While talking about the uptick in severe weather and extreme temperatures, Ruth Ivory-Moore, ELCA program director for environment and corporate responsibility, is direct: “All of creation is experiencing the impact of global warming.
“These extreme weather patterns result in unprecedented floods, droughts and wildfires, and rising sea levels that are leading to the degradation of the earth. And the consequences are not being borne equally. The most vulnerable among us are paying a higher price; that is, they are disproportionately impacted with extraordinary losses and damages. We are truly in a dire situation, but there is hope—both spiritually and scientifically.”
Against this backdrop, the ELCA is underscoring its work in environmental justice through a new collaboration with ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow program, an ecumenical faith community initiative to empower climate action and advocacy.
“The earth is our home and we are accountable to God for protecting and caring for all of creation,” Ivory-Moore said. “We recognize and value the benefits of establishing relationships and working with other denominations. Therefore, the ELCA embraces the opportunity to form collaborative relationships with others to work to protect our home—the Earth.
The nonprofit ecoAmerica conducts research to learn who is ready to advocate on the issue of climate change and how organizations involved in that work can motivate people to take action.
“We can use this information to bring awareness to our congregations in language that resonates to their specific concerns,” Ivory-Moore said.
“The earth is our home and we are accountable to God for protecting and caring for all of creation.”
Amy Reumann, director of ELCA Advocacy, said that the relationship with ecoAmerica expands and deepens the ELCA’s ability to provide resources that inform, inspire and equip congregations and leaders to learn about climate change, talk about its impacts and address it through their ministries.
“Climate change is hurting people now and impacting core ministries of the church,” she said. “It’s uprooting populations, undermining global gains in health, exacerbating hunger, and driving natural disasters and regional conflicts. We are involved for the sake of our neighbor’s well-being and the security of generations to come.
“It’s also a theological problem, rooted in distortion of our relationship with God that results in treating creation as an endless storehouse to plunder rather than a precious trust to steward. Climate change is the result of human sinfulness, as we in the U.S. consume more than our fair share of natural resources through unsustainable lifestyles and energy use while those who contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions are suffering its impacts the most.”
Ivory-Moore said the church’s work in environmental advocacy is based on Scripture and ELCA teachings, including the social statements “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” and “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All.”
“Our climate-justice work includes advocating for public laws and policies that protect the health and well-being of humans and all of life,” she said.
Ann Svennungsen, bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod, said Martin Luther’s concept of vocation is key to understanding the church’s call to address climate change.
“Because Luther was so clear on justification by faith alone, he spoke courageously about our freedom to boldly engage the world,” Svennungsen said. “He always seemed to be pushing Christians back into the community. If your town needs a mayor, run for mayor. If it needs a school, build a school. These are the vocations of the baptized. Today, Luther would probably add: If your global home needs healing, find a way to do it.”
Ivory-Moore said ELCA Advocacy works to create resources and opportunities to get involved, including action alerts so Lutherans can send messages to their members of Congress.
ELCA Advocacy works with not only full-communion partners but also interreligious offices on Capitol Hill so the faith community speaks with one voice in the most strategic way.
“The Blessed Tomorrow program is another area where we can collaborate and work with our full-communion partner churches,” Ivory-Moore said. “Blessed Tomorrow provides another venue to collectively raise our voices for action. We can share ideas and tools, and help build compelling strategies to address climate change and to protect and uplift the most vulnerable.”