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DC Divest!

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.

That's me in the orange sweater, reading my testimony!

That's me in the orange sweater, reading my testimony!

Me again, pondering another testimony in favor of Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013

Me again, pondering another testimony in favor of Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013

Groups Collaborate at American University

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!

Wrapping Up October

In this week's Good Steward Campaign blog post, we want to highlight three schools doing great things!

Binghamton University

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.

Shenandoah University

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.

Columbia Theological Seminary

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!

World Food Day 2013

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!

All Star Campuses

This week the Good Steward Campaign had a lot going on!

Wednesday, Jessica traveled to Staunton, VA to visit Mary Baldwin College. It's an all girls school located atop a gorgeous hill. In the words of one student, "Some people around here forget that climate change is happening because everything is so beautiful!" But, Mary Baldwin has an incredibly active student body so we definitely wanted it to be one of Good Steward Campaign's engagement schools this fall. We spoke with students and community church leaders about climate change and creation care, shared resources, and brainstormed potential future events!

On Thursday, Dr. Mark Potosnak of DePaul University traveled down to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to address the St. John's Catholic Newman Center about faith, climate, and eco-justice. Professionally, Mark is an environmental science professor at DePaul. Personally, he is a climate concerned Catholic and part of the Catholic Climate Covenant. We were so thrilled to have him step in on behalf of the Good Steward Campaign!

Also on Thursday, Chaplain Noni Strand used Good Steward Campaign resources in a class at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. Bethany College is a small private college in affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In recent years, Bethany has put more focus on Sustainability as one of their five pillars. Coordinating with the Good Steward Campaign was the perfect way for Chaplain Strand to incorporate faith based climate resources into her class's curriculum.

Now, we can take a deep breath... Happy Friday! We hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed weekend. As always, follow us on twitter at @IAmAGoodSteward. Next week, stay tuned for information and stories from World Food Day! #WFD2013

In faith,

Jessica Church