Friday, May 1, 2020

Should social justice wait until 2022 GA?

GA Social Justice Issues Delayed to 2022
The earth is the LORDS and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
                                                         Psalm 24:1
How many earth care sermons have been preached on that text?
And yet…we need to hear it once more.
It has just been decided that the PC(USA) will be holding an abbreviated, online-only General Assembly this year due to COVID-19. This assembly will deal only with items deemed “critical,” i.e. the important institutional work of the church. Matters of social justice and prophetic ministry, including creation-care business like divesting from fossil fuels, will be referred to the next GA in 2022.   
The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) has been wrestling with the reality of COVID-19 and the impossibility of holding a full, in-person GA. We appreciate the tough task of having to come up with solutions for conducting the church’s business. We support COGA’s leadership. We realize that we cannot conduct business as usual, and so we must let some things go for now. The earth is the Lord’s, and all life rests in our creator’s hands.  In faith we move forward.  
At the same time, calling the prophetic ministry of the PCUSA on matters of social justice by implication non-critical pains us. In our opinion, deliberation and discernment on matters of substance that shape our daily lives and world, giving voice to grassroots perspectives in the church, and proclaiming the truth of the gospel as it is embodied in the key issues of our day, is as core to the gospel and the ministry of the church as anything else.  
Action and movement on the key issues of our day, for better and for ill, continue to move forward apace. Today, our discernment and decisions on issues like fossil-fuel divestment and creation care are as critical as they ever have been. The environment continues to suffer under the assault of deregulation, over-consumption, and creation care will surely be a key issue as we, communally, ponder how to restart the economy in the coming months. Pushing off reflection or action as a church to some date in the future has real-life consequences. At the same time,COVID-19 has raised the possibility of change in ways we haven’t seen for a long time.  The timely witness of the church is vital.
We cannot leave the world God has placed in our care in the hands of a political system that destroys it, an economic system that exploits it, and a society that continually subordinates the health and justice of the whole to the profit of the affluent, privileged few. The earth is the Lords.
We might not be able to meet as a denomination this June, but we can (and must!) continue to work for justice and peace for all creation. 
We encourage you to:
   Work on the mid-council, presbytery, and congregational levels for creation care. Support budgets, policies, and practices that value creation care. 
   Join or establish a presbytery earth care team (PEC will assist you!) to marshal our resources for the struggle or join other groups that are working for climate justice. 
   Participate on the PEC advocacy team as we work for divestment from fossil fuels in the church, advocate for common-sense, achievable solutions like carbon dividend legislation currently in Congress, and work for systemic change that places the health of creation and justice for all life at the top of our priority list. (contact Paul Heins
   Continue to lift up the sacredness of all life. 
   Let the wonderful, diverse web-of-life, and the breath of God’s life-giving Spirit sustain you in your work and discipleship.
These are anxious, uncertain times. In the context of pandemic, we remember that the earth is the Lord’s, who is our rock and refuge. 
We pray for creative thinking, courageous conversation, behavioral change, and polity and procedure that serve faithful ministry. The earth is the Lord’s–whose love we embody, and whose living Word we serve. 

Paul Heins
Advocacy Committee, Presbyterians for Earth Care

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