August 2, 2023

Climate Change and the Church

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I opened the door to our home to unload groceries from the car. The door was open for about 20 seconds before the fire alarms went off in the house. I looked at the security app on my phone, and it said, “excessive heat.”

The “real feel” here in Phoenix was somewhere around 119 degrees, and when the security alarm rep called, he said that having that inferno blow past the heat sensors in our alarm system was enough to set it off, because the change in temperature in the house was so rapid and so extreme, it mimicked that of a fire.

Later that evening, we stepped into the back yard to go for a swim. For the first time in the 18 years that we’ve lived here, something felt wrong. Though we’ve become accustomed to excessive heat, especially during July, this was different. It was oppressive on a level that we’ve never felt.

In Europe, the heatwave is bad enough to close tourist attractions like the Coliseum in Rome and the Acropolis in Athens. The Pentagon stated that climate change poses a threat to national security and will affect migration patterns, as we are already seeing. Drought, a rising sea level, intense fires, famines, and the Arctic warming four times faster than the rest of the globe are our present realities, not some far-off possibilities.

Millions of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are currently experiencing the results of extreme climate change in a much more real way than those of us in the US, with previously abundant food supplies becoming scarce, once drinkable water becoming polluted, and formerly fertile land turning to deserts or becoming submerged. It’s estimated that 20 million people are displaced from their homes every year. As is often the case in crisis, the poor, the underserved, and the voiceless are those who suffer the most.

The Episcopal Church has a section of their website dedicated to Creation Care. It’s beautifully written, but I don’t feel the energy behind it – or behind any church-related advocacy, for that matter – that I would hope to feel given the scope of the crisis that we are in. Simply stated: our current way of living is not sustainable.

When we hear the word “stewardship” most of us think “annual fundraising campaign.” Yet we are called by God to be stewards of the earth, to replenish it, and to care for those among us who suffer the most: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned. Jesus goes so far in Matthew 25:40 to tell us that how we treat the least among us is how we treat him, and that our salvation depends on our actions towards our siblings in Christ.

I wish there were a bow that I could wrap this up with, but there’s not. The topic can easily be overwhelming because it is global in nature and represents an existential threat. Yet we MUST face it if we are serious about living our faith and being stewards of God’s earth as we also care for God’s people.

Some have said that we should simply have faith in God and do no more. That is heresy. Faith without works is dead. It’s time to go to work. I pray that we all have the courage to be in action in our local communities so that our works may be felt globally.