Loving People and Planet in God's Name: Engaging the Local Church in the Study and Practice of Climate Justice
BY CRYS ZINKIEWICZ AND BOB DOWNS
Given that Scripture is clear that the Earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24:1) and that humans are to be caretakers and good stewards of this gift (Genesis 1–2), and given that United Methodist leadership recognizes both the crises facing creation and the need to address the related justice issues, how do we help congregations and their people move to action?
Help comes through the new offering, Loving People and Planet in God’s Name: Engaging the Local Church in the Study and Practice of Climate Justice (LPP). Developed and piloted in 2021 and 2022 by a team of EarthKeepers and other leaders, the ten-hour course is being published by Discipleship Ministries.
- Familiarizes students with Christian theology, endorsing creation care;
- Identifies the challenges and social justice implications of environmental degradation;
- Equips students to engage their congregations to act on behalf of creation justice.
Designed to be presented live or virtually in a variety of settings ranging from a two-day camp retreat to two-hour classes spread over five weeks, Loving People and Planet in God’s Name builds from the newly updated text, Climate Justice [Second Edition], edited by Rev. Pat Watkins, (click here to purchase a Kindle version; click here to purchase a print copy) which was in the first edition used for the United Women in Faith 2016–17 Mission u curriculum.
Each session is a combination of instruction through a variety of media (slides, videos, case studies) and discussion of the relevant topic, all linked to the study of related scripture. An abundance of alternate reading materials and videos is provided to supplement the base information and encourage tailoring the course to local demands and environmental challenges.
A certified advanced course for the Lay Servant Ministries program, 'Loving People and Planet in God’s Name' is also suited to clergy and interested laypeople.
A certified advanced course for the Lay Servant Ministries program, Loving People and Planet in God’s Name is also suited to clergy and interested laypeople. It can be presented at a local church, district, conference, or jurisdictional level. The five sessions progress with the first three focusing on understanding and the last two emphasizing action:
SESSION 1: Our Theological Grounding
From our Wesleyan traditions, this session identifies the scriptural imperative for creation care, describes the history of church involvement over the centuries, evokes the personal experiences of the participants, and calls for a reasoned response. Emphasis is placed on the United Methodist Social Principles and the Council of Bishops’ Call to Hope and Action.
SESSION 2: God’s Good Gifts—Called as Stewards and Prophets
This session establishes the scientific evidence for environmental degradation, its causes, and challenges. It also describes the elegant cohesion and resilience of God’s ecology, emphasizing the gifts of natural systems such as water and soil in supporting life and providing tools for sustainable recovery.
SESSION 3: Climate Crisis and Creation Justice: Connecting the Dots
The state of the Earth reflects the state of the people; healing for both is needed. Environmental degradation most affects those least responsible for its cause and least benefiting from its implementation. Case studies are used to show examples of injustice and call for adaptive responses.
SESSION 4: What Can Churches Do?
This session starts with examples of environmental stewardship by local churches and addresses all aspects of response, including education, action, and advocation. Students are asked to evaluate the needs and strengths of their own churches to respond to local environmental challenges. Each student is charged with developing a specific project to carry out at the local church using a pair of analysis tools called SWOT and SMARTIE. Where no local environmental action team exists at the local church, students are encouraged to establish a Green Team as their project.
SESSION 5: YOUR CHURCH, YOUR PLAN
This session starts with presentations on the various United Methodist boards and agencies that can provide information and help to students in completing their projects. The bulk of the session allows students to discuss and critique their project ideas in small groups. This session concludes with worship and “sending forth.” An option is offered for the students to gather six months later to share their progress and/or results.
This study will help laity and clergy foster creation care as a part of a holistic 2023 spiritual growth plan.
The Lay Servant Ministries course, Loving People and Planet in God’s Name, publishes in March 2023. Look for the Leader’s Guide in the Upper Room Bookstore.
This course is based on the new, second edition of Climate Justice: A Call to Hope and Action (United Women in Faith 2023). Available at the links below.
A retired engineer and biophysicist, Bob Downs is a General Board of Global Ministries’ EarthKeeper. He attends Christ United Methodist Church in Kettering, Ohio. He is also the chair of the Creation Care Task Force in the West Ohio Annual Conference.
Crys Zinkiewicz is a writer, editor, and General Board of Global Ministries’ EarthKeeper who chairs the West End United Methodist Church Creation Care committee in Nashville, Tennessee. She worked for more than thirty years at the United Methodist Publishing House as a project manager and editor.