Christian Reformed Church Takes Action on Climate Change
Christian M. Stempert
July 26, 2012
Delegates to the 2012 CRC Synod gather in small groups for prayer (Photo credit: CalvinSeminary.edu
Delegates to the 2012 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, held from June 8-14 at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, recognized the existence of manmade climate change as a present threat to mankind’s way of life. The denomination has about 250,000 members and is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Two years earlier, the 2010 Synod had approved the formation of a “Creation Care Task Force,” whose mission was to “compile a biblically-based, Reformed perspective on humanity’s role as a steward of God’s creation.” At the end of two years of study and research, the Task Force submitted a 125-page report to CRC congregations to consider, and then to be acted on by the Synod that same year.
The Task Force, chaired by Dr. Calvin B. DeWitt a Professor of Environmental Studies at the Nelson Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, affirmed five statements.
- “Climate change is occurring and is very likely due to human activity…Scientific research consistently identifies human-induced greenhouse gases as the very likely (90% probable) primary cause of observed global warming…”
- “Human-induced climate change is a moral, ethical, and religious issue…”
- “Human-induced climate change poses a significant threat to future generations, the poor, and the vulnerable…”
- “Human-induced climate change poses a significant challenge to us all. Climate change will occur globally and will require adjustments and changes for all people. The changes required to our lifestyles and to our economic goals are most likely large and potentially underestimated…”
- “Urgent action is required…at the person, community, and political levels toward reducing human causes of climate change and mobilizing ourselves in urgent assistance to those who are forced to adapt to its negative effects…”
The general response from the CRC Synod was favorable, and even the climate-change skeptics were not strongly against the report. “I’m a skeptic on much of this. But how will doing this hurt?” said Rev. Steven Zwart, pastor of Unity Christian Reformed Church in Minnesota. “What if we find out in 30 years that numbers [on climate change] don’t pan out? We will have lost nothing, and we’ll have a cleaner place to live. But if they are right, we could lose everything.” His attitude was shared by many of those not already committed to the issue of climate change.
The Synod sent a three-step action plan back to the denomination’s more than 1,000 congregations:
- Awareness – “Awareness involves seeing, naming, identifying, and locating different parts of God’s creation. It means taking off blinders that we or society may put on us to keep us focused on our pursuits in life. It means providing ourselves with enough quiet, reflection, and learning time that we can notice and identify a tree or mountain, bird or river. It means entering the natural world intentionally in order to locate and find God’s creatures…”
- Appreciation – “From awareness comes appreciation…At the very least, appreciation means tolerating what we are aware of…but appreciation can also involve respect…We can move, as well, from toleration to respect to valuing. The earth and everything in it has value because God made it so. As we become aware of the order of creation, we will image God’s valuing of all his works.
- Stewardship – “Appreciation must lead to stewardship. Stewardship takes us beyond appreciation to restoration. We now work for the restoration of what has been degraded in the past. Beyond restoration, stewardship means serving…This service includes a loving and caring keeping of what God has given us to hold in trust…Christian environmental stewardship—our loving care and keeping of creation—is a central, joyful part of the human task.”
With this action, the Christian Reformed Church joined the National Association of Evangelicals, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., among others, in affirming that climate change is primarily caused by humans and is a clear and present danger to our way of life.