise. Our children and grandchildren, by no fault of their own, are threatened by an unpredictable future because of our inaction. Covenant children, to whom we have made baptismal promises of love and support, are set to inherit the consequences of our greed and neglect. If climate change is not a moral issue, I cannot imagine what is.
We can no longer stand idly by as local fisheries collapse, soils fail, sea levels rise, and more and more people are driven from their homes. We refuse to stay silent as the inheritance of our children and grandchildren is selfishly and wantonly squandered. For too long the church has been silent about the moral travesty of climate change. Today, the pope has said, “Enough is enough,” and the Christian Reformed Church welcomes his voice.
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Thanks for speaking so clearly and boldly, Dr. Timmermans!
Excited to see such a bold statement from the CRC on this important global and moral issue!
Unfortunately, the entire statement from the Pope is not addressed. The Pope also stated that honoring God's creation included honoring life in the womb. Children before birth are also God's creation and should be valued even more than nature. So, why is the CRC and Timmermans silent on this issue which is also part of the Pope's Encyclical??
It is certainly our responsibility to take care of God's creation. It is also our responsibility to help those in need, as in those effected by climate change. It is also our responsibility to be truthful about why our climate is changing and not blindly take the "opinion" of those who jump on political band wagons. Our denomination has become too political on this and other issues and should stick to a compassionate response to the effects of climate change and stay out of the politics of it. By becoming political we are loosing membership and alienating many who disagree with the CRC's position.
Thanks for your thoughts, Paul. I'm curious to hear how you perceive Dr. Timmermans' statement as political. You call the CRC to a compassionate response to those affected by climate change, and rightly so, but that is precisely how I read this statement. It explicitly references our concern for those affected (our children and the poor), and affirms our commitment to responding.
Could you help me understand why you see this statement as "political"?
Thank you for your response.
My intent was to support Dr. Timmermans' statement but to also look at the denominational position. I was part of the Synod that approved the statement concerning global warming that many of us disagreed with but was passed by the majority. The major disagreement is with who is telling the truth about why. There is little disagreement as to is there global warming but a lot as to why. It is my opinion at Synod 2012 the presentation was given by those who simply said we are right and you are wrong. If you disagree with us you simply are uneducated and your opinion or research does not count. Thus, the politics.
I believe the CRC should try to be unified on the topic of caring for those in need and stay out of trying to put one scientist up against another.
Thanks for that background, Paul. I suppose I read "political" as advocating for specific policy, but your explanation was really helpful.
It's too bad that you felt that Synod 2012 diminished your questions and reservations. As someone who was proud and excited by that synod's decision to adopt its position on climate change, it is easy for me to interpret the history of that decision in a particular way and to forget that others were not as eager to see Synod 2012 do what it did.
Something that I'm trying hard to remember is that society frames the issue of climate change very narrowly as a technical problem with only (very narrow) political implications. It is tempting to believe this narrative, but I think the vast gift of the church is that it has a larger vision to offer the world when we all discuss global warming and care for the poor. The questions I'm always trying to ask myself are, "How do I think about this, first and foremost, as a Christian? What difference does my Christian faith make for the way that I think about climate change?" While politics will undoubtedly have to be a part of any sort of action that we take in response to climate change, it need not be our starting point. I would hope that could be Scripture, church tradition, and desire to better love our neighbors. Just some of my thoughts recently, for what they're worth.
I wonder if you've ever seen the video resource from World Renew and the Office of Social Justice called Climate Conversation: Kenya? The whole idea is to set the tired statistics and talking points aside and to hold up the stories of Kenyan Christian brothers and sisters and the ways in which they are working to respond to the challenges of climate change in their communities. I think you might find them interesting.
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