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Event focuses on church's role in caring for environment

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Cintia Furtado Listenbee

Ellen Hassler (from left), Janet Lilley, Susan Carlyle and Phyllis Putman identify plants on a nature walk at Lake Junaluska.

April 26, 2006

By Cintia Furtado Listenbee*

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — A concern for God's creation drew participants from across the United States to an event focused on the environment.

"All creation is the Lord's, and we are responsible for the ways we use and abuse it," states Paragraph 160 in the Social Principles, in the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline.

Participants at "Caring for God's Creation" discussed the church's responsibility for the world during an April 20-22 event at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. Event organizers with the denomination's Southeastern Jurisdiction said it was the first time the jurisdiction had sponsored an event focused on the environment.

The training started with tours of the Lake Junaluska wetlands and native garden. Workshops offered opportunities for training and preparing churches and individuals to start "creation committees" in local churches.

Charles Jansen of Asheville, N.C., led the "reunions with nature" workshop during the event. He said churches should get more involved with nature.

"I think this is the perfect way to get the word out. The message of caring for creation is in the Bible. It's a message that we overlooked," he said.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Cintia Furtado Listenbee

Caring for God's Creation drew participants from all over the United States.
"The workshops were very worthwhile, the topics were very good. It revitalized me," said Bruce Mulligan of Winston-Salem, N.C. "There's a small possibility of optimism in the future of the world, although in the face of it, it looks very negative right now."

It was long time coming for Martha Lyle Ford of Brownsville, Tenn., who is concerned about environmental justice and the role of the church.

"I felt that the church is not fulfilling its obligation for caring for creation. It always bothers me that we look for government and nonprofit organizations to do what we are called to do in the first chapter of Genesis," Ford said.

Lynn Barnes of Elkin, N.C., said it was encouraging to be able to see the environment through the eyes of faith.

"Being a child of the '60s, I've been interested in the environment since I was young. I am an avid recycler," Barnes said. "It seems so obvious that from the beginning it's been God's creation, but traditionally people intended to use it however they wish. I hope that my congregation will begin a green initiative and help others relate their faith to environmental issues," she said.

Stephen Mallett and a group from Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., came to receive training in environment and advocacy issues.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Cintia Furtado Listenbee

Gretchen Smith of Atlanta looks at a display during the Caring for God's Creation event.

"If we let the environment deteriorate, we can't facilitate justice for anyone," Mallett said. "The initial focus is how the church itself can become more environmentally friendly and energy consumption aware, and helping families and individuals bring it to their own lives."

"For years we've been interested in organically grown products, clean water, clean air and clean world. (The event) brings to the forefront that human beings were given the responsibility by God to be caretakers of this world. It's one of our primary responsibilities towards God," said Linda Crane from Glade Spring, Va.

Gretchen Smith of Atlanta said the event was groundbreaking. "I really enjoyed the opportunity to network with other people of same interest."

Next year's event will be April 12-14. Event organizer Loy Lilley, with the Southeastern Jurisdiction office, looks for positive results at the local church level.

"Our hope is that people will go back and establish creation committees in their church so they can be a greener space and environmentally friendly, and they will influence members of their congregation to be more aware of and caring for the environment," he said.

*Listenbee is communications specialist for the United Methodist Church's Southeastern Jurisdiction at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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