We celebrate the faithful witness and words of Pope Francis today as he encourages responsible, loving care for God’s creation in the release of his papal encyclical Laudato Sii. We affirm its echo of the great St. Francis’ reverence for nature. At the same time, we join the Pope in the urgency of truth-telling: we humans are largely responsible for global warming and we have to find ways to reverse track. The Pope is calling us all to environmental conversion: may we together find the immense moral and spiritual energy that the world powers have been lacking so far.
This is a great day to remember our call to protect the earth and to care for brothers and sisters around the world. Indeed we praise God for ongoing reminders of our human vocation as stewards of God’s good earth. We cannot separate the health of people from the health of the whole creation.
In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we are greatly concerned about environmental degradation. Climate disruption in particular is a threat to this and future generations and to God’s creation. In 2008, our General Assembly said,
With our Lord, we will stand with the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40) and advocate for the poor and oppressed in present and future generations who are often the victims of environmental injustice and who are least able to mitigate the impact of global warming that [is falling] disproportionately on them. … [W]e implore our nation to accept its moral responsibility to address global warming. (The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming, approved by the 218th General Assembly (2008) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Minutes, 2008, Part I p. 935)
Our Presbyterian policies witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every dimension of life, including our relationship as stewards of God’s earth. While admitting our own complicity, we are trying to find new ways of living and being. Presbyterian churches are engaging in efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, to preach and teach on creation care, and to increase their commitment to renewable energy. Meanwhile, our PC(USA) agencies are committed to additional sustainable practices such as energy efficiency loans and fossil-free investment vehicles. Our General Assembly has recognized the need for a complete and systemic energy shift for this nation and are convinced that we must achieve it at all levels—from individual homes and local communities to public policy at national and global levels.
Pope Francis’ leadership, wisdom, and pastoral care are evident in the encyclical, and we deeply appreciate this powerful, faith-filled encouragement for all people to join together to care for God’s creation. We affirm the moral conviction that we must turn from individual and corporate practices that harm the creation and participate in healing, protecting, and caring for the world. We will continue to work in partnerships with other faith communities and in the public sector as we all seek to better care for all people and all creation. Finally, we applaud the inspiring leadership of Pope Francis and look forward to seeing what transformative commitments will result from this ethical mandate to care for creation.