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.

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.

 

 

 

 

The Climate and the Quadrilateral

May, 2022, A New Review by Wyatt Robinson .

The Climate and the Quadrilateral

“Looking for a book study for your church to talk about climate justice? Church and Society Theology Intern Wyatt Robinson explores a theological reflection on our climate crisis.”

While engaging in my work on issues of climate justice, I have been reflecting on different resources to help me better understand the theological foundations and implications of the work for justice that we do at Church and Society. One of those resources I have used to guide my theological reflection is a book called Love in a Time of Climate Change: Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice by Rev. Sharon Delgado. I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Delgado speak at our Climate & Community Webinar in December and was excited to dive deeper into theological reflection with her written work. What I found in her book was much more than an intellectual reflection on the theological implications of climate change, but a deep integration between Wesleyan theology and spiritual practice to meet the challenges of our climate crisis in practical, intersectional, just, and sustainable ways.

In Love in a Time of Climate Change, Rev. Delgado issues a call to faithfulness, as God’s people called Methodists who have inherited the Wesleyan tradition, and points to signs of hope for churches who embody our Wesleyan commitment to love and justice in the face of our current climate crisis.

Rev. Delgado asserts that the teachings and traditions of John Wesley, that have at their core a love for God’s creation and an emphasis on social justice and holiness, can serve as a useful framework to approach and transform our world as it faces the many climate related threats of our time. She uses one of the central teachings of the Wesleyan tradition, Albert Outler’s Wesleyan Quadrilateral, as a constructive framework for honoring creation and establishing justice, “in a mature way that is consistent with our faith and values.” (p. 9)

Through this framework of the Quadrilateral, Rev. Delgado recognizes the way that true transformation and salvation from the threats of climate change requires both ideological and systematic transformation.

Throughout the book, she acknowledges the simultaneous need for more climate education, changes in individual actions, and collective action to challenge the systems that carry the majority of the responsibility for creating and perpetuating our climate crisis. Most significantly, Rev. Delgado centralizes the stories and needs of frontline communities who are currently facing loss and damage due to climate change, discerning her suggested responses by individuals and churches from the experience and wisdom of the marginalized communities who are most at risk.

Delgado properly recognizes that, “It is time for prophetic words and courageous actions that demonstrate the extremity of our situation and the need for deep and lasting cultural, political, economic, and spiritual transformation.” Love in a Time of Climate Change is an approachable resource for any person, study group, or church that wants to learn how to faithfully engage in the fight against climate change while bringing the full power and witness of their Methodist tradition to the table.

Follow Sharon’s blog post by signing up at the “Follow” link to the right.

Share with the Social Media buttons below.

 

Contact Sharon to request a free PDF chapter of her new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation, request a presentation, or to order bulk copies of her books.

Online Book Launch Event

This online Launch Day Event celebrating the release of my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation, was hosted by Richenda Fairhurst on June 14 as part of the Multifaith Climate Cafe. This event focuses primarily on Chapter 4, “Creation Crucified: The Passion of the Earth.”  The host, Richenda Fairhurst, wrote an article and created video excerpts of our discussion, which begins as follows:

The Cross in the Midst of Creation is Rev. Delgado’s third book, following Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization, now in a Second Edition, and Love in a Time of Climate Change: Honoring Creation, Establishing Justice. The books comprise a trilogy twenty years in the making. The first book rose from faith-based activism, the second expanded into an overview of climate change based on John Wesley’s (Methodism’s primary founder and theologian) teachings on Social Holiness. With this latest book, Rev. Delgado moves into the very core of Christianity, the theology of the cross.

The story of the cross is at the center this new book, and of Christian faith and belief. From the beginning, there were many Christianities, many claiming to be the ‘only’ true faith. These many traditions reflect a garden of thought, love, and faithful expression. But there are also times when interpretations gain hold in ways that are violent and destructive. Theologies of empire, starting with Emperor Constantine, have historically taken us on paths of destruction. And today, as we see life destroyed where it should be flourishing, Rev. Delgado wants to call us back to the cross to try again to understand the deep revelation rising for this moment.

Rev. Delgado spoke about her love for creation as an essential reason for writing this book. But she also writes with a sense of grief and urgency. “I think, the final thing that got me to write [The Cross in the Midst of Creation] was the way that [the theology of the cross] was being distorted—the way the story of the cross is being misused.” It is deeply troubling to Rev. Delgado that “it’s been used in that way to promote the very values that Jesus rejected, the values of status, wealth, and worldly power—the opposite values of Jesus.”

To stay connected with Sharon, follow me on Facebook or sign up to follow my blog. You can contact me here to order signed or bulk copies of my books, to ask me a question, or to just say “hi.”

 

Anthropocentrism and Deep Incarnation

“The Spirit in me greets the Spirit in you, Halleluiah. God’s in us and we’re in God, Halleluiah.” — Hymn by Jim and Jeanne Strathdee

This post is an excerpt from “Creation Crucified: The Passion of the Earth,” which is Chapter 4 of my new book, The Cross in the Midst of Creation. This book makes the case that the crucifixion is ongoing as powers similar to the ones that crucified Jesus are at work today harming human lives and destroying creation, and that the resurrection is ongoing as people of every faith and philosophical conviction rise in courage in the struggle for a transformed world. The Multifaith Climate Cafe is hosting a Book Launch Event on Tuesday, June 14, at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, during which time I will speak about this chapter.

Western civilization, including Western Christianity, has been built upon an anthropocentric worldview that has enabled the plundering and despoiling of God’s world. An example for today comes from megachurch conservative pastor and bestselling author John McArthur. In a sermon refuting global warming and supporting the idea of stewardship for the purpose of extracting everything we can for use by human beings, he said, “God intended us to use this planet, to fill this planet for the benefit of man. Never was it intended to be a permanent planet. It is a disposable planet. Christians ought to know that.” 1

If we see the natural world as intended simply for human use and consumption, we lose sight of the interrelationships with the rest of creation that make us human and deny the spirit of God within us and within all. By discarding our privileged and outdated anthropocentric perspective, we may recognize creation’s intrinsic value and the presence of God in all parts of creation. One way of expressing this is through the concept of deep incarnation.

Many Scriptures point to the reality of an inner dimension of nature in which all creatures participate. Psalm 19:1 proclaims, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Job said, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” (Job 12:7– 9). Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt 10:29). These passages point to a God who is intimately present throughout creation, not solely to human beings, but to other-than-human beings as well.

Understanding God as immanent within creation is not the same as pantheism, for it also acknowledges the transcendent aspect of God. The spirit of God is deeply present throughout creation but is not confined within creation. In fact, it’s just the opposite, for “in [God] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This way of understanding the relationship between God and the physical universe has been called panentheism, which is differentiated from pantheism as follows: “In panentheism, the universal spirit is present everywhere, which at the same time ‘transcends’ all things created. While pantheism asserts that ‘all is God,’ panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe.” The Strathdee hymn quoted above that proclaims “God’s in us and we’re in God, Halleluiah” applies not only to us but to all parts of creation. This is a view of God as all in all, as Ground of Being, Ultimate Reality, Unfathomable Love, not exclusive to any religion. John Wesley referred to this “omnipresent” God as “the Soul of the universe.”2

The astounding claim of Christianity is that this God, who both transcends and is immanent within creation, was made known to us in a unique way in Jesus. “God was in Christ,” living a Spirit- infused life, suffering and dying at the hands of the powers, raised to new life by God. The Gospel of John refers to the concept of incarnation when it announces, “The Word became flesh [sarx in Greek] and lived among us” (John 1:14). This emphasizes the coming of God to us in human form in a way that we humans can comprehend. The revelation of Jesus Christ created a paradigm shift in our understanding of divine- human relationships by revealing the all- encompassing love and eternal presence of Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matt 1:23).

The concept of deep incarnation expands on this understanding to encompass all creation as the dwelling place of God. Elizabeth A. Johnson explains, “Deep incarnation understands John’s gospel to be saying that the sarx [flesh] that the Word of God became not only weds Jesus Christ to other human beings in the human species; it also reaches beyond us to join the incarnate one to the whole evolving biological world of living creatures and the cosmic dust of which they are composed.”3 This idea corrects the misunderstanding that human beings are isolated individuals and reconnects us to the network of interrelationships that make us human. Not even Jesus was separate from the web of relationships that constitute human and all other life on planet earth, the very web that is being undone today.

The Word became not only human flesh but all flesh and dwelt not only among human beings but among all parts of creation not just since the time of Jesus of Nazareth but eternally, throughout all time and space. This expanded view reveals the presence of the universal Spirit in the depths of matter, the love that exists at the heart of the universe, the divine presence in all creation, and the love of God that even death cannot conquer. This idea that God is made flesh in myriad forms affirms the intrinsic value of creation as a dwelling place for God.

  1. Paul Braterman, “God Intended It as a Disposable Planet: Meet the US Pastor Preaching Climate Change Denial,” The Conversation, October 12, 2020, https:// theconversation .com/ god -intended -it -as -a -disposable -planet -meet -the -us -pastor -preaching -climate -change -denial -147712.
  2. Wesley, Sermon 23, “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon,” 1:516– 17.
  3. Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2018), 186.

To stay connected, follow me on Facebook or sign up to follow my blog. You can contact me here to order signed or bulk copies of my books, to ask me a question, or to just say “hi.”