By Rev. Kathy Neary

I recently took part in the last of seven Conspire Conferences offered by the Center for Action and Contemplation, the center Richard Rohr founded in 1987 to teach the integration of action with contemplation. Over the decades, Fr. Rohr developed seven guiding themes for his work which you can read about on the center’s website. Each Conspire Conference focuses on one of these themes, and this conference focused on “non-duality is the highest form of consciousness.”

I’ve been learning a lot about the climate emergency we are facing. It’s not a crisis, a change, global warming, or a problem. We are destroying the Earth’s capacity to sustain human life, and this is an emergency. Yes, I’m focused on human life because I am self-centered, literally. I also know that although all life is interdependent and valuable, we selfish humans will act in our own self-interest long before we consider the good of the other.

The Conspire Conference inspired me to develop my own seven themes of “Christian Faith and the Climate Emergency.” Here they are:

  1. Jesus showed us God is incarnate in this world.
  2. Jesus taught that God loves all people. Always. No exceptions. None.
  3. God wants us well. All of us. Always.
  4. Human beings are destroying the Earth’s ability to sustain life. Right now.
  5. Human beings are in danger of extinction.
  6. We are acting against God’s will. (See #3)
  7. Our only work is to stop destroying the Earth. To do God’s will.

These seven themes expose some of the folly in our current activities. The United Methodist Church is focused on important but less urgent matters while we largely ignore the climate emergency threatening our existence. Here are a few of these items:

  1. The full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the Church: Is anyone waiting for General Conference to discern what they believe?
  2. Anti-racism work in a vacuum: Anti-racism work is essential, but it is best integrated into our work to save the Earth. We know that climate change disproportionately impacts people of color. 
  3. Doctrinal arguments: God is love; all the rest is commentary.
  4. Survival of The United Methodist Church: The survival of The UMC is only relevant if the Church is wholly focused on saving the Earth. This is true of all organizations, corporations, and governments.

Of course, there is the pandemic grabbing our attention, too. By now, however, we should know that how we have responded to the pandemic is a new normal for us. We must continue to do ministry with the pandemic in the background. Action on the climate emergency cannot wait.

There are two reasons for pivoting the church focus completely on the climate emergency. The first reason is that it is an emergency. We have just seen how the global emergency of a pandemic managed to focus the world’s attention on one threat. We need to view the climate emergency in the same way, only with an even better global response. 

The second reason is that without this pivot, The United Methodist Church will plunge over the cliff of irrelevancy sooner than we expect. We are currently marching with steadfast zeal in that direction. One of the most common questions I get from church folks is, “why don’t people want to come to our church?” People outside the church don’t want to come in because we offer nothing relevant to their lives. Nothing. When the world is crumbling, proclaiming a God who is separate and above creation and only interested in individual salvation from personal sin makes no sense. “Jesus delivered us from slavery to sin and death” are nonsense words to people trying to save their home planet from destruction. We stand at the church doors, inviting our neighbors to worship with us while our neighbors watch their homes burn. 

We must become a place that connects people to the sustaining love and power of an incarnate God.  We must equip people to challenge and change the principalities and powers that are destroying the planet. We must pivot toward saving our home and God’s home.

Rev. Kathy Neary serves as Transitional Ministry Developer for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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