People of Faith for a Green New Deal

This post comes to us from Rev. Ashley Bair, a PPF Activist Council member and Associate Pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, MN. She is an environmental and peace activist. She has traveled to four continents to work on behalf of non-violent peace initiatives and cross-cultural activism. Her environmental contributions include work with Fossil Free PCUSA on denominational fossil fuel divestment and the congressional resolution on a Green New Deal. 

Last summer I experienced two life-changing moments in my ministry: First, the PCUSA Walk for a Fossil Free World. A community-led, 220 mile walk across the southern midwest to raise attention for the desperate need for institutions, like the PCUSA, to divest from the harmful fossil fuel industrial complex. Second, joining the Sunrise Movement. The Sunrise Movement is the youth-led grassroots organizing effort behind the Green New Deal.

PCUSA March for a Fossil Free World

At the core of both of these moments lies a crisis, and not just a crisis of economics or politics or geography – but, a crisis of faith. The climate crisis is a faith crisis.

We all have the news, the science, the facts about climate change and the destructive forces of fossil fuel companies. The question now is what do we do about it?

We have to organize together for solutions.

The reason why the PCUSA Walk for a Fossil Free World and the Sunrise Movement have changed my life and my ministry is because they both taught me that there is no solution to the climate crisis that can be done alone. We have to organize together.

When I first started working with the Sunrise Movement hub in Lansing, MI so few people had ever heard of us or knew what we were trying to do. Most of the work we’ve done has revolved around getting fossil fuels out of politics, but after witnessing the lack of climate justice solutions on the table during political debates and on political platforms the Sunrise Movement decided it was time for bigger actions. We are no longer asking just for fossil free campaigns, we want a fossil free world.

The future is grim, and we have to make bold steps toward an earth that promotes the health and wellbeing of all of creation. It is our only hope for survival. It is the only thing that will provide a future for our young people.

This means we have to revitalize the economy, the housing market, our food systems, unionized labor, and community infrastructure alongside energy sources. We need a new national, social, industrial, economic mobilization that revolves around a clean world.

The Green New Deal is, to me, the only solution that bears justice and equity against the forces that have claimed land and lives over decades for dollars.

And we need solutions.

It’s now time for the church to remember that it, too, is a place for solutions.

As a pastor I lead my congregation every Sunday in reciting the Lord’s prayer, which includes the call for the Lord’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” When I imagine heaven, I imagine a utopia not unlike that of our creation narrative found in the book of Genesis: a haven of flora, fauna, beast, fish, bird, plant, water, and human, all thriving in beauty and bounty. When we ask for it to be “on earth as it is in heaven,” we unmask our desire for the beautiful, bountiful earth that God created. But, we live in a world that values greed and destruction more than beauty and bounty. And when we ignore what is happening to God’s creation, we are negligent in our prayer for earth to be as it is in heaven.

With Christ we know that there is nothing that we can’t restore, especially when we organize together as he told his disciples to do. Christ came to earth in the midst of a faith crisis to bring all that was on the brink of death back to life.

Christ brought justice – a glimpse of the glory of heaven that can be actualized on earth – in very tangible ways. We now have the call and the power to do the same.

Two ways that the Presbyterian Church USA can engage with creation restoration is by supporting Fossil Free PCUSA and the Green New Deal with urgency and fervor. Check out this webinar from Green Faith – People of Faith for a Green New Deal. Find a climate organizing meeting near you, ask your presbytery to go fossil free, call your representatives and tell them to support the Green New Deal. If it feels like you can’t get support from those in power, find friends to join you or call me. We can organize together for solutions. I believe we can do it.