|Church bells, members to clamor for climate change |
Supporters of the 350 campaign gather at the pyramids in Giza, Egypt, during
the Oct. 24 International Day of Action. Churches will ring bells 350 times on
Dec. 13 as a call to action to the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
A UMNS Photo courtesy of 350.org.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Nov. 24, 2009
As world leaders grapple with the issue of global warming in
December, churches will be ringing their bells to remind them of the
need for action.
3 p.m. local time on Dec. 13—about halfway through the Dec. 7-18 United
Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen—churches and other
religious groups will sound bells, drums, gongs or other instruments
350 times to symbolize the 350 parts per million that mark what many
scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the
“We envisage a chain of chimes and prayers stretching in a time-line
from the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific—where the day first begins
and where the effects of climate change are already felt today—to
northern Europe and across the globe,” says the World Council of Church
Web site promoting the event.
In Denmark, the ringing bells will signal the end of a high
profile ecumenical celebration at the Lutheran Cathedral in Copenhagen,
the Church of Our Lady, which will be attended by United Methodists and
members of other faith groups.
In recent weeks, it has become clear that the original
expectation for the Copenhagen Summit—that 192 nations will agree to a
new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocols—will not be met. One of the
barriers, according to The New York Times, was the inability of
Congress to set binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases
in the United States.
But John Hill, who works on public advocacy issues for the United
Methodist Board of Church and Society, believes there might be an even
better opportunity for the religious community to help shape the debate
on global warming. “I think there is some guarded optimism that a
fairly strong framework can be established at Copenhagen,” he said.
Hill will be representing Church and Society in Copenhagen, along with
Liberato Bautista, who is in charge of the board’s United Nations
office, and Meghan Roth, a young adult board member from Richmond, Va.
Harriett Olson, chief executive
of the Women’s Division,
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, addresses the Nov. 5 Climate Witness
near the U.S. Capitol in Washington. A UMNS photo
by Lesley Crosson, Church World Service.
“The disappointment is that there will not be a treaty,” said
Bautista. Still, he added, “I think governments are quite aware of how
important a climate change agreement is.”
Tyler Edgar, who is going to Copenhagen on behalf of the National
Council of Churches’ Eco-Justice Program, said the faith community is
“working hard” to promote a strong U.S. position there.
“Our hope is to send a clear message that climate change is a moral
issue that demands a strong and effective response—a response that
ensures justice for all of God’s children and will protect God’s
Creation for future generations,” she declared.
Among the other United Methodists headed to the summit are the Rev.
John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service, and the
Rev. Pat Watkins, a church and community worker who leads the “Green
Church Initiative” of the denomination’s Virginia Annual (regional)
Conference. He will be representing United Methodist Women and the
Women’s Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
When God created the earth, Watkins pointed out, there were no
greenhouse gas emissions, and as a Christian he wants to advocate for
better care of God’s planet.
“We’ll push for the developed countries to be financially responsible
for some of the problems that climate change is causing in some of the
developing countries, particularly the African countries,” he said.
Others on the Women’s Division delegation are Tupou S.
Kelemeni, a director from Honolulu; Pamela Sparr, consultant on its
Countdown to Copenhagen campaign, and Esmeralda Brown, staff executive.
Making a witness
Faith leaders have been calling
attention to climate change as a justice issue. During an ecumenical
“climate witness” Nov. 5 near the U.S. Capitol, church leaders spoke on
the lawn, visited senators and delivered postcards urging support of
climate change legislation. Harriett Olson, top executive of the
Women’s Division, noted that climate change has a huge impact on women
and children. “Women are the highest percentage of the poor and women
and children are among the most vulnerable in any vulnerable
population,” she said.
Church leaders outside the United States are just as concerned
about climate change. In an Oct. 17 letter, “A Call for the Care of
Creation,” the All Africa Conference of Churches pointed to the famine,
flooding, shrinking of rivers and lakes, and depletion of tropical rain
forests and declared that Africa, “like no other continent, bears the
brunt of these negative effects of climate change.”
In response, the organization, which is participating in the Copenhagen
Summit, has sponsored several consultations on climate change in Africa
and named a program coordinator for climate change and care for
creation last January.
Its representatives were among the nearly 200 faith and secular leaders
attending a Nov. 2-4 conference at Windsor Castle in England, organized
by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and the United Nations
Ecumenical News International reported that U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon told conference participants “the world’s great faith
communities occupy a unique position in the discussion on the fate of
our planet and the accelerating impacts of climate change.”
Advocating for change
Whether faith communities can capitalize on that position remains a question.
A report from the Nov. 15-20 World Council of Churches U.N. Advocacy
Week quoted United Methodist Lois Dauway as saying that churches and
the ecumenical community have the theological wherewithal to dismantle
global injustice but not the will.
Lois Dauway gives the
keynote address during the World Council of Churches
U.N. Advocacy Week in
New York. A UMNS photo
by Mark Beach, WCC.
Dauway, a member of the council’s Central Committee and executive
with the Board of Global Ministries, challenged participants during her
keynote address to pool resources and “turn the world upside down in
the name of Jesus.”
At the very least, they can ring those church bells 350 times
on Dec. 13. It’s already happened once, on Oct. 24, the International
Day of Climate Action.
United Methodist Bill McKibben is the co-founder of 350.org,
the group behind the bellringing campaign. A scholar-in-residence at
Middlebury College in Vermont, he is the author of “The End of Nature,”
the first book for a general audience on climate change, which was
published 20 years ago.
In a video message this fall to United Methodist Women,
McKibben stressed the need to make the transition from fossil fuels to
renewable energy. He said that Copenhagen represents the best chance to
“It’s time to take seriously this greatest challenge, not only to the
integrity of creation but to the thread of social justice around the
world,” he said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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Keeping Earth Clean
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NCC Eco-Justice Program
The Leadership Campaign
United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz
Caretakers of God’s Creation
Countdown to Copenhagen
WCC climate change
UN Climate Change Conference
Windsor 2009 Conference
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