Each year PPF celebrates extraordinary peacemaking with the Peaceseeker Award. With gratitude for her pioneering work on fossil fuel divestment, the 2017 award goes to Rev. Abby Mohaupt, Moderator of Fossil Free PCUSA. The award will be presented at the Peace Breakfast at the 223rdPresbyterian General Assembly in St. Louis, MO. A member of PPF’s Activist Council, Abby brings together a sheer love of God’s creation and the concern that climate change is the greatest threat to co-existence and peace ever known.
Abby Mohaupt grew up in the Third Presbyterian Church of Rockford, IL, a town 60 miles west of Chicago. Abby and her sisters spent their days playing outdoors and going to church. She credits the Stronghold Presbyterian Camp with helping her realize that “I can love God by loving nature.”
At Illinois Wesleyan University and McCormick Seminary, Abby embraced eco feminist theology and creation stories from Genesis to the Lakota Sioux, as well as urban studies, sociology and how poverty, race and ethnicity impact how we relate to creation and to each other. She is now pursuing a PhD at Drew University in Religion and Society. Hands-on work included an internship and residency at First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, CA with a focus on earth care and eco justice. She also spent four years as a chaplain for farmworkers in rural Northern California.
She recalls when “a bunch of us from First Pres. went to hear Bill McKibben speak on his 350.org tour. He called us to take our money out of the fossil fuel industry as a moral stand. I watched as the church members realized: we can do this. I remember sitting at my desk at the church a few weeks later, working on the 20th draft of the overture for the session. The congregation lived into their call, which led the birth of Fossil Free PCUSA. When we went to the first GA in 2014, it did not get out of committee. It was hard and sad, but we had many good conversations about the need to do more on earth care and to put our money where our faith is.”
In 2016 the divestment overture had 31 presbyteries in concurrence and passed the GA committee, but it was edited and changed to be sent to MRTI. In preparing for the 2018 GA, Abby lifts up the gifts of many such as Dan Terpstra and Susan Chamberlain at FFPCUSA, Rebecca Barnes and Presbyterians for Earth Care, Rob Fohr and MRTI, as well as Mike Cole from the Houston group Faithful Alternatives. “Presbyterians have many views on divestment, but we all agree that we need to take seriously everyone’s concerns, including issues of pastoral care and environmental racism and justice. As a Presbyterian, I am clear that good work happens in community, not on our own.”
What’s next? “In the USA we have elected a climate change denier who doesn’t believe that climate change matters. This new political reality requires people of faith to say that God still calls us to care for creation in every way, to bring science and faith together.”
What keeps her going? “I have a seven-month-old niece who is the best thing ever. Her life reminds me that I’m not called to care for our world for some mythic next generation, but for a world where Cordelia can grow up in a safe, loved way, with safe water and be able to play in creation as I did. I want this for her and for children from all social backgrounds and across all categories of difference.”
Her partner Nathan’s home is in walking distance of the ocean. When I’m there, I have a visceral, spiritual response to the ocean and a deep sense that God’s grace is always coming in and never stops moving. Like the waves, grace keeps coming in. Climate change doesn’t end God’s grace. Getting this award is on behalf of our whole Fossil Free PCUSA team, all who have helped, and our work together. I am so grateful.”