On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis released “Praise Be to You” his encyclical on climate change and the environment. The subtitle is “On Care for Our Common Home.” The Pope has rock star status as it is, and the new encyclical has generated a huge wave of media attention. Most people, even most Lutherans, aren’t aware that there has been an ELCA Social Statement on Caring for Creation for 22 years!
LEAN’s Advocate, Rev. Mike Patterson, was privy to some advance information about the Catholic encyclical, and he reports that it follows very closely the ELCA statement. That may be why on the day of the release, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton released the following statement:
ELCA statement on Pope Francis encyclical
As members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we share a deep concern with our Catholic brothers and sisters for the well-being of our neighbors and of God’s good creation. “Humans, in service to God, have special roles on behalf of the whole of creation. Made in the image of God, we are called to care for the earth as God cares for the earth” (ELCA social statement, “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice”).
Daily we see and hear the evidence of a rapidly changing climate. At the same time, we also witness in too many instances how the earth’s natural beauty, a sign of God’s wonderful creativity, has been defiled by pollutants and waste.
An accounting of climate change that has credibility and integrity must name the neglect and carelessness of private industry and the failure of government leadership that have contributed to these changes. However, it also must include repentance for our own participation as individual consumers and investors in economies that make intensive and insistent demands for energy.
Yet we find our hope in the promise of God’s own faithfulness to the creation and humankind. We serve in concert with God’s creative and renewing power, understanding that we have the resources and responsibility to act together for the common good, especially for those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Today we join with Pope Francis in calling on world leaders to embrace our common responsibility as work continues toward a global agreement on climate change. We urge leaders to support an ambitious agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, encourages development of low-carbon technologies, and supports the ability of countries to cope with the effects of a changing climate and build resiliency for a sustainable future.
The present moment is a critical one, filled with both challenge and opportunity to act as individuals, citizens, leaders and communities of faith in solidarity with God’s good creation and in hope for our shared future.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada takes its positions from the ELCA Social Statements, so we have supported care for the environment for years. It was surprising to see that over fifty bill draft requests were submitted for the 2015 legislative session that dealt with environmental issues in some way. Sadly, most of them died in committee. Generally the few that passed had a commercial interest behind them, but some appear to show willingness on the part of industry to make small reforms, probably to avoid harsher measures. The legislature was willing to call for some studies. Senate Bill 360 authorizes a study of how the state can encourage and expand use of renewable energy, and how such projects could be financed. Assembly Bill 189 mandates a study of water conservation and alternative sources of water for the state.
It seems that the political climate is changing along with the physical climate, albeit at a much slower pace. Some Nevada legislators are not afraid to talk about care for the environment, and when Pope Francis speaks up, they really have great “cover” to do more. LEAN will be back at the Legislature in 2017, and we plan to speak up, too.