American Baptist Churches
Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
Quaker (Religious Society of Friends)
Reformed Church in America
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church
American Baptist Churches (www.abc-usa.org)
Excerpted from “The American Baptist Policy Statement on Ecology,” in Our Only Home: Planet Earth. The full text can be found online here.
“The study of ecology has become a religious, social, and political concern because every area of life is affected by careless use of our environment. The creation is in crisis. We believe that ecology and justice, stewardship of creation, and redemption are interdependent. Our task is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ until the coming of the Kingdom on Earth. All God’s people must be guided by the balance of reverence, the acknowledgment of our interdependence, the integrity of divine wholeness and the need for empowerment by the Holy Spirit to image God by our dominion over creation (Mark 10:43-45). If we image God we will reflect in our dominion the love and the care that God has for the whole creation, ‘for God so loved the world…’ (John 3:16, Romans 8:21-22, Matthew 5:43-48).”
Excerpted from Creation: Called to Care, Statement of the Church of the Brethren 1991 Annual Conference. The full text can be found online here.
“Why should Christians care about the environment? Simply because we learn in Genesis that God has promised to fulfill all of creation, not just humanity, and has made humans the stewards of it. More importantly, God sent Christ into the very midst of creation to be ‘God with us’ and to fulfill the promise to save humankind and nature. God’s redemption makes the creation whole, the place where God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.
“God’s promises are not mere pledges. They are covenants. And covenants are agreements between people and between people and God. The covenants with Noah and Abraham and the New Covenant mean that people of faith are responsible for their part in renewing and sustaining the creation.
“This statement helps us to see the degradation of the earth as sin, our sin. We, the people who have accepted the redeeming love of God, have broken the covenant to care for creation. The challenge in [this] paper is to confess our sin, to take seriously our role as stewards of the earth, and to work for the renewal of creation.”
Excerpted from 70th General Convention’s Resolution entitled Affirm Environmental Responsibility and Establish an Environmental Stewardship Team, 1991-a195. More past and pending resolutions can be found here.
“Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, affirming our responsibility for the earth in trust for this and future generations:
“Declares that Christian Stewardship of God’s created environment, in harmony with our respect for human dignity, requires response from the Church of the highest urgency;
Calls on all citizens of the world, and Episcopalians in particular, to live their lives as good stewards with responsible concern for the sustainability of the environment and with appreciation for the global interdependence of human life and the natural worlds; and
“Urges all Episcopalians to reflect on their personal and corporate habits in the use of God’s creation; to share with one another ideas for new responses; and to act as individuals, congregations, dioceses, and provinces of the Episcopal Church in ways that protect and heal all interdependent parts of creation. Such action should include prayerful theological discernment and factual knowledge. It should also consider global and local links and the balance of environmental integrity with economic sufficiency for human living; and be it further
“Resolved, That the Episcopal Church, acknowledging the sovereignty of God and God’s call to us in the servanthood of Christ, continue to engage environmental issues, passionately caring for the earth and striving to live into the promises and mandates which are ours as stewards of creation; and be it further
“Resolved, That this Convention calls upon the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies to appoint an interdisciplinary, multicultural Environmental Stewardship Team, 14 members, representing each Province and a broad spectrum of Church membership, whose gifts and expertise are suitable to the task. The mission of the Environmental Stewardship Team is to educate, motivate and facilitate congregations, dioceses and provinces toward local and regional plans, advocacy and action. The Team will work with other environmental groups of common interest …”
Because the term “Evangelical” covers a wide variety of Christian denominations and non-denominational churches, there is not one Evangelical statement, per se, on creation. Below, you will find an exemplary statement, excerpted from the EEN’s publication: An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation.
“As followers of Jesus Christ, committed to the full authority of the Scriptures, and aware of the ways we have degraded creation, we believe that biblical faith is essential to the solution of our ecological problems.
“…We and our children face a growing crisis in the health of the creation in which we are embedded, and through which, by God’s grace, we are sustained. Yet we continue to degrade that creation. …Thus we call on all those who are committed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to affirm the following principles of biblical faith [e.g., a transcendent, yet immanent, loving Creator God created and cares for creation; humans, created in the image of God, are called to care for creation], and to seek ways of living out these principles in our personal lives, our churches, and society. …We believe that in Christ there is hope, not only for men, women and children, but also for the rest of creation which is suffering from the consequences of human sin.”
Interdenominational (www.nrpe.org, www.webofcreation.org)
As with the Evangelical churches, it is difficult to offer a comprehensive, interdenominational statement. As an interdenominational example, here is a portion of the NRPE’s mission statement.
“With a commitment ‘to be ourselves, together,’ each of our faith groups is implementing distinctive programs on behalf of a common mission: We act in faith to cherish and protect God’s creation. Our goal is to integrate commitment to global sustainability and environmental justice permanently into all aspects of religious life.”
Excerpted from “A Social Statement on Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice,” adopted by the ELCA on August 28, 1993. The full text can be found online here.
“Christian concern for the environment is shaped by the Word of God spoken in creation, the Love of God hanging on a cross, the breath of God daily renewing the face of the Earth. We of the ELCA are deeply concerned about the environment, locally and globally . . . We know care for the Earth to be a profoundly spiritual matter . . . 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. God’s command to have dominion and subdue the Earth is not a license to dominate and exploit. Human dominion (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8), a special responsibility, should reflect God’s way of ruling as a Shepherd King who takes the form of a servant (Philippines 2:7), wearing a crown of thorns. According to Genesis 2:15, our role within creation is to serve and to keep God’s garden, the Earth. ‘To serve,’ often translated ‘to till,’ invites us again to envision ourselves as servants, while ‘to keep’ invites us to care for the earth as God keeps and cares for us (Numbers 6: 24-26).”
Excerpted from the 1989, “Stewardship of the Earth, Resolution on the Environment and Faith Issues,” the Mennonite Environmental Task Force. The full text can be found here.
“…Whereas: The Bible clearly teaches that God’s creation is good (Gen. 1), that God is the Owner of the earth (Ps. 24:1-2), and that nature itself praises and glorifies God (Pss. 19 and 96); Christians have been directed by many Scriptures to care for the natural creation as God’s stewards (Gen. 1:26-28; Exod. 20:8-11; Lev. 25 and 26; and Luke 4:16-22, among others);
“Christians look forward to the time when all of creation, including humankind, will be fully restored/redeemed (Rom. 8:18-25; Col. 1:15-23; and John 1:1-5, among others); and many Mennonites who have traditionally understood their role as good earth stewards and accepted the scriptural teaching have today neglected or forgotten an environmental ethic and have not been fully aware of the impact of our lifestyle on the global environment and on our sisters and brothers worldwide who share God’s earth with us.
“Therefore be it resolved that: In our individual, work, and family life we seek to become more caring about our impact on the environment, and seek to educate ourselves and act upon our best knowledge of ways to conserve the resources we use… .”
Greek Orthodox (www.goarch.org)
Excerpted from “Message of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios on the Day of the Protection of the Environment,” Sept. 1, 1989. The full text can be found online here. More on the Orthodox Church and environment here.
“This Ecumenical Throne of Orthodoxy, keeper and proclaimer of the centuries-long spirit of the patristic tradition, and faithful interpreter of the eucharist and liturgical experience of the Orthodox Church, watches with great anxiety the merciless trampling down and destruction of the natural environment which is caused by human beings, with extremely dangerous consequences for the very survival of the natural world created by God.
“…In view of this situation the Church of Christ cannot remain unmoved. It constitutes a fundamental dogma of her faith that the world was created by God the Father, who is confessed in the Creed to be ‘maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.’ According to the great Fathers of the Church, Man is the prince of creation, endowed with the privilege of freedom. Being partaker simultaneously of the material and the spiritual world, he was created in order to refer back creation to the Creator, in order that the world may be saved from decay and death.
“… we . . . declare the first day of September of each year . . . to be the day of the protection of the environment. … we paternally urge on the one hand all the faithful in the world to admonish themselves and their children to respect and protect the natural environment, and on the other hand all those who are entrusted with the responsibility of governing the nations to act without delay taking all necessary measures for the protection and preservation of the natural creation. …”
Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (www.pcusa.org/)
Excerpted from the 202nd General Assembly (1990) Report: “Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice.” More information can be found here, including how to get a copy of the the full report.
“Creation cries out in this time of ecological crisis . . . Therefore, God calls the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to:
- respond to the cry of creation, human and non-human;
- engage in the effort to make the 1990s the ‘turnaround decade,’ not only for reasons of prudence or survival, but because the endangered is God’s creation; and
- draw upon all the resources of biblical faith and the Reformed tradition for empowerment and guidance in this adventure.
“The church has powerful reason for engagement in restoring God’s creation:
- God’s works in creation are too wonderful, too ancient, too beautiful, too good to be desecrated.
- Restoring creation is God’s own work in our time, in which God comes both to judge and to restore.
- The Creator-Redeemer calls faithful people to become engaged with God in keeping and healing the creation, human and non-human.
- Human life and well-being depend upon the flourishing of other life and the integrity of the life-supporting processes that God has ordained.
- The love of neighbor, particularly ‘the least’ of Christ’s brothers and sisters, requires action to stop the poisoning, the erosion, the wastefulness that are causing suffering and death.”
“Therefore, the 202nd General Assembly affirms that:
- … Earth-keeping today means insisting on sustainability – the ongoing capacity of natural and social systems to thrive together – which requires human beings to practice wise, humble, responsible stewardship, after the model of servanthood that we have in Jesus. …”
There are many Friends’ Testimonies, Queries, and Minutes that address creation awareness and care. The following was excerpted from a Friends Committee on National Legislation policy statement (1987), as cited in Friends Committee on Unity with Nature’s organizational brochure. More can be found here.
“The earth we share is limited in its capacity to support life and to provide resources for our survival. The environment that has provided sustenance for generations must be protected for generations to come. We have an obligation, therefore, to be responsible stewards of the earth, to restore its natural habitat where it has been damaged, and to maintain its vitality. Friends’ historic testimonies on simplicity have long stressed that the quality of life does not depend upon immodest consumption. The urgency of the threat to the environment cannot be overstated.”
Reformed Church in America (www.rca.org)
Excerpted from Care for the Earth: Theology and Practice, Minutes of General Synod, 1982. The full text can be downloaded in .doc format here.
“Humanity was created by God to live in ‘shalom’ (peace, wholeness, justice) with each other and all creation. … The vision of shalom is one in which all the resources of creation are shared harmoniously among all people. So while we certainly ought to be concerned about the deterioration of land, air, and water . . . our task of caring for the Earth calls us far beyond these boundaries.
“The life-sustaining resources of creation are in peril throughout the globe. The massive consumption of our affluent societies is severely straining the resources of the Earth. Because there are finite limits to these resources, over-consumption by one group inevitably means the deprivation of other people. A pattern of reckless and unjust resource consumption lies at the heart of our environmental peril.
“We can begin caring for the Earth, then, only from a posture of repentance. The restoration of God’s shalom for all of creation requires changes in our attitudes, in our values, and in our lives. If Christ’s work of redemption extends not only to us, but to all creation, then both we and the Christian fellowships to which we belong should begin to demonstrate redeemed relationships to the Earth’s resources, and a commitment that they be shared justly with all people.”
Roman Catholic (conservation.catholic.org/)
Excerpted from Pope John Paul II’s The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility. The full text can be found online here.
“Respect for life and for the dignity of the human person also extends to the rest of creation, which is called to join man in praising God.”
“We cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention both to the consequences of such interference in other areas and to the well-being of future generations.”
“It is manifestly unjust that a privileged few should continue to accumulate excess goods, squandering available resources, while masses of people are living in conditions of misery at the very lowest level of subsistence. Today, the dramatic threat of ecological breakdown is teaching us the extent to which greed and selfishness – both individual and collective – are contrary to the order of creation, an order which is characterized by mutual interdependence.”
“Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice, must become a part of everyday life, lest all suffer the negative consequences of the careless habits of a few.”
From “Letter from the Bishops,” in Let the Earth Bless the Lord: A Catholic Approach to the Environment.
“In following Jesus, the Church seeks to live a consistent ethic of life fully reflective of his example of an all-embracing love, particularly for those who are most in need . . . The Church recognizes that the web of life and the promotion of human dignity are linked to the protection and care of God’s creation. It is this integral approach that marks our effort as a distinctly Catholic vision of environmental responsibility.”
Unitarian Universalist (www.uua.org)
Excerpted from Principles and Purposes of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The full text can be found online here.
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: … Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” (This is the “Seventh Principle.”)
Excerpted from General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association [UUA], 1997 General Resolution: Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. The full text can be found online here.
“BECAUSE the seven principles of the [UUA] connect the values of democracy, personal growth, and social justice to a recognition of the interdependent web of all existence; and
WHEREAS safe air to breathe, safe water to drink, and a sustainable environment are essential for life; and
WHEREAS government support for environmental protection and energy conservation programs is inadequate;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the [UUA] urges its member congregations, affiliate organizations, and individual [Unitarians] to increase their efforts to:
1. Protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats;
2. Advocate for clean air, both indoors and outdoors, and clean water;
3. Promote the protection of public lands and water resources, and the responsible stewardship of private lands;
4. Support and practice energy and water conservation and the use of renewable sources of energy;
5. Use and advocate the use of public transportation and other environmentally sound alternatives;
6. Reduce the waste of resources in our homes, congregations, and communities by recycling, using recycled products, and reducing consumption;
7. Educate ourselves and our congregations on the need for these efforts and how best to undertake them; and
Increase government support for environmental protection and energy conservation programs.”
United Church of Christ (www.ucc.org/)
Excerpted from the UCC Network for Environmental and Economic Responsibility’s web site.
“We believe that our planetary future is radically jeopardized by economic competition and growth unrestrained by a sense of limits about our place in the whole. Our love for our children and our children’s children requires us to raise serious questions about the level and methods of production and the wasteful style of consumption in the United States and other affluent nations and people. We affirm that a responsible, global economic system must distribute goods more equally and must recycle more effectively. We look for sustainable development and transparent, participatory decision making. We affirm the use of technologies which cooperate with the non-human roots of life on earth, instead of polluting and destroying them.
“We seek to cultivate attitudes of sacred covenanting among peoples and between humanity and the non-human creation. We call upon all members and instrumentalities of the United Church of Christ to display courageous leadership in:
- modeling ecologically responsible life-styles;
- developing a communal spirituality able to connect persons creatively to the one, good creation of God; and
- advocating for economic and technological change so that our earth has a green and sustainable future of just peace for all.”
United Methodist Church (umc-gbcs.org/)
Excerpted from the current UMC Social Principle, “The Natural World.” The full text can be found online here.
“All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. Therefore, we repent of our devastation of the physical and non-human world. Further, we recognize the responsibility of the Church toward lifestyle and systemic changes in society that will promote a more ecologically just world and a better quality of life for all creation.”
Being Presbyterian refers to a theological heritagestarted by Martin Luther and refined by John Calvin.
The roots of the Presbyterian Church go all the way back to Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther. In 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 “theses” or questions for discussion on the church door (the town bulletin board) of his town in Wittenburg, Germany. Because of the recent invention of the printing press, within two weeks Luther’s disagreements with existing church doctrine were circulating all over Europe. The Protestant Reformation had begun.
The new reforms within the church soon attracted a bright young student in France, named John Calvin. Calvin, a lawyer by trade, wrote a brilliant articulation of this “reformed” faith, at age 29. He called it, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. People now refer to it as Calvin’s Institutes. His work attracted great attention because of its insight, depth, and clarity. Calvin eventually would settle in the town of Geneva, Switzerland and become an important figure in the new reformation of the church. The Presbyterian Church today finds it theological roots in the writings of John Calvin.
The first Presbyterian Church was organized in America in the early 1700’s in Philadelphia. Just preceding the Civil War, the church broke into two separate denominations, which reunited in 1983. Our denomination’s official name is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). This is the “mainline” Presbyterian denomination a body of 2.6 million believers in 11,000 congregations.
Martin Luther thought the greatest danger to the Christian’s life was legalism. John Calvin believed the greatest danger was idolatry, the pursuit of, longing for, and trust in things and persons in place of God.
Our Form of Church Government
The word “Presbyterian” comes from the Bible, from the Greek word for “elder.” The Presbyterian denomination takes its name from its form of church government, which is to be governed by elders. There are various types of church government, such as “hierarchical” – the Roman Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist churches; “congregational” – Baptist and Congregational churches; and “representative” – Presbyterian Churches. The Presbyterian Church is a representative form of church government in which the congregation elects church officers to lead the congregation. The Presbyterian Church is representative at every level – Congregations elect elders to serve on the Session, Sessions elect commissioners to go to Presbytery meetings, and Presbyteries elect commissioners to go to Synod and General Assembly meetings. Our nation’s government was patterned after the Presbyterian representative model. Elders in the Presbyterian Church seek to discern the will of God for a congregation and vote their conscience before God. Our congregation has three classes of four elders serving of a rotating basis. Congregational elections for new elders are held each year, generally in the fall. All members of the congregation are entitled to vote on the electing of their officers. The Vision Statement for Central’s Session is – “By example, to lead the congregation in the way of Jesus Christ.”
What Presbyterians Believe
- Protestant. We come from the protestant Reformation that began in the 1500’s with the theological thought of Martin Luther and John Calvin.
- Reformed and always reforming. We try to always reform our life and practice, both individually and corporately, according to the teachings of scriptures.
- Elected by God’s grace. We believe we have been chosen by God’s grace. However, this election is not primarily for privilege, but rather for service. It leads us to gratitude and assurance in our faith, and is best recognized in retrospect.
- Saved to share the good news with the world around us. Missions have always been a strong emphasis of our denomination.
- Bible centered. The scriptures of the Old and New Testament are our only authoritative guide for faith and life.
- Yielded to God for God’s work in the world. This means being good stewards of God’s creation. It means working for peace and justice. We seek to change unjust social structures where they exist.
- Thinkers of our faith. We believe that God has given us minds to use for his service. We believe that the life of the mind is a service to God. Therefore, we study our faith in order to love God with our mind, as well as our heart and soul.
- Encouraged by what we believe God can do. Presbyterians tend to balance an undue pessimism about the world with a sense that, with God, all things are possible. We pray for and work for the kingdom of God in the world, knowing that all good things ultimately come from God.
- Relying on God’s grace by faith for our salvation. It is not our works, nor our righteousness that saves us. Our salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. No matter how much good we do, we are always sinners saved by grace.
- Inspired to worship God in all we do. Worship is our #1 priority. Our primary reason for existence is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever”. We make personal prayer a priority and regularly gather to worship with God’s people.
- Attached to one another by bonds of love. Every person matters to God. Every person’s gift is needed in the church. Everyone is of value and worth in God’s sight. We believe that the church is built up by the exercise of God’s peoples’ spiritual gifts therefore we encourage everyone to find a place to serve.
- Never afraid to adjust our organizational practices in order to share the gospel more effectively. We are slow to change our theology, but quick to change our practices when it helps us take the unchanging gospel into a rapidly changing world.
Presbyterians believe in a sovereign God.
The Presbyterian Church has a strong view of the majesty, power, and omnipotence of God. This informs many things we do. Our worship is reverent and seeks to focus our hearts and minds on God. We believe God works in peoples’ hearts in God’s own timing and therefore we do not try to orchestrate the when’s and how’s of people’s salvation. The belief in a sovereign God is also foundational to the difficult and often misunderstood doctrine of predestination. Predestination states, simply put, that God chooses us first before we ever even think about responding to God. God’s choice and our response complete our salvation.
Presbyterians are formed and reformed by the Bible.
Presbyterians believe in the Bible and use it as the unique and authoritative guide for how to live and what to believe. The sermons on Sunday try to explain and interpret the Bible rather than the preacher’s latest ideas. We encourage people to read the Bible in their own devotional times and participate in group-settings such as Sunday School and Wednesday evening classes. For Presbyterians the Bible is not just to be read by preachers and scholars. We believe that the Bible is so clear, in its major themes and principles, that everybody can understand the story of salvation, primarily by reading the Bible in a regular and consistent discipline.
Presbyterians are a people of community.
Presbyterians believe that you cannot live the Christian life effectively apart from other people. God has given us the church for our mutual support, correction, and encouragement. We need a relationship with other Christians in order to be all that God intends us to be. This is one of the reasons the Presbyterian Church has a connectional form of church government. Through the Presbyteries, Synods, and the General Assembly each local congregation stays connected to the larger church. It is also one of the reasons we work together in teams for ministry. We need to do the work of Christ with other people. We believe God calls people to be connected with a local congregation and church membership is the way we recognize and celebrate that calling.
Presbyterians are a people of mission.
Presbyterians believe that we cannot simply live in our own sheltered world. God has called us to take the gospel to the entire world. God has called us to exhibit the kingdom of Christ to our community. The Presbyterian Church sends missionaries into all corners of the globe, through the regular offerings of local churches. Our denomination has been instrumental in taking the gospel to many other countries in this century. Each local congregation participates in mission activities in its specific community, on a national level, and on a global scale. Presbyterians have always looked outside themselves and their own concerns to work to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission. Today the mission field is also in our own backyard as we seek to share the gospel with the almost 50% of Americans not connected with any local church.
Presbyterians are a people of the mind.
Presbyterians believe that the mind is a terrible thing to waste. God has given us our minds as gracious gifts. Our reasoning faculties ought to be trained for the service of God. This is why ministers in the Presbyterian Church are held to the highest academic standards. It is why the training of elders and Sunday School teachers is so very important in the Presbyterian church. It is why we encourage everyone to grow in knowledge of the Bible, church history, theology, and an understanding of the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life.
Presbyterians have two sacraments.
The Presbyterian Church does not have many ceremonies and rituals. This is because we do not want to distract from the two most important ceremonies Christ left to the church, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We believe these are the only two ceremonies, which we call sacraments, which Christ instituted for the church throughout the ages. Baptism is administered only once as a sign of our forgiveness from sin and our entrance into the family of God. We administer baptism to infants and children in anticipation of their faith and with the promise of parents to raise them in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” We administer the Sacrament of Baptism to adults upon their public profession of faith. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is repeated often in the Presbyterian Church. Our congregation celebrates it on the first Sunday of every month. This ceremony reminds us, over and over, that we need the spiritual nourishment Christ brings to us and that Christ, our living Savior, is present with us, now and in the future.
This material is provided thanks to the work of
Central Presbyterian Church Athens Georgia.