There have been many examples of extreme weather events in the US and around the world in the past few years.  Most scientists believe these events are a result of global warming and the climate change it is bringing. They also believe that global warming is correlated with human activity starting from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and continuing at an ever faster pace as more and more countries develop and greenhouse gas emissions by all countries increase. Just this past summer, a multi-country agreement to find ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions was ratified and signed in Paris. The United States finally signed on along with 174 other countries including even China and India.

Yet, not everyone agrees with the scientists on this.  There are those who deny that global warming is happening or that the extreme weather we are experiencing is in any way related to human activity. We thought it would be useful to examine what our church and the Church in general has to say about these matters. Global warming and climate change are religious matters. We are told in the Bible that we are the guardians of the Earth and will be held accountable for how we manage this world that God created for us (see Gen 1:26; Gen 2:15; Prov 12:10; Prov 27:18; Num 35:35, Psalm 24:1). 

The Episcopal Church has taken a firm stand on these matters. Our past bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori has gone so far as to state that “…people who deny climate change based on ‘political interests’ or ‘willful blindness’ are guilty of sinful motivations.”   (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/26/katherine-jefferts-schori-climate-change_n_6949532.html). In that same article Jefferts Schori is quoted as saying “We [humans] are making war on the integrity of the planet….We were planted in the garden to care for it….and that must include all the species the God has nurtured on this planet.” 

Our church formed the Episcopal Ecological Network in 1986. This initiative is strongly committed to environmental stewardship and environmental justice.  In 2012 Episcopalians partnered with an interfaith nonprofit (Green Faith) that provides educational resources for making churches more environmentally friendly.  Here at St. Gregory’s our Environmental Committee has used these resources and guidelines to do just that for our church. This committee plans environmentally-oriented outings at least once each year. We will also offer a program/lecture on environmental issues each spring. Please watch for and plan to come to the one this spring to increase your understanding of the issues and learn about actions you can personally take to help. The committee is always looking for new members (see Susan D’Ambrosio or Jim Miller). 

With regard to the Church at large, perhaps you have heard that Pope Francis initiated and developed an encyclical (Laudato Si’) in 2015 that is devoted to ecology. (An encyclical is a teaching document issued by a pope).  This one is truly remarkable for several reasons:

 
1)      It is the only encyclical ever devoted to environmental issues
2)      Encyclicals are typically addressed to Bishops of the Catholic Church but this one is addressed to every human being on the planet; not just the Bishops and not just Catholics.
3)      It is not focused on  Catholic doctrine – very unusual
4)      It is not a dictate about what Catholics should believe simply because they have been instructed to do so by the Pope; instead, it is an invitation for everyone in the world to dialogue with one another about environmentalism.                                        

According to a blog entry by Jimmy Akin on June 18, 2015 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/26/katherine-jefferts-schori-climate-change_n_6949532.html) Pope Francis wrote this encyclical because he is “convinced that there are significant environmental problems…[and]…that the Church needs to do more with evangelization and engaging people who currently don’t listen to the Church [about such matters].”

One of the most astonishing aspects of the encyclical is that it addresses a scientific matter and urges everyone to use good scientific evidence to discuss and decide how to address such topics as global warming.  In the scientific section of the encyclical, Pope Francis uses scientific sources to back up his views, not religious ones, and urges the rest of us to do so as well. 

Pope Francis does not insist that Catholics or anyone else must believe that global warming is manmade;  however, he wants us to use scientific, not religious, sources to reach conclusions and make decisions about how to protect the planet and all its peoples.  In other words, the Pope is asking all of us to base these decisions on science, not faith.

 
The encyclical contains 40,500 words. You can find copies and summaries online if you would like to know more.
 
Respectfully submitted,
St. Gregory’s Environmental Committee