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ELCA participating in progress at COP25

By Ruth Ivory-Moore, Program Director for Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility

The 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) gets underway in Madrid, Spain today, and an unprecedented number of people from the ELCA are present as part of an ELCA Advocacy delegation – including Lutheran state public policy office directors, young adult leaders, global companions and members of the Lutherans Restoring Creation network. Negotiators and civil society observers meet annually at conference of parties (COP) conferences to hammer out resolutions to remedy, mitigate and adapt to a warming climate. Despite being in a crisis situation, where severe weather patterns are intensified and disaster damage and loss of life are more frequent, we must and can turn this around.

This moment in time involves using all tools at our disposal with a recognition that our human existence is interlinked with all of creation. “Lutherans are called to listen to the cry of the Earth along with the anguished cry of every broken soul so that we assume personal, ecclesial and public leadership in addressing both human justice and Earth justice together,” reads “Why Lutherans Care for Creation.” We are equipped at COP25 to use God’s creative wisdom to take stock of where we are now and where we need to be and to devise plans to wisely steward our place caring for the earth.

Days at a COP are long. Side events, displays and key speakers draw participants to opportunities for engagement and collaboration as well as learning. Lasting and collaborative relationships will be formed and strengthened with our neighbors, whether geographically in Pennsylvania, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa or Asia-Pacific. There are no boundaries to the devasting impacts of a warming earth, be they wildfires out West or historic flooding in Venice, or be they ecological system changes such as migrating species from moose to microbes. Knowing we are living into our role as stewards of creation energizes COP encounters with unparalleled enthusiasm.

Two youths who spoke at an interfaith climate emergency consultation in New York City in September 2019 implored us to think of caring for the earth not as a movement but as part of who we are. The resource, “Why Lutherans Care for Creation,” asserts: “For Christians, care of the Earth is not an ‘environmental cause.’ Rather, it is central to our holy calling to treasure the Earth and to care for it as our common home, fully integrating creation-care into our love of God and neighbor.”

ELCA participants bring another core conviction to COP25. While the environmental impact of a warming climate is dire, hope triumphant over despair is central to our tradition. As the ELCA Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice social statement reminds us: “We testify to the hope that inspires and encourages us. We announce this hope to every people, and witness to the renewing work of the Spirit of God.”


Seismic storm: In the boat together with Jesus beside us

Our advocacy in light of disasters intensified by climate change brought together a group of faith and community leaders for an event hosted in Washington, D.C. by ELCA Advocacy in the spring of 2019. The challenge may be seismic, but the Rev. Amy E. Reumann offered insight and guidance on contemporary issues and scriptural and church resources, preparing us to care in this storm.

The sermon is available in text (pdf available on  and video (message transcends inconsistent quality of available video).

Following are excerpts of the text from which Pr. Reumann preached.

The story [of Jesus calming the storm is] about Jesus’ power and is also a tale of the disciples who are uncertain about their own abilities… Perhaps fear rendered them unable to act.

…But Jesus, after he subdues the seismic event, turns to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

…Facing the full reality of the climate crises is terrifying. It triggers in me flight or fright. When I dwell on the details, it is immobilizing. As ELCA Advocacy, climate cuts across every issue area that we cover and makes it worse, from food security to national security. From increased migration and refugees to heightened international conflict and local violence. From health care to habitat loss. We have a storm, and it is here, and we are perishing.

…What we are facing as a church, as a nation, as a world, demands all of us be sent out. We are focused as a church on vital congregations and building leaders, but we only need them on a planet that can support human habitation. The offense against climate change must be multifaceted, and there is a part for everyone.

…Jesus has given us what we need. My fervent hope and prayer is that we will chart a course as a church together to persistently and resolutely be bearers of God’s fierce love and deep justice. Peace, be still. We got this. Together in the boat – let us go over to the other side.




COP22 Blog

Ruth Ivory-Moore, Program Director Environment and Energy, traveled to COP22  in Marrakech, Morocco in November as world leaders meet to discuss implementation of the Paris Agreement that went into effect on November 4, 2016.  The first week she is supporting ACT Alliance  of which ELCA is a member by  participating in Side Events that allow for everyone to be directly engaged in discussions addressing the diverse issues surrounding climate change.  The second week she is serving as part of an ACT Alliance delegation as an observer. Below are some reflections and photos of her first week of experiences at this amazing conference where people project to be on one accord to protect and steward all of creation.

In This Together


“If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  – African Proverb.

This proverb is particularly instructive in describing the events at COP22.   There is a strong sense of diversity and inclusiveness.   Senior level governmental officials negotiate Paris Agreement implementation provisions; civil society observes and seeks to influence; and those most likely to be impacted now and in the future, sought to be heard.   The latter included indigenous people and our children.  These voices were heard in various ways during this session of COP22.21

The indigenous people have contributed least to climate change, but are significantly impacted.  They need the rest of the world’s assistance, but those providing the help must first understand their community dynamics. Those offering assistance must do so in an accompaniment manner.  We must walk and stand with them in partnership – bridging gaps, while laying the foundation for sustainability and resilience. A diverse group of people including the indigenous staged a march to express the need to hear their voices; and to recognize that they must be included in the conversations. (See picture left)

While the indigenous people are likely to be impacted as part of the world’s vulnerable population today, we should not forget that we must leave a vibrant, clean world for our children.  22

The COP presented opportunities for some amazing young people to show the world that they have voices, and deserve better than what we are on course to leave them today. Whether it was the young girl from Senegal speaking about biodiversity. (See picture left)

The students quizzing a panel of experts with questions that challenged the brightest. (See picture left)

Or those students capturing the moments as camera and production personnel for the hour and half, each presented themselves not only professionally, but passionately and 24credibly. (See picture left)

This COP22 cleverly demonstrated the importance of all and the need for complete inclusiveness.  This all-inclusiveness extends to religion.

Sessions incorporated diverse religious personnel.  An Islamic cleric spoke of the importance of ecology, emphasizing that the Islam mandates that people must protect all. The universe is to show gratitude to God, who is beauty. God loves beauty, not war. A Buddhist leader spoke of how all life is interdependent and that we were born on this earth not to be part of the destruction. COP demonstrates that caring for 23creation is a stewardship requirement that is shared by the faith-based community in general.

We are commanded by God; and have a duty to our children.

Prayer: Oh God of Heaven and Earth, you desire a reconciliation of the whole creation.  We confess that we too often make choices that separate and destroy.  Forgive us our selfish ways.  Help us to seek justice, oh God, and to walk humbly beside you as we seek life that is centered on you and as we protect your creation.  Help and guide us to joyfully seek your wisdom and guidance.  Amen.  

(Prayer adopted from Creation Justice Ministries,


Gender and Equity


“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28, NRSV)

It is unfortunate that being “one in Christ” is not recognized  universally in the world as we live our lives today.   The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) a Malaysian based organization sponsored an interactive discussion session at COP22 entitled “Paris Agreement and Women – Locating Health in Climate Change Discourse”.    The reality is that women are disparately impacted by the effects of climate change.  The time has come to acknowledge and integrate the gender rights issue into the discussions addressing climate change.

The Paris Agreement in the preamble states:  “ Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity…”   At the COP22 where the representatives from the many nations are beginning to hammer out the implementation rules and guidelines of the Paris Agreement, the hope is that key linkages between women’s health and climate change will be considered and incorporated in the implementation discussions.

ARROW has captured the stories of women on post cards.  Here are the stories of two of them.

Supl’s story is:12


Gladys’ story is:13


These women’s stories are unfortunately not atypical particularly in developing countries.  ARROW representatives gave the example of  Bangladesh which is a densely populated country with a poverty level that is very high. Bangladesh is experiencing more severe weather in the form of increased frequency of floods and cyclones where women are impacted the most.   The women do not want to leave their homes for fear of property losses, but are often forced to leave and migrate internally walking through high flood waters that results in gynecological illnesses that can impact the reproductive system.  These women can also be the targets  of sexual violence.  Living through situations such as these can cause depression which impacts mental health.

This ARROW presentation at COP22 was unique in that the end of the session was all about hearing what the audience had to say.  The session facilitators engaged the audience in a robust conversation.  Questions raised included: (1) How will women’s health issues be incorporated in the Paris Agreement implementation; and (2) What can be done to make this happen?  The consensus of the group was  that the time has come where gender issues needed to be integrated into the talks and be given the same weight/status as other issues.

Women in a marginalized society, are the most vulnerable among us.


Reblog: Flint Water Crisis: When Water Becomes Unsafe



(This post originally appeared as “Living Earth Reflection: When Water Becomes No Longer Safe” on the ELCA Advocacy blog. It was written by Rev. Jack Eggleston, Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop for the Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA.  Flint, Michigan, is in the Southeast Michigan synod.)

Rev. Eggleston holds a bottle of water drawn from the tap at Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Mich.

People around me know that I drink a lot of water. Many years ago, Carl, a member of the congregation I served, told me of the health benefits of

drinking water. I drink at least 80 ounces of water a day. When I am tired, a glass of water refreshes my body and renews my energy. Nothing renews like the life-giving water Jesus offers (John 4), but safe water is one of our most basic needs.

Last fall, when refilling my water bottle at Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Mich., numerous people told me they had concerns about the water and that I should use bottled water. I filled my water bottle from the faucet, but along the road found it discolored and did not taste right. Only later did I learn how dangerous the water is. Flint’s water is unsafe, toxic and a danger to health.

Water pipes are corroded throughout the city, and lead contamination in many homes and at Salem Lutheran Church far exceed safe limits. Lead harms the blood and can damage the brain. After extended exposure, it builds up in organs and bones, remaining years after exposure. All of this contamination could have been prevented. When people complained and physicians reported unsafe levels of lead, the concerns were dismissed. After 18 months, the water is still unsafe for consumption, cooking or even doing the dishes.

Flint is one of the more impoverished cities in America. Local General Motors employment fell from a high of 80,000 in 1978 to under 8,000 in 2010. More than 40 percent of the people of Flint live below the poverty line. The population has declined from a high of 196,000 in 1960 to just under 100,000 today. The city, under an emergency manager, decided to switch water sources and failed to adequately treat the water. The state of Michigan houses nearly one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. It is hard to comprehend unsafe water with such great water supplies nearby.

The long unheard cries of people in Flint remind me of the Israelites refusing to drink the water at Marah because it was bitter (Exodus 15). They complained to Moses, and he cried out to the Lord. The Lord and Moses made the water sweet. Every day, the water crisis in Flint touches me more deeply and reminds me that there are many water concerns throughout the world. Global warming is drying up lakes. The Aral Sea, once one of the world’s largest inland seas is mostly desert now, having receded by more than 75 percent in recent decades. Lake Chad in Africa has diminished by nearly 80 percent over the last 30 years due to global warming, reduced rain and water extraction.

Sharing God’s gifts and life-giving water with people in Flint

After visiting Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Bishop Donald P. Kreiss and Robin McCants, assistant to the bishop for advocacy and urban ministry, both of the ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod, shared the expanding depths of the crisis with the synod and the ELCA. With some government support

and generous response from the synod, ELCA World Hunger, and people around the ELCA, Salem is now one of the largest distributors of fresh bottled water in the city. Claimed in baptism, refreshed by life-giving water from Jesus that gushes up to eternal life, members of the ELCA are sharing God’s gifts and life-giving water with people in Flint.

Flint will need water for a long time to come. Find out how you can help by visiting the Southeast Michigan Synod website at

Congress is currently considering funding for resources to make the water in Flint safe to drink again. Find out more and take action by visiting the ELCA Advocacy Action Center.

This Sunday when I preach at Salem, I will bring cases of water and two of my own large drinking water bottles. When I return home I will refill them from my faucet and remember the people in Flint. I will be more attentive to ELCA blogs and advocacy requests. Jesus, who gives life-giving water, compels me to do this and to act.


The Paris agreement: What’s next?

By Mary Minette

mary 3After nearly 10 years of service as ELCA Advocacy director for Environmental Policy and Education, Mary Minette has completed her work with the ELCA Advocacy Office and is moving to a new position.

 “Mary has provided tremendous leadership for the whole church in her vocation and passion to care for creation. Her voice and perspective is respected from Washington, D.C., to congregations and synod assemblies throughout the church.” – Stephen Bouman, ELCA executive director for Congregational and Synodical Mission

 We hope you enjoy her final Living Earth Reflection below. Mary’s thoughtful and faithful leadership will be greatly missed by Lutheran advocates and ecumenical partners, but in her new role she continues her work for creation justice. Please join us in thanking God for Mary’s ministry and wishing her the best of luck!

On Dec. 12, 2015, in Paris, nearly 200 nations agreed for the first time to collectively take steps to address climate change. The Paris agreement was the culmination of years of movement building by groups ranging from environmentalists to labor unions, from local governments to the business community. The faith community has played a key role in the U.N. climate negotiations since their beginnings at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but in Paris faith advocates were present in the highest numbers and had the greatest visibility and access ever.

Under the Paris agreement each country has pledged to set its own greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and to review those goals on a regular basis. As of this writing, 160 countries have submitted national goals, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC).  The INDC for the United States includes actions across our economy—raising fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and methane emissions from oil and gas production, increasing energy efficiency, and encouraging adoption of renewable energy technologies. Other countries have also stepped forward with ambitious plans. For example, during the Paris meeting in December, leaders of African nations announced a new initiative that will make their continent a leader in the adoption of renewable energy—addressing both climate change and the continent’s need for energy development.

The Paris agreement pledges to keep total human-induced global warming below a 2-degree Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels, which climate scientists consider a key threshold for preventing catastrophic climate change. Although current INDC are not sufficient to meet that goal, the Paris agreement also includes mechanisms to review current commitments and to scale up ambition for reducing greenhouse gas emissions every five years. This creates opportunities for advocates to put pressure on our own governments to make good on their promises and to increase ambition over time; however, it will be incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we keep building pressure on our elected officials to ramp up their goals.

The Paris agreement includes financial commitments to help developing countries adopt cleaner energy technology and to help vulnerable countries adapt to already occurring climate change, including rising sea levels, increases in severe weather, and long-term droughts.

A key priority for faith advocates during negotiations was helping vulnerable countries address so-called “loss and damage,” the term used to refer to irreparable impacts of climate change on lives and livelihoods, including loss of territory. Island nations, such as Kiribati, might soon be completely submerged and will face relocation and sovereignty issues.

The Paris agreement did not provide a final answer to these difficult questions, but it did include a recommendation to continue working for solutions to loss-and-damage issues, which faith advocates can build on in future years.

How can we help support the Paris agreement?

We can support initiatives, such as the Clean Power Plan, to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

We can continue our strong support for the U.S. contribution to the Green Climate Fund and to poverty-focused international development.

This agreement, for the first time, considers local actions as part of what will be needed to keep temperatures within safe boundaries. As advocates, we can work with our cities and counties and states to push for more renewable energy, higher energy efficiency standards for buildings, better land use practices and other things that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We can build on what many of our congregations are already doing—making our buildings more energy efficient, putting solar panels on church roofs and geothermal heating and cooling systems under our foundations.

And we can continue to look at our individual contributions to climate change—driving less, turning down the thermostat, recycling, and prioritizing small and large actions to reduce our carbon footprint.

 And most importantly:

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.Romans 12:11-12