Preparing for the 32123 Banking on Our Future Day of Action

Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and friends at an Interfaith Action at Bank of America, calling on the bank to stop funding fossil fuels.  Photo Credit: Robert A. Jonas

As the United Methodist liaison to Third Act Faith’s Faithful Banking Subcommittee, I am trying to get the word out to United Methodists around the country about Third Act Faith and the Banking on Our Future Campaign.  My article, “Climate Change and Faithful Banking,” was published on January 4 by United Methodist Insight, a national newsletter. It interprets the Campaign from a Methodist perspective.

I live near Nevada City, a small town in the foothills of Northern California. I am pulling together a Third Act Faith group for a March 21 Banking on Our Future local action by reaching out to members of my denomination, speaking to pastors and some of the people I know in the three nearby United Methodist churches, and by reaching out through our local nonprofit, Earth Justice Ministries, which works with people from varied faith traditions.

Asking someone to pledge to change their bank is a big ask, especially in this time of direct deposits and automatic payments, so it’s important for me to know and acknowledge what it involves. But as the climate stakes become ever-higher, it is a way to take moral responsibility not just for what we fund with our income, but also with our assets. I’ll be talking up this campaign until the March 21st day of action, hoping to inspire a few people to join us here in my community or elsewhere.

I recently found out that there are members of Elders Climate Action in our community who are planning to coordinate with Third Act’s Banking on Our Future Campaign, so our interfaith Third Act Faith group will participate as a contingent in the larger coalition action. We will identify ourselves by wearing or carrying identifying symbols of our faiths; clergy may choose to wear vestments. We will carry a colorful banner that says “Third Act Faith.”

Our group will work with whatever other groups participate and help to create an inclusive action that is respectful and effective. We will notify the local bank (or banks) and set up a meeting with the bank manager and let them know in advance that we will be there on 32123. At the meeting, we will tell the manager why and when we will come and exactly what nonviolent, respectful action we will take: a peaceful demonstration outside, songs, banners, flyers, with some members of our group coming in to close their accounts. We may accompany some of them to one of the local banks or credit unions that do not fund fossil fuels (so far, we have identified two).

Members of our group will notify the press and write letters to the editor or opinion pieces for our local papers in advance. We’ll get lots of pictures, try to get publicity in advance and on the day of the event, and help the movement gain momentum so that people will become aware of the problem of banks funding fossil fuels. I have done similar actions in the past, and I expect it to go well. The managers may close the banks if they know we are coming, or the actions may proceed as we have planned. However it goes, we will have done our part.

Climate Change and Faithful Banking

By Sharon Delgado

This year the World Council of Churches put forth the initiative, “Climate-Responsible Finance: A Moral Imperative towards Children,” which links the deadly impacts of climate change on the world’s children with the strategy of engagement with banks that are invested in fossil fuels. At the launch of this initiative in May 2022, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “It is now time for financial service providers to accelerate the shift to renewables. They have the power – and the responsibility. The scientific and moral imperative is clear: there must be no new investment in fossil fuel expansion, including production, infrastructure, and exploration.” 

Clearly, the climate impacts of our investments are linked to ethical decisions about our money. Here in the United States, an organization called Third Act, which is geared toward elders, is taking this connection to heart. Formed by seasoned climate organizer (and United Methodist) Bill McKibben, Third Act promotes both democracy and effective climate action.  Right now the organization is promoting their Banking on Our Future Campaign, which focuses on the four top  banks that fund fossil fuel projects: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citibank. This “money pipeline” from banks enables fossil fuel companies to build new extraction, transportation, processing, sales, and export infrastructure that lock us into increasing fossil fuel use and accelerating global heating for decades–decades that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we don’t have. Without the money pipeline, fossil fuel producers would have to stop funding new infrastructure, stop engaging in climate change denial, and make good on their promises to transition to renewable forms of energy.

In addition to my role as coordinator of the California-Nevada Annual Conference Climate Justice Ministries Task Force,  I am the United Methodist liaison on the board of Third Act Faith,  a working group of Third Act. One of my jobs is to interpret the good work of Third Act to the United Methodist Church and its members, to explain how participating in their Banking on Our Future Campaign is an act of faith, to share practical ways that United Methodists can be involved at every level of church life, and to encourage participation. A tall order! But when I break it down, I realize that all I have to do is interpret, explain, share, and encourage action. Perhaps some of you who read this will carry this work further, and God, “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3), will take it from there.

Interpreting the work of Third Act to the United Methodist Church, especially to retired clergy and laity, has been made easy by Bill McKibben and others who have explained it clearly. To understand Banking on Our Future’s rationale read Your Money Is Your Carbon and Want to Address Climate Change?  Change Your Bank. Why focus on elders?  People over sixty own seventy percent of the wealth in this country. There are 70 million of us, most of us vote, many of us have grandchildren or other children whom we love, and we hope to leave them a  planet  with abundant life that we have enjoyed. (See the PBS News Hour’s special with McKibben’s “brief but spectacular take” on Third Act and fighting for the climate and our democracy).

Likewise, explaining to United Methodists how participating in Third Act’s Banking on Our Future Campaign is an act of faith involves highlighting points that the World Council of Churches and others have made about the morality of our money in this time of climate emergency, and framing such points in Wesleyan terms:  social holiness, the value of God’s creation, the world as our parish, and so on. Remember, John Wesley was a social reformer who saw the connections between personal finance and injustice. A staunch abolitionist, he wrote, “Better no trade than trade procured by villainy…Better is honest poverty than all the tears, and sweat, and blood, of our fellow creatures.” (Thoughts Upon Slavery, 45-46).  Bringing it back to the climate emergency in our time, others have expressed a similar sentiment in simple terms: “It’s wrong to profit by wrecking the planet.”

In practical terms, this campaign offers suggestions, action opportunities, and resources at varied levels of commitment, including writing letters to the big banks, pledging to divest if your bank continues funding fossil fuels, engaging with bank managers, or participating in public demonstrations. By participating, we join with many other groups offering resources and taking similar actions, including Stop the Money Pipeline and Customers for Climate Justice. On March 21, 2023, there will be a big day of action, with people publicly divesting: 32123! Big Banks are Driving the Climate Crisis So We’re Pushing Back.

Finally, I encourage you to rise to the challenge that the climate emergency presents to us in our time, as United Methodists and as people of faith and conscience. Taking steps toward “faithful banking” is one way to take action. Join the Third Act email list. Join a Working Group– the Faith working group and/or a local working group.  Find out how  you can  Take Action Today.

For questions, contact me at climatejustice@cnumc.org.

Follow Sharon’s blog post by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right. Share with the Social Media buttons below. Read other blog posts related to climate change here. Check out Sharon’s books.  Contact Sharon to request a presentation or to order discounted bulk copies of her books.  Discussion guides and video introductions of her books are also available.

 

The Climate Crisis and COP 27: Conflicting Worldviews

 

Published November 28, 2022 by United Methodist Insight:  The Climate Crisis and COP 27: Conflicting Worldviews

The recent climate conference, COP 27, ended with mixed reviews from climate campaigners. United Methodist Agencies were represented in the talks, and their reports from the Conference and other reports about the climate negotiations are available below. In the following excerpt from her newest book, Sharon Delgado draws from The first chapter of First Corinthians to frame the ongoing conflicts that have prevented the international community from charting a clear course towards a stable climate and a just world, and points to Jesus’s passion for the reign of God as a model for our participation.

Excerpt from Sharon Delgado’s new book: The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World

According to the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), average global temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The report says we must limit this warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent the most catastrophic impacts, which means cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half globally by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050, which will require rapid and far-reaching changes in all aspects of society. Or in a slogan from the climate justice movement, “System change not climate change.”

Climate justice advocates demand policies based on the science that will help bring about systemic change. Such policies include ending fossil fuels subsidies that the International Monetary Fund says amount globally to $10 million per minute, providing “loss and damage” payments to poor countries that have been impacted most and have contributed least to climate change, immediately transitioning to justly and sustainably sourced renewable power, and banning permits for long-lasting fossil fuel infrastructure projects like pipelines and offshore oil drilling rigs that will cause pollution and keep the fossil fuel party going for decades. The bottom line is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

The problem is that there are powerful interests working to keep the dominant system intact. They propose complex carbon-trading schemes and postpone action based on the hope of untested carbon-capture and geoengineering technologies. They promise to move to net-zero domestically sometime in the future while continuing to increase fossil fuel exports. Many government and industry leaders see the magnitude of the dangers but won’t go against the conventional wisdom of today’s system of corporate-dominated globalization, which is built around profit, powered by fossil fuels, and backed by police and military power.

Meanwhile, the movement for climate justice is strong and growing. These struggles are often led by people who are marginalized in official decision-making processes— people from island and low-lying nations experiencing sea-level rise, drought-stricken nations facing famine, frontline communities being turned into sacrifice zones by fossil fuel extraction and processing, Indigenous people whose lands are being polluted by pipelines or confiscated to plant tree farms to supply polluting corporations with carbon credits, and young people whose lives and futures are at stake— and they are supported by environmental groups, labor unions, and other civil society groups, including churches. Together, these groups make up the global movement for climate justice. They call for climate change to be treated as the emergency that it is and for governments to take immediate action. Participants are not just saying no to fossil fuels but yes to a transformed world, and they have plans to get us there.

These are two completely different approaches to the climate crisis: an approach that leaves our market-based global system intact and an approach that calls for a widespread social and economic transformation. They represent two conflicting paradigms and opposing worldviews.

Perhaps the answers to our search for climate solutions will come in ways that we least expect them. Leaders in struggles for climate justice are not high-status official representatives of the domination system, nor are they wealthy or powerful according to the wisdom of this world (1 Cor 1:20). But it may be that these will be the very people who will save us from climate catastrophe by opening our eyes to another worldview, by pressing for systemic change, and by demanding commonsense solutions that will keep fossil fuels in the ground. They may be considered “weak” and “foolish” (1 Cor 1:27-29) by the world’s standards, but they are organizing and networking together to build grassroots movements that have the power necessary to bring about the widespread social, political, and ecological changes that are necessary to transition to a more just, compassionate, peaceful, and ecologically regenerative world. Churches could amplify these movements by joining such campaigns and coalitions as respectful allies. In the words of climate justice organizer Bill McKibben, “The main way to counter the malign power of vested interests is to meet organized money with organized people.”

The word of the cross (1Cor 1:18), as weak and foolish as it may seem, allows us to glimpse a new order, an alternative to the dominant culture and its values based instead on the compassion, justice, inclusivity, and nonviolence that characterized Jesus’s life and (as we now know it must be) on care and concern for all creation. Martin Khor of the Third World Network speaks of something similar when he says that there are two paradigms at work in our world today: the top-down system of corporate globalization, backed by violence, and an emerging alternative system that is community based, people friendly, earth centered, and nonviolent. He points out that as we work within the dominant system to make it fairer, more just, and less ecologically destructive, we must also nurture seeds of hope to bring alive the second paradigm and “infuse it into the first paradigm as a kind of transition.” This worldview offers an alternative to the domination system that is consistent with traditional and contemporary Indigenous views and is supported by the understanding of God as not only transcendent but also immanent within creation. It recalls Jesus’s proclamation of the reign of God and its contemporary secular counterpart that proclaims that “another world is possible.”

The compassion and passion for the reign of God that motivated Jesus may yet save us, as his risen Spirit lives and loves through us and empowers all who give themselves to this crucial work. As we become willing, God breathes new life into us, inspiring us to speak truth to power and empowering us to participate in God’s reconciling work to all creation and in the ongoing story of the universe.

Sharon Delgado is a United Methodist pastor, speaker, writer, and activist who has been working on climate justice and related issues for over 30 years. She is on the Coordinating Committee of the United Methodist Creation Justice Movement and is Chair of the Cal-Nevada Climate Justice Ministries Task Force. Previous books include Love in a Time of Climate Change:  Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice (2017) and Shaking the Gates of Hell:  Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization (2007, 2020). Sharon’s blog is at sharondelgado.org.

 

Other resources from COP 27

 Listen to representatives of United Methodist Agencies–Global Ministry, Church and Society, Westpath, and United Women in Faith–share their perspectives on events at COP 27.

Part I, November 10: United Methodist Agency Perspectives at UN Climate Talks.

Part II, November 17: United Methodist Agency Perspectives at UN Climate Talks.

Read The World Council of Churches Statement on COP 27

Rev. Richenda Fairhurst from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference has produced two articles with videos that elaborate on faith-based climate advocacy related to issues of COP 27:

Nonviolent Direct Action: Why Youths are Walking Out and Organizing

Loss and Damage: A Necessary and Moral Response

Video from Democracy Now: Indigenous Activists on the Link Between Colonialism & Climate Crisis

Articles

“Let’s Try Something New,” Naomi Klein Calls for Boycott of Next Climate Summit

‘Abdication of Responsibility’: Fury as COP27 Draft Omits Oil and Gas Phase-Out

Is COP27 Already Too Lost and Too Damaged?

United Nations Environmental Program Faiths for Earth Resources:

COP 27 Outcomes Faith for Earth Presentation

List of Faith-based engagement at COP27

Follow Sharon’s blog and receive a notification when she posts by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right. Share with the Social Media buttons below. Read other blog posts related to climate change here. Check out Sharon’s books.  Contact Sharon to request a presentation, to request a free chapter of one of her books, or to order discounted bulk copies.  Discussion guides and video introductions of her books are also available.

 

 

 

 

Video Preview of the Cross in the Midst of Creation

Hi, friends. Today I want to tell you about my new book, the Cross in the Midst of Creation.

Two things motivated me to write this book: my love for creation (and that includes our human family) and my love for the good news of Jesus, the gospel.  If you love creation and are distressed by seeing it harmed and degraded and undone; if you love the good news of Jesus and are distressed at seeing it distorted and misused to cause further harm…   Then this book is for you.

The cross is the primary symbol of Christianity, but it means different things to different people. That can be very confusing both for people who consider themselves Christian and for people who don’t.  What does the cross mean to you? What does Christianity mean to you:

The good news of a God of love and inclusion and nonviolence and compassion and transformative justice as Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated?

Or the bad news of Empire and colonization and patriarchy and white supremacy and ecological exploitation and Christian nationalism as some portray it today?

Clearly, the cross and Christianity itself can mean either or both.

This book is a remedy for the confusion and frustration and apathy and disempowerment that comes from trying to sort out all these mixed messages. The goal of The Cross in the Midst of Creation is to help you find clarity about what you believe and what you don’t believe and to encourage you in finding a faith that is true to the teachings and example of Jesus and is relevant for today.

The subtitle is “Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World.” This book is geared toward people who feel drawn to following Jesus. If you’re not, you might still want to hear a good word from Christianity. Besides, we are all going to have to work together if we’re going to build a movement strong enough to counter the powers that be, to bring systemic change, and to transform the world in the direction of justice, peace, and the healing of creation.

The bottom line is this: Even though the crucifixion of Jesus took place long ago, there is a sense in which the crucifixion is ongoing. Institutionalized powers very similar to those that crucified Jesus are still at work today, bringing suffering and death to people and the earth. At the same time, the resurrection is ongoing as people rise in courage and set on a path of both personal and social transformation. For followers of Jesus, that means trusting that the Spirit is at work in us and in the world even now, bringing light out of darkness and life out of death.

May you walk in the light of the Spirit of the risen Christ, today and every day.

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 Check out the Initial Endorsements and the Table of Contents of The Cross in the Midst of Creation and Contact Sharon to request a free PDF chapter of the book, to request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.

5. The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God

Fifth Post in a Blog Series on the Christian Right

This series of posts on The Christian Right includes excerpts from my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation: Following Jesus, Engaging the Powers, Transforming the World. If you Contact me with the words “free chapter,” I will send you a free chapter of the book.

The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God

“Whether one is oppressed or privileged, structures and spirits like white supremacy, patriarchy, and domination are within us, embedded invisibly in our psyches. Name them and pray them out.”                                             Bill Wylie- Kellermann

The conventional wisdom, or “wisdom of this age” (1 Corinthians 2:6), is based on the values of status and hierarchy, the idolatry of money, and belief in worldly power backed up by violence. These often-unconscious values are at odds with those of Jesus; they express the opposite of his teachings and example, yet they are pervasive in our culture, including in our churches. They are promoted by the Christian Right and used to support Christian Nationalism, expressions of Christianity that are characterized by authoritarian, anti-democratic, and imperial designs.

As followers of Jesus, we are challenged to identify the “structures and spirits” of domination that are within us and to “name them and pray them out,” and we are invited to join the growing number of people who share the values of inclusion, equity, and nonviolence and who are working to build a more compassionate, just, and peaceful world. Surely this is what it means in our time to follow the one who came so that we “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Many Christians today are engaged in denominational efforts and participating with ecumenical, interfaith, and secular organizations in critiquing the underlying values of the current system, challenging the dominant worldview, resisting idolatrous institutions that harm people and the earth, and supporting movements for social and ecological transformation.

Once such movement is the Poor People’s Campaign, led by Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis, based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of the “Beloved Community,” modeled after King’s original Poor People’s Campaign. It works with leaders of the varied faith traditions and centers the stories and leadership of those who suffer most under the weight of damaging government policies: people who are poor, people of color, and others who are vulnerable to discrimination and injustice. It is an example of a diverse coalition that does the footwork to coordinate a successful campaign, including laying the spiritual foundation, honing its message, listening and sharing people’s stories, choosing songs and symbols, engaging in political advocacy, working with the press, and preparing for coordinated nonviolent direct actions. The slogan that animates this movement is “Forward together, not one step back.”

Even as the death-dealing powers continue their assaults on creation, Christ is risen and the Spirit is alive wherever compassion and justice reign: in peoples’ hearts, in social movements, in transformed people and societies. Living a resurrected life means joining in solidarity with all who seek justice, peace, and healing, especially those who are most vulnerable. By courageously following Jesus, we participate in the ongoing resurrection through actions that reflect the love that brought us into being, the love that can’t be extinguished by any empire, the love at the heart of the universe.

Those of us who choose to bear the cross of Jesus must join with those who are already giving themselves to this sacred struggle for the new world that is possible. By doing so, we demonstrate God’s love for creation and embody hope for the world.

In contrast to the conventional wisdom, the wisdom of God is anti-imperial. It reveals the futility of the wisdom of this world. Worldly status does not confer virtue. Wealth does not signify divine favor. Might does not make right. This is still a subversive message, as it was in Jesus’s time. This is still good news.

In this blog series on The Christian Right, which includes excerpts from my book The Cross in the Midst of Creation, my goal is to bring clarity to this discussion. The other blog posts in this series are:     

  1. Christian Nationalism
  2. Two Crosses: Divided Christianity
  3. US Civil Religion: Heretical and Blasphemous
  4. The Christian Right’s Authoritarian God
  5. The Anti-Imperial Wisdom of God (This post)

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 Check out the Table of Contents of The Cross in the Midst of Creation and Contact Sharon to request a free PDF chapter of your choice, to request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.