Stewardship of Creation

Care and justice for all creation is a core value of The Episcopal Church. Eco-justice ministries seek to heal, defend, and work toward justice for all God's creation and to respect the kinship and connection of all that God created through education, advocacy, and action.

In order to create capacity in the church for environmental stewardship initiatives, and in response to Resolution A030 of the 78th General Convention, the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation was appointed in 2016. A full list of members can be found here

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry has issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s action and the Paris Climate Accord.

With the announcement by President Donald Trump of his decision to withdraw the commitment made by the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, I am reminded of the words of the old spiritual which speaks of God and God's creation in these words, "He's got the whole world in his hands." The whole world belongs to God, as Psalm 24 teaches us. God's eye is ever on even the tiny sparrow, as Jesus taught and the song says (Luke 12:6). And we human beings have been charged with being trustees, caretakers, stewards of God's creation (Genesis 1:26-31).

The United States has been a global leader in caring for God's creation through efforts over the years on climate change. President Trump’s announcement changes the U.S.’s leadership role in the international sphere. Despite this announcement, many U.S. businesses, states, cities, regions, nongovernmental organizations and faith bodies like the Episcopal Church can continue to take bold action to address the climate crisis.  The phrase, “We’re still in,” became a statement of commitment for many of us who regardless of this decision by our President are still committed to the principles of the Paris Agreement.

Faith bodies like the Episcopal Church occupy a unique space in the worldwide climate movement. In the context of the United Nations, the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, we are an international body representing 17 countries in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia and the Pacific. We also are an admitted observer organization to the UNFCCC process, empowered to bring accredited observers to the UN climate change meetings. Furthermore, the Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian tradition, and we remain committed to ensuring that Anglicans everywhere are empowered to undertake bold action on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

We know that caring for God's creation by engaging climate change is not only good for the environment, but also good for the health and welfare of our people. The U.S. is currently creating more clean jobs faster than job creation in nearly every other sector of the economy, and unprecedented acceleration in the clean energy sector is also evident in many other major economies.

My prayer is that we in the Episcopal Church will, in this and all things, follow the way, the teachings and the Spirit of Jesus by cultivating a loving, liberating and life-giving relationship with God, all others in the human family, and with all of God's good creation.

In spite of hardships and setbacks, the work goes on. This is God's world.  And we are all his children. And, "He's got the whole world in his hands."

 

 

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

 

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry has issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s action and the Paris Climate Accord. With the announcement by President Donald Trump of his decision to withdraw the...

Eight grants, totaling $69,400, have been awarded in the first round of grantmaking managed by the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation and approved by the Episcopal Church Executive Council at its February meeting.

Grants were awarded to:

  • Episcopal Earthkeepers Circle, Diocese of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN to develop an online repository of sermon starters, sample sermons and ideas for creation care themed preaching: $5,000.
  • Charis Community at Grace Church, Charlottesville VA to support a young adult intentional community’s permaculture best practices initiative which invites community and nearby churches into sacred appreciation of the land: $7400.
  • St. Mark’s Church, San Marcos, TX to develop a pilot Water-Spirit-Wisdom program around the estuary to the San Antonio Bay for local congregations. The pilot program will be tested and revised for broad based sharing around the church: $10,000.
  • Honore Farm and Mill, Larkspur, CA, expand the Farm to Altar program to a new location for the growing of and stone milling of organic heirloom wheat for environmental education through communion bread baking: $10,000
  • The Abundant Table, Ventura, CA, to expand the Eco-Spanish Language Bible and Book study for farmworkers, develop the Eco-farm church for young families and youth groups: $10,000.
  • Iowa Creation Stewards, Diocese of Iowa, to develop four regional working groups organized around watersheds to cultivate land, develop worship materials and lead forums on faith and the land: $10,000.
  • Episcopal Church in New Hampshire, to support for a 40 day spiritual journeys of renewal and restoration via canoes and kayaks along the Connecticut River involving all the New England dioceses. Worship materials, rituals and prayers will be shared broadly around the church for others to replicate: $7000
  • Diocese of Haiti, Centre Agriculture, to develop a drip-irrigation use system as a practical need for orchards and field crops. Use as a model of water conversation for other communities and congregations who will learn about the system: $10,000

The Advisory Council was created by General Convention 2015, enabled by Resolution A030,  and charged with the responsibility to develop a grant process to support local ecologically responsible stewardship of church-related properties and buildings.

Twenty applications were received in the first round. Applicants whose requests were not funded are eligible to revise and re-submit their requests in the second round of funding, which is open now.

Further information regarding this grant process and how to submit an application is available here.

Members of the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation are: Bishop Marc Andrus, Co-Chair, Diocese of California; the Rev. Stephanie Johnson, Co-Chair, Diocese of Connecticut; Paul Anton, Diocese of Minnesota; the Rev. Jerry Cappel, Diocese of Kentucky; the Rev. Patrick Funston, Diocese of Kansas; the Rev. Esther Georges, Diocese of the Virgin Islands; Perry Hodgkins Jones, Diocese of Atlanta; the Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick, Diocese of Delaware; the Rev. Nurya Love Parish, Diocese of Western Michigan; Kelly Phelan, Diocese of Los Angeles; Peter Sergienko, Diocese of Oregon; Dr. Andrew Thompson, Diocese of  East Tennessee; Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Ex Officio; President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, Ex Officio; Jayce Hafner, staff liaison.

 

 

Eight grants, totaling $69,400, have been awarded in the first round of grantmaking managed by the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation and approved by the Episcopal Church Executive Council at its February meeting. Grants were awarded...

The Episcopal Church Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation is accepting applications again for grants that focus on local faith-based projects for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the integrity of Creation.

The Episcopal Church Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation, enabled by Resolution A030, Create Task Force On Climate Change, approved at General Convention 2015, will make recommendations for grants up to $10,000.

Application information is available here.  Deadline for applications is March 31.

Episcopal Church congregations, seminaries, schools, monastic communities, non-profits, dioceses, provinces, etc. are encouraged to develop projects that find and establish connections between eco- and social justice, engaging the local community as partners and participants. The projects should seek to foster cooperation between communities of faith, civic, scientific and educational organizations. Projects should have specific outcomes which create lasting impact, enhance faith formation and social understanding and serve groups and/or regions that are vulnerable and/or underrepresented in the church. Projects including intergenerational engagement, demonstrating innovation and creativity, and promoting churchwide learning, understanding and practical application are welcomed. Projects should not be solely focused on materials or capital expenses.

The Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation will make recommendations to the Episcopal Church Executive Council for its May 2017 meeting, and final grant decisions will be made at that time. If funds allow, a third cycle of grantmaking will occur in the fall of 2017.

This marks the second grant cycle; the first cycle closed on December 31. Decisions from the first grantmaking cycle will be announced by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church following its February 2017 meeting.

For further information and details contact Chris Sikkema, Mission Associate for Justice and Advocacy Ministries.

Members

Members of the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation are: Bishop Marc Andrus, Co-Chair, Diocese of California; the Rev. Stephanie Johnson, Co-Chair, Diocese of Connecticut; Paul Anton, Diocese of Minnesota; the Rev. Jerry Cappel, Diocese of Kentucky; the Rev. Patrick Funston, Diocese of Kansas; the Rev. Esther Georges, Diocese of the Virgin Islands; Perry Hodgkins Jones, Diocese of Atlanta; the Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick, Diocese of Delaware; the Rev. Nurya Love Parish, Diocese of Western Michigan; Kelly Phelan, Diocese of Los Angeles; Peter Sergienko, Diocese of Oregon; Dr. Andrew Thompson, Diocese of  East Tennessee; Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Ex Officio; President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, Ex Officio; Jayce Hafner, staff liaison     

 

The Episcopal Church Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation is accepting applications again for grants that focus on local faith-based projects for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the integrity of Creation. The Episcopal Church...
Tagged in: Climate Change
Greenpeace stages a protest outside the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 18, 2016. PHOTO: Youssef Boudlal/REUTERS

Greenpeace stages a protest outside the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 18, 2016. PHOTO: Youssef Boudlal/REUTERS

[Episcopal News Service] Nations worldwide convened Nov. 7-18 in Marrakesh, Morocco, to hammer out the details of the Paris Agreement in a shift toward implementation and action on climate and sustainable development.

“Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” reads the Marrakesh Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development issued at the close of the 22nd Conference fo the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“We welcome the Paris Agreement … its rapid entry into force, with its ambitious goals, its inclusive nature and its reflection of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances, and we affirm our commitment to its full implementation.”

In December 2015, world governments and officials met in France to reach a historic agreement to reduce carbon emissions and arrest global warming. Since then, 111 countries, including the United States have signed the Paris Agreement, which went into effect on Nov. 4.

The agreement calls on the countries of the world to limit carbon emissions, which will require a decrease in dependence on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources; and for developed countries, those responsible for the majority of emissions both historically and at present, to commit to $100 billion in development aid annually by 2020 to developing countries.

The proclamation calls for strong solidarity with those countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; for all parties to strengthen and support efforts to eradicate poverty, ensure food security and to take stringent action to deal with climate change challenges in agriculture; to close the gap between current emissions trajectories and the pathway needed to meet the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement; and for an increase in the volume, flow and access to finance for climate projects, alongside improved capacity and technology, including from developed to developing countries.

“The Marrakesh Proclamation declares ‘irreversible momentum on climate,’ we now pray and discern our way to take part in this momentum,” said California Bishop Marc Andrus, who attended the United Nations climate conference in Marrakesh as an Episcopal delegate representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

“The Episcopal Church has an ecumenical and interfaith stance that impels us to work on building vibrant relationships with other denominations of Christianity and with other religions – again, we can ask what this diverse, complicated and increasingly integrated set of relationships offers to climate action.”

An interfaith climate statement signed by close to 300 religious leaders from 50 countries was presented Nov. 16 to a member of the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Change Support Team. The interfaith statement calls on nations to justly manage the transition to a low carbon economy and urges governments to shift trillions of dollars of investments in fossil fuels into renewable energy, goals in line with the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

The United States is the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, which trap heat in the atmosphere and make the planet warmer.

The Nov. 8 election of Donald J. Trump as the next U.S. president cast a pall over the climate conference, as he has vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and curb the country’s commitment to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The president-elect has called human-caused climate change a “hoax.”

“In the first week, the general pulse of the COP gathering was one of shock, denial, grief and anguish when the results of the U.S. elections became known. It was characterized by gloom, even tears, as many felt that the hard work that had been done was just about to go down the tubes,” said Lynnaia Main, global partnerships officer for the Episcopal Church and its liaison to the United Nations, who also attended the conference on behalf of the presiding bishop.

The mood, however, began to change at the start of the second week, she said, “we began to hear signs of hope and reaffirmation of the willingness to remain together and push forward on climate action.”

For instance, said Main, faith-based groups in attendance at the conference pledged to continue their work, with a focus on city and state governments and at the global level; while continuing to engage with the U.S. government.

“These smaller actors have the potential to make big strides in curbing emissions, and as advocates, we can plug into this potential through urging local structures to play their part in the international climate effort,” said Jayce Hafner, the Episcopal Church’s domestic policy analyst based in Washington, D.C., and a member of Curry’s delegation.

On Nov. 16, major corporations and investors called on President Barack Obama and president-elect Trump, to continue low-carbon policies and investments, and to stay committed to the Paris Agreement.

On Nov. 18, Trump announced three cabinet picks, all on the record as climate deniers. That same day, some of the world’s poorest countries strengthened their pledges to move toward renewables to meet 100 percent of their energy needs.

For its part, the Episcopal Church engages in environmental and climate justice advocacy using as a basis resolutions passed by the Church’s General Convention and its Executive Council, which in 2008 adopted support for the Church’s long-term carbon neutral goals.

The 2015 General Convention passed legislation to create a task force on climate change, which will provide resources that parishes can use to “green” their churches and educate members on what they can do to address climate change in their everyday lives.

“As the Episcopal Church mobilized in the early years of this century to embrace and forward the United Nations goals to reduce extreme poverty globally, so we can work in partnership with non-governmental organizations and governmental bodies to create a sustainable world,” said Andrus, at the close of the climate conference in Marrakesh.

“The Episcopal Church has enormous resources – chief among them are what [Holocaust survivor and filmmaker] Pierre Sauvage called ‘weapons of the spirit’ – prayer and our spiritual values, the sacraments, the Scriptures, the Body of the faithful, and the Holy Spirit. All of these spiritual realities inform and support our action in the world – finance, advocacy, ‘greening the Church,’ resistance, solidarity, protest.”

Many Episcopal churches have installed solar panels. And this year, Church Divinity School of the Pacific installed the largest solar panel grid of any theological institution in the country.

The Diocese of North Dakota is working on an energy sustainability project in its seven native ministries and congregations, including churches on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, near where protesters have for more the six months opposed construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the tribe’s water supply and sacred sites. Andrus recently joined more than 540 clergy and lay leaders in a day of solidarity and witness with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

– Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.

Greenpeace stages a protest outside the UN Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, Nov. 18, 2016. PHOTO: Youssef Boudlal/REUTERS [Episcopal News Service] Nations worldwide convened Nov. 7-18 in Marrakesh, Morocco, to hammer...

Applications are now accepted for grants that focus on local faith-based projects for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the integrity of Creation. The Episcopal Church Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation, enabled by Resolution A030, Create Task Force On Climate Change, approved at General Convention 2015, will make recommendations for grants up to $10,000.

Application information is available hereDeadline for applications is December 31.

“At General Convention in 2015, the Episcopal Church allocated funds to enable local faith-based projects for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the integrity of Creation,” commented the Rev. Stephanie Johnson, Council Co-Chair .

“The purpose of the funds is to support Episcopalians in reconciling with all God’s creation as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ,” added co-chair Bishop Marc  Andrus. 

Episcopal Church congregations, seminaries, schools, monastic communities, non-profits, dioceses, provinces, etc. are encouraged to develop projects which find and establish connections between eco- and social justice, engaging the local community as partners and participants. The projects should seek to foster cooperation between communities of faith, civic, scientific and educational organizations. Projects should have specific outcomes which create lasting impact, enhance faith formation and social understanding and serve groups and/or regions that are vulnerable and/or underrepresented in the church. Projects including intergenerational engagement, demonstrating innovation and creativity, and promoting churchwide learning, understanding and practical application are welcomed.

The Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation will make recommendations to the Episcopal Church Executive Council for its February 2017 meeting, and final grant decisions will be made at that time. The second round of grant opportunities will open in in February 2017. 

For further information and details please contact Chris Sikkema, Mission Associate for Justice and Advocacy Ministries, at csikkema@episcopalchurch.org.

Members

Members of the Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation are:

Bishop Marc Andrus, Co-Chair, Diocese of California

The Rev. Stephanie Johnson,  Co-Chair, Diocese of Connecticut

Paul Anton, Diocese of Minnesota

The Rev. Jerry Cappel, Diocese of Kentucky

The Rev. Patrick Funston, Diocese of Kansas

The Rev. Esther Georges, Diocese of the Virgin Islands

Perry Hodgkins Jones, Diocese of Atlanta

The Rev. Martha Kirkpatrick, Diocese of Delaware

The Rev. Nurya Love Parish, Diocese of Western Michigan

Kelly Phelan, Diocese of Olympia

Peter Sergienko, Diocese of Oregon

Dr. Andrew Thompson, Diocese of  East Tennessee

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Ex Officio

President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, Ex Officio         

Jayce Hafner, staff liaison      

Applications are now accepted for grants that focus on local faith-based projects for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the integrity of Creation. The Episcopal Church Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation, enabled by Resolution...
Tagged in: Standing Rock

The Episcopal Church community on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota has issued a call for the Episcopal Church to stand in solidarity and witness with those protecting water on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota.

Concerned by the increased repression of non-violent water protectors whose ranks include men, women and youth, and supported by the wisdom of Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault, the Rev. John Floberg has appealed for clergy and laity around the Episcopal Church to come together on the banks of the Missouri River in North Dakota to stand in witness and solidarity on November 3.

The militarized police presence near the camps of water protectors, compounded by the mass arrests of some of those protectors in recent days, have stirred the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and other Episcopalians to advocacy and action. Over the past month, Episcopalians have called upon the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor the actions of local law enforcement, state police, and the U.S. National Guard, urging law-enforcement officials to “de-escalate military and police provocation in and near the campsites of peaceful protest and witness of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.” The Episcopal Church also stands with Archambault in his request of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate potential civil rights violations involving the law enforcement response.

In a letter to the Episcopal Church on October 23, Floberg wrote:

“In recent days, the repressive power of the state has increased: armed riot police are guarding ongoing pipeline construction, increased arrests and repression of non-violent prayerful action. At the same time, Oceti Sakowin water protectors have reclaimed land never relinquished by treaty directly in the path of the pipeline and established a new camp.  Our duty as people of faith and clergy could not be clearer: to stand on the side of the oppressed and to pray for God’s mercy in these challenging times.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement on August 25 in support of the people gathered at Standing Rock.  He traveled to Standing Rock and the Oceti Sakowin Camp of water protectors, demonstrating support and solidarity through his presence. Presiding Bishop Curry called this historic gathering of over two hundred Indigenous Nations from North America and other parts of the world “the new Selma,” and his statement has been echoed by the Episcopal bishops of North and South Dakota and others. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the United Church of Christ are also standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock camps.

To learn more about this powerful opportunity to exercise our shared baptismal ministry as lay and clergy members see here 

Information from Episcopal News Service

Presiding Bishop tells Standing Rock protectors ‘the way of Jesus honors the water’

Executive Council Stands with Standing Rock

Evolving Standing Rock protests expand Episcopal Church’s ministry

 

 

 

The Episcopal Church community on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota has issued a call for the Episcopal Church to stand in solidarity and witness with those protecting water on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota. Concerned...
California Bishop Marc Andrus; former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry at Church Divinity School of the Pacific; and CDSP President and Dean W. Mark Richardson, pose for a photograph on the roof of Parsons Hall. Photo: Tom Minczeski/CDSP

California Bishop Marc Andrus; former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry at Church Divinity School of the Pacific; and CDSP President and Dean W. Mark Richardson, pose for a photograph on the roof of Parsons Hall. Photo: Tom Minczeski/CDSP

[Episcopal News Service] Harnessing energy from the sun is expected to save Church Divinity School of the Pacific $120,000 annually.

Earlier this year, the Berkeley, California-based Episcopal seminary installed solar panels on Easton, Parsons and Shires Halls. It’s the largest solar installation of any theological seminary in the United States.

“When American Solar came out and looked at our flat roofs with basically 100 percent southern exposure they were blown away by how effective this is going to be on our campus,” said seminary Dean and President W. Mark Richardson, during an interview with Episcopal News Service earlier this year.

On Oct. 22, former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry at CDSP, and Bishop of California Marc Andrus lead a liturgy to bless and dedicate the solar panels at the end of a daylong conference exploring the church’s response to the crisis of climate change.

The solar panels move the seminary toward energy independence, and the project itself is also a way to teach and empower students who were involved in the decision-making process to think about ways to mitigate climate change when they graduate, said Richardson.

The leadership at CDSP involved students in the solar installation process from the start. Including walking students through determining the project’s feasibility, the request for proposals, how to secure the necessary legal contracts, setting a timetable for build-out; the skills seminarians will need in the community, said Richardson.

Through a dashboard, students will be able to track the effectiveness and energy-saving capacity of the solar panels.

In December 2015, Richardson and Andrus were among those who represented the Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at the United Nations climate talks in Paris where negotiators reached a comprehensive agreement on climate change.

The Paris Agreement calls on countries worldwide to limit carbon emissions. Limiting carbon will require a decreased dependence on fossil fuels and an increase in reliance on renewable energy sources. CDSP’s solar panels show what efforts nongovernmental institutions can make toward helping the world shift toward renewable energy.

“CDSP is going off of one grid – the grid of life lived by extraction and ever-increasing consumption – and consciously becoming part of a network, that of life lived sustainably and in communion,” said Andrus, in an email to ENS. “CDSP is making a profoundly spiritual shift, towards wholeness.”

So far, 84 of 197 parties, including the United States, have ratified the Paris Agreement, which calls on not just nations, but state and local governments, and nongovernmental institutions, including religious organizations, to make an effort to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

“The Episcopal Church too can lend their important aid to fulfilling the Paris Agreement,” said Andrus, who represented the Episcopal Church at the United Nations for the signing of the agreement.

As retired Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Winston Hugh Ndungane said of the church in Africa, “‘There is no better means of delivering social services than the church, as we have an “outlet” in every village.’ Look at how the Episcopal Church is one body, with some 5,000 ‘outlets’; our impact for helping prevent climate disaster is potentially enormous,” he said.

Of the Diocese of California’s 81 congregations, 30 percent have installed solar panels. The goal, Andrus added, is to install solar panels on all of the diocese’s churches and diocesan buildings.

Berkeley sees an average 256 days of sunshine a year, and like nearly every region of the United States, “solar power generation makes abundantly good sense,” said Jefferts Schori, in an email to ENS.

“The installation of this solar array on the campus of CDSP will provide a major boon to the annual budget, lessen the demand for electricity produced from fossil fuel and reduce the need for future power plants,” she said. “Christian seminaries have long claimed their grounding in the Son of God who brings light to the world. How better to enact this in a sacramental witness to the interconnectedness of all creation?

“CDSP is offering the world an outward and visible sign of the spiritual grace abounding in this community.”

— Lynette Wilson is an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service.

 

California Bishop Marc Andrus; former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry at Church Divinity School of the Pacific; and CDSP President and Dean W. Mark Richardson, pose for a...
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver discusses the city’s water crisis during a Sept. 17 briefing at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Diocese of Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley, far right, and the Rev. Dan Scheid, St. Paul’s rector, organized the briefing as the first stop on a tour of Episcopal Church ministry sites in Flint for bishops, their spouses and others. Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), left, and Flint pediatrician Larry Reynolds, a member of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, also participated. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver discusses the city’s water crisis during a Sept. 17 briefing at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Diocese of Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley, far right, and the Rev. Dan Scheid, St. Paul’s rector, organized the briefing as the first stop on a tour of Episcopal Church ministry sites in Flint for bishops, their spouses and others. Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), left, and Flint pediatrician Larry Reynolds, a member of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force, also participated. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Flint, Michigan] Even before the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, became a federal emergency in late January, the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan was distributing water and partnering with other churches and groups to respond to what Bishop Todd Ousley calls government’s “systematic, intentional neglect” of city residents.

In Flint, as in many of the parts of Michigan suffering from the decline of the auto industry, “there is an ongoing, systematic ignoring of the plight of people in poverty and people of color,” Ousley told a group of bishops, their spouses and others who joined him on a Sept. 17 trip to Flint.

Sixty percent of the city’s roughly 96,000 residents are African-American and 41.6 percent of Flint’s residents live below the poverty line, one of the highest poverty rates in the United States.

The Episcopal Church in eastern Michigan recognized that it was called to respond to the human need in Flint and the response became evangelism by action, Ousley said. And Episcopalians responded “in relationship with the people who are telling us their concerns and what their needs are,” he said.

The Sept. 17 trip was part of the House of Bishop’s Sept. 15-20 meeting underway in nearby Detroit.

The water crisis has become a way for Eastern Michigan Episcopalians to “intentionally live into the Baptismal Covenant in a way that we had not been challenged to in the past,” Ousley said.

The call to relieve Flint residents’ short-term needs, and to advocate for long-term solutions and systemic change, is what Ousley called a “clear intersection” of all of the Baptismal Covenant’s promises.

“You couldn’t say this was just a justice issue or this is just a dignity issue; this is just a good news issue,” he said. “It was wrapped up in the entirety of the Baptismal Covenant.”

The Rev. Dan Scheid, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Flint, introduces Danielle Brown, executive director of Christ Enrichment Center, who spoke about how Flint needs people who are inspired to ministry and who are also knowledgeable or willing to learn about what the city needs. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Dan Scheid, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Flint, introduces Danielle Brown, executive director of Christ Enrichment Center, who spoke about how Flint needs people who are inspired to ministry and who are also knowledgeable or willing to learn about what the city needs. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Or, in the words of Danielle Brown, executive director of Christ Enrichment Center, “You can’t throw away a whole city in my presence.”

But “throwing away a city” is what Ousley said has been happening in Flint for decades.

Michigan has long held a reputation for being a leader of the anti-slavery movement, and later for creating unprecedented upward economic mobility for African-Americans, said Ousley. “But it also has the history of being yet another one of the playing fields for white dominance and a reframing of slavery,” he said.

Ousley argued that the post-World War II northern migration of African-Americans to Michigan ushered in an era when white autoworkers either moved up into the industry’s management ranks or left for jobs elsewhere.

As the U.S. auto industry began its decades-long decline, Flint suffered economically and eventually lost more than half its residents.

All the while, the need for a clean water supply in Flint was ignored for years, Ousley said, as General Motors pumped “billions upon billions of gallons of waste into the Flint River, which was the drinking supply for the city,” Ousley said. The river became so polluted that Flint officials began accessing Detroit’s water system. The price Detroit charged made Flint’s water rates the highest in the country, Ousley said.

Ousley said he sees Flint’s story as partly one of environmental racism with “a long pattern of locating persons of color in areas where there was likely to be a high contamination in soil or in the waterways.”

There are now acres of abandoned land in Flint were GM auto plants once stood and the GM Flint workforce has dropped from 80,000 to 5,000. As the tax base declined, city officials, and more recently, emergency managers appointed by the governor and with almost unlimited powers, began selling off municipal assets to pay the bills.

“Everything had been stripped from us,” Mayor Karen Weaver told the group during a stop at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Flint.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, which became a water distribution point, is an example of how those economic forces played out in people’s lives. General Motors was founded in Flint and only later moved southeast to Detroit. St. Paul’s was once know as “General Motors directors at prayer,” Ousley said.

Now, the parish is a “shadow of what it once was” in terms of finances and members, but it has a rich legacy of endowments from those past members. Those endowments are contributing to its ministry to the Flint residents left behind.

In April 2014, Flint’s emergency manager, in a money-saving measure, ordered the city’s water supply be switched from Detroit’s municipal water system temporarily to the Flint River until Flint could construct its own water pipeline from Lake Huron, the source of Detroit’s water. At the same time, the emergency manager, seeking to save $100 a day, the bishop said, ordered that the water not be treated with a chemical to prevent lead from leaching out of pipes into the water running through them. The state had, mistakenly, told Flint officials that federal guidelines did not require the chemical treatment, according to the New York Times.

Then followed a series of falsified tests, ignored warnings and disregard of residents’ complaints of discolored and bad-smelling water, and skin rashes. In October 2014, General Motors switched the water supply for its remaining Flint operations to Lake Huron because Flint water was corroding metal parts in its factories.

Long before state and local officials switched the city’s water back to the Detroit system and recanted their assurances about the safety of Flint’s water, churches and other community organizations went to work.

“The grace of God just blew through this place” in the day after the extent of Flint’s water crisis became clear, said Craig Leavitt, a former General Motors metalworker and current St. Paul’s junior warden who runs Flint’s Downtown Crossover Outreach Ministry. Leavitt spoke at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, on the city’s east side to a group of bishops, their spouses and others on a tour of Episcopal Church ministry sites in Flint. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/ Episcopal News Service

“The grace of God just blew through this place” in the day after the extent of Flint’s water crisis became clear, said Craig Leavitt, a former General Motors metalworker and current St. Paul’s junior warden who runs Flint’s Downtown Crossover Outreach Ministry. Leavitt spoke at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, on the city’s east side to a group of bishops, their spouses and others on a tour of Episcopal Church ministry sites in Flint. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Episcopal Relief & Development responded early on and was amazing, according to Craig Leavitt, a former GM metalworker and current St. Paul’s junior warden who runs Flint’s Downtown Crossover Outreach Ministry.

“Almost before (Flint Mayor) Karen Weaver could open her mouth to say we have lead in our water, they were there,” he told the group during its stop at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, on the city’s east side.

Grants also came from the dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan, and donations came from parishes across lower Michigan. St. Paul’s partnered with St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Christ Enrichment Center, along with other organizations, to give residents access to clean water. The outpouring of contributions was tremendous and Ousley said “we probably have enough bottled water to get us through decades.”

Collaborations forged in those early days continue now with a focus on the ongoing needs for decades to come. Those needs include access to and education about so-called lead-mitigating foods, as well as spiritual and psychological counseling. Christ Enrichment Center, founded by nearby Episcopal congregations, is leading the way in meeting many of those needs with education and support.

There is also the question of how Flint residents can afford the cost of replacing water pipes in their homes that have been irreversibly damaged by the corrosive water. Even residents who have the money to do so would be investing it in a house that is worth less than half of what it was in 2008, Ousley said.

And there is another need, Weaver told the group at St. Paul’s: hope, visible signs of hope. The city has begun replacing damaged pipes in the municipal part of the water system and that work is offering a glimmer of that hope. But there is still suspicion. Residents were told for months the water was fine; how do they believe those assurances now, asked Weaver.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate last week took a small step towards helping Flint. On Sept. 15, in a 95-3 vote it approved the Water Resources Development Act that authorizes spending $270 million to aid Flint and other poor communities that have suffered from lead-contaminated water. It is a helpful sum Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) told the group, but it is still a “drop in the bucket” compared to what his city needs.

However, the bill includes no immediate funding and, instead, approves projects for future federal spending from Congress’s appropriations committees. The House has not voted on the bill and its version does not include Flint, although supporters are trying to remedy that.

It will take faith combined with expertise to face Flint’s future, said Brown, Christ Enrichment Center’s director, who told the group that she is not an Episcopalian but comes to her work with the fervor of an evangelist.

“I am trained as a human services professional but I am also a saint of God” and she told them “if you have a passion for serving God’s people and know what to do, or have a desire to learn how or even to bring people in that know how, then collaboratively you can really see some splendid success within the ministry.”

Ousley said that five years ago when Brown took over the center, its future was in doubt because of inept management, a lack of capacity to do the work expected and infighting among and within the Episcopal churches that sponsored the center. “But there was faithfulness,” he said, and Brown contributed “tremendous sacrifice and creativity” – and calm when the ceiling of her office collapsed on her. Reviving the center meant rethinking congregational and diocesan collaboration, Ousley said.

The center’s growth in ministry is symbolic of the diocese’s response to Flint’s crisis for him.

“I don’t give thanks for a water crisis, but the opportunity to be the church in the midst of that crisis has strengthened us as a church and as individual Christians,” he said.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver discusses the city’s water crisis during a Sept. 17 briefing at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Diocese of Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley, far right, and the Rev. Dan Scheid, St. Paul’s rector, organized the briefing as...

[Episcopal News Service] The recent protests of an oil pipeline in North Dakota have thrust the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and many of its members who are Episcopalians, into the national spotlight. But for the several Episcopal congregations on Native American reservations in North Dakota, the focus on energy issues and the environment is nothing new.

On Sept. 6, a U.S. district judge stayed construction on a section of the pipeline crossing North Dakota. Federal regulators previously issued permits allowing the $3.8 billion pipeline to cross four states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois and Iowa. The tribe, joined by protestors from across the nation, says the pipeline threatens to destroy sacred sites and to contaminate drinking water. Over the Labor Day weekend, the situation turned violent as protestors clashed with private security guards hired by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation developing the pipeline.

After a 2012 fire destroyed St. Jame's Church in Canon Ball the congregation rebuilt with the help of a UTO grant. The new structure is sip wall panel construction with six solid inches of insulation and heated with geothermal energy. Photo: Facebook

After a 2012 fire destroyed St. James’ Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the congregation rebuilt a more energy efficient church. The new structure is six solid inches of structural insulated panel construction and heated by a geothermal system. Photo: St. James’ Church via Facebook

Long before protesters in August initially succeeded in halting work on the part of the pipeline that crosses the Missouri River just north of Standing Rock, the Diocese of North Dakota began work on an energy sustainability project in its seven native ministries and congregations. That project got a big boost this year when the United Thank Offering, or UTO, awarded it a $50,000 grant, combined with an additional $45,000 from a sustainability initiative funded through the General Convention budget.

Shifting to renewable energy sources – solar, wind and water – assists congregations by saving money and fits indigenous peoples’ spiritual calling to protect the Earth and the natural resources that are part of God’s creation, church leaders say.

The first step is an audit of the parish buildings on four reservations in North Dakota to identify ways of making them more energy efficient. Then most of the money will fund building upgrades and, at one of the churches, a solar power project.

Church leaders also see the project as a way of expanding their capacity for outreach. If they can make it cost-effective to open churches and parish halls at hours other than Sunday worship services, new ministries can take shape, especially those that cater to young people.

This energy sustainability effort at the congregational level aligns with church members’ opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, said the Rev. John Floberg, canon missioner for the Episcopal Church community on the Standing Rock Reservation and an Executive Council member.

The Standing Rock reservation draws its drinking water from the Missouri River, and the tribe is concerned that the pipeline could leak or break and contaminate that water. But fossil fuels, such as the oil carried by the pipeline to refineries and markets around the country, heat and power most of the buildings there.

“If we never see our use of these things as on our shoulders as well, and try to find ways to mitigate that, then shame on us,” Floberg said.

Floberg is pastor of the three Episcopal congregations on the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Reservation, though he oversees the sustainability project for all of the diocese’s Native American congregations, including those on Turtle Mountain Reservation, Spirit Lake Reservation and Fort Berthold Reservation.

The scope of this project is comprehensive, with all church buildings under review. It is similar to an effort made three years ago at one of the churches, St. James’ Church in Cannon Ball. After a fire had destroyed its former building, the St. James congregation received a UTO grant to include a geothermal heating and cooling system when rebuilding.

St. James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, is heated with a geothermal system that was installed in 2013 when the parish rebuilt after a fire destroyed the old church. Photo: John Floberg

St. James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, is heated with a geothermal system that was installed in 2013 when the parish rebuilt after a fire destroyed the old church. Photo: John Floberg

To heat told building for use beyond Sunday mornings and to keep the pipes from freezing cost between $1,500 and $3,000 in the coldest winter months. With the energy-efficient system, the church spends about $250 a month on utilities, Floberg said. The diocese then sought to improve energy use in all church buildings on North Dakota reservations, underscoring the practical challenges congregations face in paying the bills and applied for another UTO grant.

These congregations serve some of the poorest communities in the country. In Sioux County, which encompasses the North Dakota half of Standing Rock, 34 percent of families reported living under the poverty level in the 2000 census; this compares with 8 percent of all North Dakota families and 9 percent of families across the United States that live under the poverty level.

“Without greater efficiency or replacement of higher-costing energy sources, the simple answer for our congregations is to turn down or turn off the heat to their buildings for a week or in some cases for months at a time,” the grant application said.

The purpose for the grant money, then, is not only to catch up on deferred maintenance at the churches but a “long-term reduction in the use of fossil fuel.”

“If you were able to take both energy efficiency (improvements) and utilizing the three renewable energy sources, you would be able to keep more church doors open and have more churches focused on doing the ministry and what congregations are called to do,” said the Rev. Brandon Mauai, an Episcopal deacon on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Mauai had the opportunity to join an Episcopal Church delegation that traveled to Paris last December for the COP21 climate summit. That experience, he said, allowed him to bring back insight and information that can be applied to the North Dakota diocese’s sustainability efforts, especially in pursuing those three renewable energy sources: solar, wind and water.

The first step is also the least expensive: an energy audit. An expert, likely from a local heating and cooling company, will be asked to come and analyze each building’s structure, utility systems and appliances, and recommend improvements that will make the buildings more energy efficient.

Floberg expects many practical upgrades. St. Luke’s in Fort Yates, for example, has light fixtures that can’t accommodate high-efficiency light bulbs. The likely solution: Replace the fixtures.

Other buildings may benefit from weather-sealed windows and doors, or better insulation, Floberg said. And the fellowship hall at St. Thomas’ in Fort Totten will likely replace its natural gas furnace that is decades old and only 60 or 65 percent efficient with a more efficient furnace.

St. Paul’s in White Shield worships in a church built in the 1960s, and although building already has upgraded to a high-energy furnace, it will look into adding a heating system in its newer addition that will take advantage of technology advances, such as infrared heating.

The savings from more efficient heating systems are sure to add up over many freezing winters in North Dakota. In January, the average temperature in Bismarck, the state’s capital, is a chilly 13 degrees.

The sustainability project’s most ambitious upgrade will be the addition of solar panels at St. James. The hope is that the combination of solar power and the existing geothermal heating and cooling will allow St. James to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to the point that it can send money back to the diocese to help pay the other congregations’ expenses.

Floberg also sees it as a visible expression of the Episcopal Church’s mission.

“When we put up this solar panel here, people in this community and on this reservation are going to see it and … it’s going to be a quick connection with what the Episcopal Church might say in its meetings and what it’s doing on the ground,” he said.

That partly reflects the project’s additional goal of improving the communities around the congregations through energy education. Residents can apply the lessons the low-cost energy savings strategies like weather-proofing and caulking learned at the churches to improve the efficiency of their homes.

While attending seminars and networking with conservation experts at the COP21 summit in December, Mauai learned ways to improve the effectiveness of the solar power efforts back home. But “just the smallest things,” like building improvements, can add up, Mauai said. “And it’s making a statement that we are practicing what we preach as a church.”

And when the parish buildings can be kept open anytime during the week without breaking the congregations’ budgets, there will be more opportunities to invite the community in, Floberg said.

Such outreach opportunities could take many forms, but Floberg said an initial focus would be on expanding youth ministries. The parishes already organize a youth camp in the summer, but winter events usually have to be held in borrowed space, such as a public building. That could change once the churches remove or reduce the barrier of heating costs.

– David Paulsen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa.

[Episcopal News Service] The recent protests of an oil pipeline in North Dakota have thrust the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, and many of its members who are Episcopalians, into the national spotlight. But for the several Episcopal congregations on...
Tagged in: Creation

The Episcopal Church Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation offers a report of its work following a recent meeting.

The report follows:

The Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation met in New York City July 20-22 to discern the Church’s ongoing response to environmental issues.  The Advisory Council members were appointed by the presiding officers as called for by Resolution A030 adopted at the 78th General Convention. A list of the members of the Advisory Council can be found here      

Resolution A030 calls for the council to form Regional Consultative Groups (RCG’s) for local technical support and networking of environmental ministries and initiatives.  Each RCG will include  individuals who can support needs in education, theology and liturgy as well as  ecological experts to  equip dioceses and congregations as  they live into the Church’s mission to join in the reconciliation of all God’s creation. The council is developing a plan for forming the RCGs and expects to announce the process later this year.

The Advisory Council will also oversee $300,000 in grant funding for environmental ministries that focus on the intersection of social and environmental needs, faith and eco-justice, and congregational engagement. Funds for the grants will come from monies allocated to the Fifth Mark of Mission as approved by the 78th General Convention in 2015. The council is currently developing the granting process, which it expects to announce publicly later this year.

During the meeting, the Advisory Council had the opportunity to meet with the two presiding officers of the Episcopal Church: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, and with Executive Officer of the General Convention the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe. The presiding officers expressed their commitment to continue embracing and embodying the spirit of Jesus by caring for creation. From the Presiding Bishop, the Council heard a commitment to three major ways the church can live into the Jesus Movement: evangelism, the work of racial reconciliation, and care for creation. These issues are the work of the Church and are intimately connected to each other.

The Advisory Council issued a statement to the wider Church: “Grace and peace to you in Jesus’ name. We rejoice that our church’s officers affirm that eco-justice work is core to God’s mission. We commit to develop a church-wide network and grant making process to resource this ministry. We ask your prayers and we offer ours for you.”

 

For more information contact Advisory Council member Kelly Phelan, Diocese of Olympia, kphelan@saintmarks.org

 

The Episcopal Church Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation offers a report of its work following a recent meeting. The report follows: The Advisory Council on the Stewardship of Creation met in New York City July 20-22 to discern the...