Thursday, August 20, 2015

Proposed Overtures for 2016 GA

PEC Supports Overtures for 2016 General Assembly

Presbyterians for Earth Care is consistently grateful for your work in environmental and social justice efforts.  One way to be proactive is in preparing overtures to be brought to our General Assembly (GA).

The next GA will be June 18-26, 2016 in Portland, Oregon, and PEC will be supporting many overtures. Among them are overtures to
  • sell investments in fossil fuels (divest) and reinvest in clean energy,
  • raise a voice against the fracking industry that destroys land, water and the way that people live in North Dakota,
  • stop the use of America’s railroads for transporting oil through vulnerable communities and putting them in the “blast zone,” and
  • add ecological language to the Book of Order.

Additionally there will be an opportunity to hear the follow-up study and recommendations regarding the Precautionary Principle overture passed in 2014. It was sent to a committee to help keep the church informed about the importance of being proactive for environmental and social safety in the manufacture of goods.

One new overture coming from the Presbytery of New Castle recommends adding the phrase “caring for God’s creation” to The Ministry of Members section of the Book of Order to encourage all Presbyterians to care for God’s creation. According to the rationale for the recommendation (together both make up an overture), “the Bible, our Reformed tradition expressed in the confessions and the Book of Order, and the latest scientific research all support the need for this addition.”

The full text of the overture with six pages of background information can be found online and includes summaries of 
  • the biblical basis by Dr. William P. Brown, Professor of Old Testament Columbia Theological Seminary
  • six Reformed Confessions,
  • Book of Order references,
  • past GA actions, and
  • latest scientific news.

Please consider asking your Session or Presbytery Mission Committee to bring this overture to your Presbytery for concurrence. For information about how to submit an overture click here or email Bruce Gillette with questions.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Final Issue of Paper-based PEC Update

Moderator’s Message by Diane Waddell

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Earth-tending,

The more I feel and sense the wonder of God's gifting of this Earth, our home, the more I am humbled and amazed. At the same time, there are also innumerable causes for concern with the realization of the challenges the fragile planet faces as a result of the overuse and abuse of our home.

Overall, there seems to be a rise in the desire for economic emphasis. I have noted this from local comments in my Session to congressional comments recently as I participated in a fly-in to DC to help promote the Clean Power Plan. I am writing this as I participate in a brief Presbytery mission trip in Kenya. Economic disparity is very evident here, as we have stayed and worked in an area not simply "off the grid" but without a choice whether to be off or in. The home where we stayed, just recently had running water added.

How can we balance a system of social, economic and environmental justice? We truly need a new ethic of Earth-caring, of a global (current and future) community.

PEC is working toward our September 15-18 Montreat Conference with anticipation of an excellent experience in Eco-justice-seeking. We look forward to greeting members and friends during an in-gathering of wisdom and strengthening. We also encourage you as a congregation or presbytery committee to write or concur with an eco-justice overture for General Assembly 2016 in Portland. More information will be at the conference.

PEC also looks forward to an enhanced means of communicating. For several years, the Steering Committee has researched the possibility of changing our newsletter. This Update, therefore, will be our final printed version. We will begin with the Fall 2015 issue as a new model of a creative e-newsletter. This will be sent monthly in a form similar to an e-blast but with a variety of articles/offerings regarding faith-based eco-justice. You will be able to download and print it, however, if you have questions or concerns, please contact our Coordinator, Jane Laping, at presbyearthcare@gmail.com. Please also continue to actively check and share our Facebook page.

Thank you for your work in Creation care. We appreciate your PEC connections and look forward to continuing and enhancing connections, and our fall gathering that will include our 20th anniversary celebration.

Hold fast. Honor your Place in Creation. Let us continue our sacred work together in gratitude.

Amen.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Do you know a PEC award winner?

Nominate a Deserving Individual or Church/Group for a PEC Award

PEC is excited about our national conference, Down-to-Earth Advocacy and Action, September 15 –18 at Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina and are looking forward to seeing you there.  We will be celebrating our 20th Anniversary at the conference and will also be presenting our annual awards. Even if you cannot attend, you can participate in a couple ways:

   Share your recollections of the first 20 years of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation/Presbyterians for Earth Care by writing about your experiences at www.pecmemories.com
   Nominate a deserving person or organization to receive one of two Presbyterians for Earth Care Awards.

If you are a member of PEC, you are encouraged to nominate awardees. The William
The Rev. William Gibson
Gibson Lifetime 
Achievement Award is presented to an individual whose faith-based work for the environment deserves recognition. Rev. William Gibson was a founding member of PEC, author and eco-justice advocate, and editor of the book, “Eco-Justice – The Unfinished Journey.” Previous awardees include the Rev. William Gibson and our other founders, the Revs. Bill Knox and John Jackson.

The Restoring Creation Award is given to a faith-based organization including congregations, governing bodies, ecumenical agencies, and Presbyterian-related entities for environmental work that is particularly praise-worthy. Montreat Conference Center and Warren Wilson College have received this award in the past.

Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman
receives award from Moderator
Jenny Holmes in 2011.
We generally look for award nominees within the Presbytery or general region of the conference: North Carolina or Southeastern US. However, nominations from other areas or regions are welcome. Click HERE for more information about the awards, the Rev. William Gibson, and previous award winners.

If you are not a member or your membership is not current you can join or renew today. Then go to the nomination form and fill it out with your favorite awardee.



For God’s Earth,

Jane Laping

PEC Coordinator

Thursday, July 9, 2015

An Ecologically Sustainable Future

 Recognizing an Ecologically Sustainable Future
by Rev. Dr. Patricia Tull
Keynote Speaker at PEC National Conference September 15-18, 2015

Writing Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis revolutionized my thinking about the earth and its inhabitants as seen by Scripture’s writers. Subsequent work with congregations has led me to further questions: What strengths, or virtues, are being called forth among those who care for creation? How are these gained? What does an ecologically sustainable future look like, and how can we know it when we see it? In my keynote lectures at the Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference at Montreat, I plan to explore these themes: the human role as Scripture’s writers imagine it; the shape of social movements and their leadership; and compelling visions for a healthy, just, and satisfying future.  

First, in “Rethinking Scripture, Humans, and Creation,” I will explore assumptions Scripture’s writers held that may surprise and help us now. The metaphor of “dominion” that has so captivated modern thinking is neither Scripture’s only nor its most realistic model. The Bible offers other visions of humanity that are both healthier and truer to our experience, inviting both critique of human powers and humility before nature. Not only creation stories but the Pentateuch’s teachings, Psalms, prophets, and wisdom give food for imagination and guidance for action.

Yet every new thing that humans seek to do confronts us with the problem of imagining a future that is largely unknown, unfolding before us without a roadmap. While each paradigm shift that has preceded us is by definition unique, some common elements can be found in stories from our past that will help us choose our actions now. My second lecture will discuss “Creating Social Movements for Change,” as it pertains to faith communities guided by the moral demand to promote ecological sustainability.

In my third lecture, “Shifting to a Flourishing Future,” I hope to envision what we Earth Care Presbyterians are aiming toward. Apocalyptic scenarios of an overheated planet are all too clear to environmentalists passionate about averting climate change. What is more difficult is to imagine—and appropriate—visions of the world that we wish to see emerge. No one can predict the future, but the more clearly we imagine the society we are aiming for, the more readily we will recognize solutions that lead toward it.  

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The Rev. Dr. Patricia (Trisha) Tull is a Presbyterian teaching elder and A. B. Rhodes Professor Emerita of Hebrew Bible at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and author of several books, including Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis. She is a Climate Reality presenter, a GreenFaith fellow, and in addition to writing and teaching widely on Scripture and environmental issues, she works as affiliate developer for Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Different Take on the "Praise Be" Encyclical

Laudato Si’ in the Midst of the Day
by Sue Smith

June 18, 2015 was a date marked on the calendars of many in the environmental movement, particularly those who do this work from a perspective of faith. Pope Francis was releasing his encyclical, Laudato Si’ (Praise Be!) on Care for our Common Home. I fully expected to wake up and see the release as one of the lead stories on the morning news shows. Instead I woke up to news reporting on the aftermath of the racist terrorist attack in Charleston, SC. Nine people died, nine images of God.

When I agreed to write something about the encyclical, I anticipated writing about key points in the document: climate change and environmental justice are moral issues; protecting creation and protecting people who are poor are interconnected virtues; we are part of creation and kin to it, greed is the greatest threat – to the poor and to the earth itself; the time to act on climate change is now. All of these points are present and well supported. Francis is blunt about what we are doing to our environment, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” (21) But I was now reading the document through the lens of what happened in Charleston. This document speaks to that situation as well.

Francis writes about the interconnectedness of all creation, and reminds us that the Genesis creation narratives “suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” (66)* We have to be right with each other as well as with the earth. But we are not; when we locate toxic waste dumps, we harm the earth in that place, and we intimate that we do not value the lives of the people who live there as much as we value other lives. Francis writes that “A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings…Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (91)

Some may find parts of the encyclical difficult to read. The language about God is very patriarchal, and in places, the language is male dominant. The encyclical talks a good deal about those with power and privilege not wanting to give up their behaviors, and how that negatively affects others. For me, this use of male dominant language is an example of those with power and privilege (in this case the authors of this encyclical) not understanding how their language is heard by the other (those of us who believe we also are in the image of God, but can never be patriarchs). Yet it is still a critically important document. Pope Francis has invited everyone into a dialog on the pressing ecological issues facing humanity. He has moved the climate conversation forward and emphasized that our response needs to be a moral response. He calls for us to act now.

Francis asks a question: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?” (57). It is a question we can ask about work on issues of race, gender, class and the environment.

Praise be!
Sue Smith

A prayer for our earth from Laudato Si’
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

*numbers refer to paragraphs in the encyclical


Sue Smith is PEC Treasurer, member of the First Presbyterian Church of Rumson (NJ), GreenFaith Fellow, and recent M. Div. graduate of New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

PRC/PEC: Our First 20 Years

Presbyterians for Restoring Creation/
Presbyterians for Earth Care: 
Our First 20 Years
by Nancy Corson Carter

PEC is excited about celebrating a proud history at our national conference, September15-18 at Montreat Conference Center! A special feature will be an evening of worship, recognition, and reception focused on our 20th anniversary. Our theme for that evening, Thursday, September 17, is “Inheriting a Sacred Trust for the Future.”

A little background: in mid-September, 1994, about 40 persons gathered at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville for an “Environmental Consultation” called by the Environmental Justice Office of the national church. One item on their to-do list was to “Help create an environmental justice fellowship, an outside group, to impact the PCUSA.” By the 1995 General Assembly, in Cincinnati, Ohio, a Steering Committee had prepared bylaws and organized the first of our regular General Assembly luncheons, with Dr. John Fife as speaker. Membership Secretary, Bill Knox, sent out a call for support: “We INVITE Presbyterians who hear the cry of creation, human and nonhuman, as God’s call for stewards for an endangered planet. JOIN US in this fellowship to restore creation, as we seek to be faithful to Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.”

With gratitude we remember these founders who were called to support the new mission initiative, RESTORING CREATION FOR ECOLOGY AND JUSTICE, adopted by the 1990 General Assembly (the story goes that it was passed by a 97% vote and greeted by all present rising and singing the Doxology!). And our gratitude extends to all who have served, leaders and members too, since that time.

We’d appreciate your help in collecting photos and stories to share. So we hope you will visit our 20th celebration special website, www.PECmemories.com. We invite you to write down special stories and memories you have about the life and times of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation (PRC) and Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC).

We look forward to your joining us in this festive thanksgiving for the sacred trust we’ve inherited to carry into the future.

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Nancy Corson Carter, Ph.D., is a publishing poet and writer, facilitates an Earth Care Congregation in Chapel Hill NC, and is active in the Shalem Society for Contemplative Leadership. She is Professor Emerita (of Humanities) at Eckerd College, and was Moderator of PRC from 1999-2005.





Thursday, May 28, 2015

Treading Lightly

Holy One, cleave our hearts and open them to the prophetic, earth changing words of Bryce Wiebe.

Treading Lightly
by Bryce Wiebe

“The Earth quakes before them”  Joel 2:10

Sixteen hours before technological magic caused these words to move from my fingers to the tiny specs of light via rafts of “1’s” and “0’s” on rivers of metalloids cutting through sand-turned-silicon, there was an earthquake in Langston, Oklahoma.  The red dirt of central Oklahoma was where my grandmother moved after remarrying in her 70s.  Our family used to drive there to visit each New Year, through mesas and wheat fields and parched pastures specked with oil derricks and gas well.  With few trees dotting that garden of dust and wispy grass God planted there, the whole landscape seemed heavy and fixed, then pressed down by such a big sky.  Or maybe it was the sky being supported by such a sturdy clay pedestal.

And now it shakes.  Everyday.  Perhaps 16 hours before you read these words.  Perhaps as you read them.

The experts say that hydraulic fracturing cannot be definitively blamed.  The now poisoned water formed by the process; a resource destroyed for the sake of a resource extracted, must be shot back down into Earth as a slicing, high-speed vertical river of techno-industrial creativity.  And this must not be a problem since no one ever bothered to see if it was a problem.  Could it be this river has pried loose the base of the pedestal and now it wobbles under the pressure of all that sky? The energy and economic needs of America require that we not look into it.  For the sake of un-flickering electricity, ever-fattening homes, complete with fixed temperatures and pressed down by as much cheap stuff as can fit in them, we cannot look.  Perhaps we can move fast enough to not notice Earth shaking.  Perhaps bigger homes and more things will finally hold Earth still again; press her back into control. 

Or maybe we, having already pried the pedestal free, must tread lightly.  Shut off our lights and slim down our homes and use those things we already have.  Perhaps Earth can be restored when we move tip-toe slow.  We can, for the first time, float on new visions and dreams down a Spirit stream, poured out among a people made of the same clay that we now see steadied and still.

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The PEC Steering Committee appreciates the work of Bryce Wiebe who served as Associate for the Enough for Everyone Program with the Presbyterian Hunger Program for 18 months up through March 1.  Bryce now serves as manager of Special Offerings for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.  Special Offerings include One Great Hour of Sharing, which largely funds the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Environmental Ministries, as well as Self-Development of People and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.  We congratulate Bryce!!