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Bishops’ letter pledges to protect God’s creation

A U.S. flag flies above an oil refinery near Houston in this September 2008 file photograph. The United Methodist Council of Bishops on Nov. 3 approved a pastoral letter asking church members to participate in the healing of creation.
A UMNS file photograph by Mike DuBose.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Nov. 3, 2009 | LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS)

Pandemic poverty and disease, environmental degradation and a world full of weapons and violence are the wages of our sins against God’s creation.

But there is hope if we change our ways, the 69 active United Methodist bishops say in a pastoral letter that will be read in churches during Advent.

The bishops at their fall meeting unanimously approved “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action,” a document that was started by the 2004 United Methodist General Conference. More than 5,400 United Methodists around the world have had input into the final document.

“We cannot help the world until we change our way of being in it,” the bishops said in adopting the letter.

“We, your bishops, join with many global religious leaders to call for a comprehensive response to these interrelated issues. We urge all United Methodists and people of good will to offer themselves as instruments of God’s renewing spirit in the world.”

Leading by example

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The bishops pledged to model a response in their own lives from peacefully resolving conflicts to reducing their own travel to limit their carbon footprints.

One example cited in the pastoral letter is a pledge that the 50 active bishops in the United States will be committed to listening and learning with the 19 active bishops in Africa, Europe and Asia.  

“And the bishops representing the United States conferences will prayerfully examine the fact that their nation consumes more than its fair share of the world’s resources, generates the most waste, and produces the most weapons.”

Bishop Patrick Streiff, Central and Southern Europe, was part of the task force working on the document. He said the enthusiastic reception from the Council of Bishops was “deeply moving.”

“The document is a message of hope that really takes seriously the suffering caused by the harm we do to God’s creation,” Streiff said. “It speaks out of our faith rather than a reaction to fear.”

Weapons and violence, the destruction of our planet and oppressive poverty are all interconnected, he said.

“Money for arms trade takes away money for the poor,” he said. “The ecological crisis is a much bigger challenge to the poor. As bishops … we have a big footprint.”

Spreading the news

At the end of the presentation, retired Bishop Donald Ott went to the podium holding a basketball. He said $100,000 a year would “advance the proclamation of what we’ve done here this morning. We’re proclaimers. We’re teachers. We need to take that step and put our own funds there to whatever degree you’re comfortable with.

Bishop Donald Ott encourages fellow bishops to support the ministry
of caring for God’s creation. A UMNS
photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.


“A basketball worked for Bishop (Thomas) Bickerton when he raised funds at General Conference for Nothing but Nets,” Ott said, holding up the same ball.

"I'm asking for $10 bills, in my pocket, along with the promise that you’ll find a way to financially support this. Here’s the deal: You give me $10, I’ll match it."

Ott said the money is needed to connect with youth around the globe, to do some ecumenical coalition building and to provide the document in as many languages as possible.

“Translations are extraordinarily expensive and extraordinarily critical. We need your help.”

The letter and foundational document have already been translated into English, French and Portuguese.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

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

God's Renewed Creation Letter and documents

Download letter, liturgy and foundation document


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