Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!
On Tuesday, November 26th, Field Director Jessica Church (me!) had the honor of testifying in front of the Council of the District of Columbia in favor of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013. The Good Steward Campaign was approached by DC Divest the week before looking for some faith representation in their list of witnesses and, well, we're it! I've copied my testimony below and linked to it here. You can also see some photos!
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving.
Testimony before Council of the District of Columbia
Bill 20-481, Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013
Jessica Church, Field Director of the Good Steward Campaign
November 26th, 2013
Good afternoon members of the Council of the District of Columbia. My name is Jessica Church and I am a resident of Ward 4 as well as the Field Director of the Good Steward Campaign. We are a movement of young Christians who believe that we are called to be Stewards and caretakers of God's Creation.
This fall, the Good Steward Campaign engaged with 30 college campuses ranging from American University right here in the district to Binghamton University in New York to Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta and even as far west as Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. We sent speakers, offered resources, and led bible studies and discussions on the topics of faith, creation care, and fossil fuel divestment.
I stand here today on behalf of all the students, college chaplains, and campus ministers who, like me, are urging their communities to make decisions that line up our investments with our values. I also stand here as a proud resident of Ward 4 who wants all of DC to thrive, but sees particular vulnerabilities in my neighborhood.
As Christians, we invest our time and our talents in mission work, both domestically and overseas. We build up infrastructure in communities in the form of schools and wells. We help with housing and serve in soup kitchens to lift up those who have been pushed down. God has given us so many gifts – our bodies, our minds, and our hearts – with which to do great work.
And here in DC, you are also trying to do great work to build up our communities and local economies. But we shouldn't build up with one hand as we tear down with another. We need to make sure that our financial investments are also working toward building the type of city you all envision. And the simple fact is, investments in fossil fuels are not.
97% of scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels leads to climate change; and climate change exacerbates circumstances that contribute to hunger and poverty. It creates weather conditions that increase the spread of many diseases and it makes it harder to grow crops. It also increases the frequency and force of extreme weather events like the typhoon that recently destroyed much of the Philippines and, in our own country, Superstorm Sandy.
We learned from Katrina and Sandy that when these storms hit, the poorest neighborhoods get hit the hardest and subsequently need the most financial assistance to get back on their feet. We want to make sure that our investments are ones that will help stave off extreme weather, rather than contribute to the problem; because these climate disruptions aren’t going to stop. In fact, they’re going to get worse.
So the problem with investing in fossil fuels is that it undoes the work God has called us to do. It creates suffering, rather than alleviating it. This is why removing the city’s money from fossil fuels is the only moral option. Fossil fuel divestment is a values-based act of commitment to a healthy future for our city, especially for the least well off.
Today, the District of Columbia has the opportunity to lead on this issue of great importance, and I urge you to do the right thing and pass the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013.Thank you, Council, for allowing me to speak before you. It has been an honor.
This Wednesday, Rev. Richard Cizik will be speaking to a crowd of students, grad students, and community members at American University. I don't know about you, but I'm particularly jazzed up for this event for a few reasons. First, American University is smack dab in Washington, DC. This is where big decisions for our country are made. This is where laws (good for climate and bad for climate) are made.
But the real reason I can't wait for Wednesday's event is that there are SO MANY organizations involved. Originally, the Good Steward Campaign reached out to American University's United Methodist Ministry. Since then, the Social Justice team has been handling planning, event preparation, etc. They're partnering with Eco-Sense, an environmental organization that started Fossil Free AU, the active (and wonderful) fossil fuel divestment campaign on campus.
And we were happy with that. But then, the social justice crew got the Chaplain's office on board. Beyond that, campus ministry groups Chi Alpha and Assemblies of God have also said that they'd send students. And, Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church is also supportive of the event.
If you're in the DC area and interested in attending, join us this Wednesday, November 6th at 5:30pm in the Kay Spiritual Life Center on the campus of American University. We look forward to seeing you there!
In this week's Good Steward Campaign blog post, we want to highlight three schools doing great things!
This summer, the Good Steward Campaign reached out to IDEAS for Us, a student group at Binghamton University in New York who is leading the charge for fossil fuel divestment. IDEAS is a secular group, but we encouraged them to reach out to faith organizations at Binghamton. Joe Morales, student and IDEAS leader says:
I didn't really think about reaching out to faith groups until Jessica from Good Steward Campaign contacted us at IDEAS for Us about doing so and offered us assistance in this endeavor. I wasn't quite sure how to approach these groups with this subject, let alone did I think of even looking to them for support. However, the more I looked into it and thought about it, the more it made sense. The resources provided by Good Steward Campaign especially helped to put everything into perspective too as far as why people who are of these faiths would agree with the idea of divestment. There are a large number of people at Binghamton University that are affiliated with religious groups and are active in the various clubs that cater to these faiths. Some of the values in these religions fall right in line with environmentalism and, further, divestment.
We're thrilled to say that Hillel at Binghamton, the Jewish Student Union, has agreed to add their name to the letter of support for fossil fuel divestment. One fifth of the student population at Binghamton is Jewish, so this adds a great deal of support to the campaign. IDEAS for US is also reaching out to InterVarsity and other Christian groups on campus.
On October 21st, Jessica traveled to Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA for a World Food Day Dinner. 12 students and a Professor gathered around in the dining hall to talk faith, food, sustainability, poverty, and solutions.
Several of the students that attended are part of a program at Shenandoah called "Just Faith," which doesn't mean "merely faith" but rather refers to "justice." These students take 6 classes that prepare them to be leaders in ministry, non-profits, or social justice missions. Participating in this program has equipped those students especially to discuss things like World Food Day from a place of faith.
We used resources from Oxfam and the National Association of Evangelicals to guide our conversation, which led to topics including but not limited to public policy, charity, food waste, vegetarianism, and grace. It was a wonderful evening.
On Oct. 30th, Rev. Rich Cizik traveled to Atlanta to visit Columbia Theological Seminary. There, Rev. Cizik addressed a room full of seminary students. The talk was organized with help from Professors Stan Saunders and Bill Brown, both faculty sponsors of a group at CTS called SAGE.
S: Sagacious, Stewardship, Sustainable, Seminary, Sustaining, Susurrus
A: Attention, Activist, Alliance, Alternative, Alliterative
G: Green, Garden, Growing, God('s), Generative
E: Environment, Ecology, Energy, Enterprising, Earth
When they said they'd like to have Rev. Cizik come down and address students, the Good Steward Campaign was thrilled to send him. We've engaged with many undergraduate universities this fall but it's a special thing to talk to seminary students. Many of them will very soon be moving out into the world to become pastors and church leaders, as well as non-profit heads, and workers for social justice.
It's been a great couple weeks here at the Good Steward Campaign and we still have a few events left in November. Stay tuned to see what's happening!
Today is World Food Day.
I've been looking forward to this day for months, partly because Good Steward Campaign has multiple events going on today (big shout outs to Hollins College and Wake Forest School of Divinity!) and partly because we've been working with amazing organizations like Oxfam and the National Association of Evangelicals who are passionate about alleviating global hunger. Today, our work is paying off.
But each time I think about World Food Day as a "holiday," I am jolted back to reality. After all, the reason it exists is because there are an estimated 842 million hungry people on the planet. Can you even fathom that number? 842 million people is more than twice the population of the United States. 842 million people cannot sufficiently feed themselves. They cannot fill their belly with nutritious food. They cannot go to sleep without a rumbling stomach.
And in this way, World Food Day is a day of great tension. Participants stand in an uncomfortable space, demarcated on one side by the abundance of food and resources in the typical American home and on the other by 842 million hungry people.
Admittedly, this day of awareness (not holiday!) may draw criticism from skeptics. Some will ask, "What is this all really doinggg?" But I have an answer for the Doubting Thomases. Actually I have two. First, changing action requires changing hearts. Likewise, changing policy requires changing votes. It all starts with a meal. Second, these participants are standing in a place of tension and they are standing there willingly. They are standing there because their faith calls them to do good works. As Matthew 25:35 says, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in."
Today, families, schools, and churches around the world are participating in World Food Day meals. They're using place mats and discussion guides developed by Oxfam and the National Association of Evangelicals. Some are families are preparing the traditional meals using recipes from other countries. Others are eating simply, that is, less indulgent than normal.
Furthermore, they're praying and they're giving thanks. And maybe, just maybe, they're changing the way they eat.
For all who are participating in World Food Day, we thank you.
P.S. -- Check out this amazing story in the Associated Baptist Press about food and faith! Hint, Good Steward Campaign makes an appearance!
Well, it's officially October.. and we have SO MUCH going on this month that it's hard to keep it all straight. But that's our job, not yours ;)
In the meantime, we really want you all to know about World Food Day. On October 16th, people around the world will be joining together in the global movement to end hunger (see more here). We've taken this on as a project because the connections between climate change, drought, famine, and global food scarcity are undeniable. We'll explain.
Climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events like droughts and floods. These storms can ruin entire crop seasons for farmers who rely on what they grow and harvest to feed themselves and their families. It only takes one or two failed crop seasons to leave people starving, unable to find or purchase food.
To promote World Food Day, we launched a special tab on our Good Steward Campaign facebook page. This also shares videos, resources, and more information. If you want to participate by downloading materials (a placemat and discussion guide), then Like our facebook page and let us know! We're trying to make World Food Day 2013 (#wfd2013) the biggest one yet.
World Food Day dinners are a time to be thankful, a time to show solidarity with the hungry, and a time to think about what we can do to put an end to global hunger. So gather around with your family, your friends, your church, or your classmates. Then, share with us (firstname.lastname@example.org) how you celebrated WFD 2013. We'll be posting the best stories on our website, facebook, and twitter.
On Thursday, Chief Spokesperson for the Good Steward Campaign, Reverend Rich Cizik, visited University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill to talk climate and faith with Wesley Campus Ministry.
Last week, a piece written by a student ran in the Daily Tarheel. She did such a great job that I'm reposting it here. No need for my added commentary!!
TO THE EDITOR:
On Sept. 26, Rev. Rich Cizik will be visiting UNC to give a talk titled, “For God’s Sake, Let’s Focus On the Earth.” Cizik, a minister and climate activist, will be traveling here on behalf of the Good Steward Campaign, a faith-based environmental organization that works to inform and engage students in conversations about faith, climate, stewardship and fossil fuel divestment. Yes, you read that right. Faith and climate change.
Prior to his role as senior spokesman for the Good Steward Campaign and co-founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Cizik was the vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals. There, he was one of the leading figures who championed this issue as something that Christians ought to think and care about more deeply.
Now, Cizik travels the country, giving speeches on creation care and fossil fuel divestment. But these are topics he didn’t always embrace. In the Washington Post, Cizik says, “I was converted to both the ‘challenge’ of climate change as a moral and spiritual dilemma, but also to the concrete science.”
Last year, there was an active fossil fuel divestment campaign operating at UNC, but it was unsuccessful. While the campaign was ongoing, however, we didn’t hear a lot of arguments from a faith perspective. Cizik and the Good Steward Campaign work hard to demonstrate that the way we think about climate change and investments need not be separate from the way we think about other moral decisions and our faith.
The good news is that the UNC chapter of the Sierra Student Coalition’s Beyond Coal campaign is still very much alive and well at UNC. And this time around, I hope we hear more conversation about the issue coming from a place of faith.
Environmental issues, including climate change, are social justice issues that all Christians, as well as those of other religious backgrounds, can agree on. Faith gives us powerful reasons to look at the world around us in a meaningful way, and it can guide us to actions that positively impact the earth. I look forward to hearing Cizik’s well-informed insights on these issues and using this event as an opportunity to start an important conversation.
And so, we invite the entire UNC community to join us at 7 p.m. on Sept. 26 at University United Methodist Church to explore topics of faith, climate change, stewardship and fossil fuel divestment.
Molly Patterson ’14
Wesley Campus Ministry
This Saturday, Sept. 21st, the Good Steward Campaign will be in Philadelphia, PA to celebrate and honor International Day of Peace. There are events happening all over the country and world, but at the Philadelphia Friends Center, the day-long mini-conference is offering workshops and a place for students to gather to learn about, discuss, and contemplate the world in which we live. And we're partnering with Katie McChesney from 350.org on this event!
It might initially seem odd that we, the Good Steward Campaign, are getting involved with International Day of Peace. But I assure you, there are many connections between climate change and both national and international security.
When huge rural populations rely on farming to survive, one failed crop season has the ability to put them in dire economic straits. Multiple failed crop seasons, leaving families without food or income, push people to the point of desperation. This often results in families being forced to abandon their rural homes and farms and migrate to cities or to other regions that are not suffering as badly from climate change induced droughts or floods or fire.
So, people migrate. But in regions of the world where your home says a lot about your religious sect or your familial clan, migration means invading the homeland of other sects. This causes tension.
And where there was previously "almost" or "just enough," now more people are competing for fewer resources and this leads to desperation. Imagine a drought that lasts five years -- imagine not having enough food to feed your family for five years. You know that saying, "Desperate times call for desperate measures?" Well, it turns out that in the case of climate change and political unrest, that's especially true. Unfortunately the "desperate measures" in this case often includes violent action, riots, and various other illegal activities.
Furthermore, for decades, religious groups have addressed hunger and poverty in the developing world by investing in schools, agriculture, small business, public health, and more. These investments have helped millions of people across the world.
But climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, threatens everything that religious groups have accomplished. Climate change creates weather conditions that increase the spread of disease, makes it harder to grow crops, and destroys vital infrastructure and natural ecosystems through extreme weather events. Those with the fewest resources are the most vulnerable to these impacts.
Fossil fuels undermine the investment in time and energy that churches make in reaching out to the poorest among us by exacerbating climate conditions that contribute to disease, hunger, and poverty.
And so, what are our options? Well surely we can consume less, use less energy ourselves, and continue to do peace-building work overseas. But on a larger scale, fossil fuel divestment is a peaceful action that takes a stand against fossil fuels on a larger scale. By getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous, you're aligning you investments with your values -- and that's a powerful move.
To learn more about Saturday's event, visit http://www.peacedayphilly.org/ and check out the list of workshops here. Any and all are welcome and we would love to have you! As always, keep up with us on Twitter at @IAmAGoodSteward.
This piece initially debuted in The Davidsonian online
Special FCA guest speaker tonight
Twelve years ago, on September 11, 2001, Eric Sapp left his job at the Pentagon, where his office was located in the very wing that was destroyed by the terrorist attacks. He went to Duke in order to finish two Masters degrees in Divinity and Public Policy. This September 11, though, he will return to his alma mater, Davidson College, to speak to FCA about his personal faith journey and the issues of faith, politics, climate, and national security--topics that are far more interrelated than one may think.
Sapp is the founding partner of an influential consulting firm and works with both faith and politics. He was named one of a dozen 2007 culture changing “mavericks” by Details magazine for his role in reshaping the faith and political landscape of America.
Two years later, the Wall Street Journal credited the American Values Network (AVN), a non-profit organization he helped found that applies political lessons to issue advocacy, with playing a central role in passing the 2009 Climate Bill in the U.S. House. The White House and Senate Leadership citedAVN campaigns as turning points in the ratification of the New START Treaty and adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty.
Sapp has been a Senate Committee staffer, a House Appropriations staffer, and has served five years in the parish. In his most recent venture to explore how video games can shape attitudes and create real-world outcomes, he created the most popular Christian game in the iTunes Store.
As a student at Davidson, Sapp played football and was named MVP his senior season. He also served as the president of FCA for two years. He credits Davidson and FCA with molding the values and beliefs that shaped what he has done since Davidson.
“FCA helped me turn my primarily intellectual faith into a much more personal and relational one,” Sapp said. “It was at Davidson that I first felt a call to ministry, and it was through classroom experiences, football, and FCA that I was able to see the importance and opportunities for ministry outside the parish.”
Tonight, Sapp will speak to FCA on behalf of AVN’s Good Steward Campaign to share his faith journey, discuss how the issue of climate has become intertwined with so many Christian priorities in Washington, D.C., and share the lessons he has learned on living out one’s faith after college.
On Sept. 3rd, Jessica Church, Good Steward Campaign's Field Director, traveled down to Charlottesville, Virginia to spend an evening talking faith, creation care, and stewardship with The University of Virginia's Canterbury Student Ministry. Attendance varied from first years to graduate students and conversation was lively.
We looked the story of Creation, specifically Genesis 1:26-31. The text reads as follows:
26Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
29God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
This is one of those texts that critics of the environmental movement use to debase Christian ideas of stewardship and creation care. But with careful examination, you can find that this Scripture is full of clues and instructions on how God relates to humans and how humans ought to relate to Creation.
First, we're told to have dominion over the Earth. But God has dominion over us, while still allowing us to develop, flourish, and be our truest, most unique selves. This is one way we can think of 'dominion' over the wild parts of nature. Don't stifle it. Rather, let it grow.
Second, versus 29-31 talk about livestock, plants, and food. In this respect, having 'dominion' is akin to being the best gardener or farm manager around. It means nurturing the land, planting seeds, and feeding those in your community.
We love praying, talking, and reflecting on Scripture with students at UVA. They asked tough questions, had insightful comments, and are passionate about being Good Stewards of this great Creation.
But this is only the first event of many! We'll be at 30 schools this fall, so stay tuned.
Last week, Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said this: "If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.” According to Rush, there's no such thing as a faith-based climate activist. According to Rush Limbaugh, you (or any of the other people I'm about to mention) aren't real.
But see the thing is, we know that's not true. Here are a few prominent people of faith who do believe in and care about manmade global climate change.
- Pope Francis who, in his inaugural mass, discussed defending the environment and the poor
- And then there's this group of 200 Evangelical Christian scientists who wrote an open letter to congress
- Rev. Rich Cizik has given countless speeches on creation care, stewardship, and fossil fuel divestment. He recently had this article published in the Washington Post: "Fossil fuels are a faith issue"
- NETWORK, founded by a group of Catholic sisters, intends to pursue ecological justice by supporting environmentally-conscious transportation (shifting from oil-based to “green” alternatives), construction, and infrastructure development.
- And Rev. Mitch Hescox, the President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.
- Lastly, YOU! Sign this petition, share our website and mission on social media, and tell your friends. You are a person of faith, you believe in global climate change, and you also believe in the importance of stewardship and creation care. So shout from the rooftops!