Theoblogical

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Where we find ourselves as a Church, how we got here, and where we need to go in this time of Climate Crisis.

July 30, 2015 By: Theoblogical Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, People's Climate

There’s so much to say about this response to an email I sent to a denominational news website:

Me:

since your reply to my question about Climate Crisis coverage,  it’s been 24 days,  and I don’t think ONE article has appeared anywhere on [your main website]  Seems that the News staff might need a dedicated Climate reporter,  like many of the secular news agencies do (or for an even better example,  the Guardian has become the premiere journalistic effort on the Climate Crisis.  In early June,  I attended a Conference in Claremont CA , Seizing An Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization,  put on by the Center for Process Studies based in xxx School of Theology.   Just wanted to renew my concerns about the level of attention this is being given,  especially since [a Theological School ]is expressing such a level of urgency about the matter.   It’s worth some serious conversation amongst the News staff.

 

Reply:

The xxxx Church is a church first, and the news agency — all four of us on the news full time — are there to cover mainly the work of and controversies within the xxxChurch. Yes, climate change as a global issue, is very much part of our coverage. But it will never be the sole focus of any of our small number of reporters. I admire your passion but you have to understand that with a tiny staff and resources, we will never be as comprehensive on any topic as many would like.

I hid the specific names and identifying markers of who I am talking about here,  because my point here is to identify a wide-ranging problem in the church today,  that spans across denominations.   To report on the indicators of the problem/crisis we face stirs up fierce debate,  awkward silence,  or deep discomfort.   Churches shy away from covering the topic at all.  This particular response says a lot about what is at work here,  it seems.

point one:

[this] Church is a church first

Yeah,  it is.  And just what might be at play in a comment such as that?  That somehow this topic is not considered a priority or related wholly to “church issues”?   Just what kind of church might this be describing?  It would seem to me that a dire global emergency,  identified by an overwhelming consensus of the very best scientists in the world,  who are seeing very disturbing trends heralding grave dangers to global health, infrastructures, and economies,  would be sufficient motivation for churches to be deeply concerned about the direction of our consumerist, hubristic plunge toward ecological devastation.

point two:

the news agency — all four of us on the news full time — are there to cover mainly the work of and controversies within the [denomination].

Makes sense.  But the “work of” begs the question:  What should be our work (back to the first point).  And ,  even more obvious to everyone,  “controversies within”:  This is a HUGE controversy.  It draws trolls in as many numbers to website articles on Climate Change issues as does Gay marriage or healthcare (or any number of politically charged issues such as Police violence and #BlackLivesMatter).  All of those issues,  are , of course,  of great ethical and social and theological significance.  But none of them bear the weight of blocking out almost all coverage of ongoing, increasing, dire scientific warnings about what is happening to our planet’s capacity to withstand what we as a consumerist society are doing to it.

point 3:

Yes, climate change as a global issue, is very much part of our coverage. But it will never be the sole focus of any of our small number of reporters.

No,  Climate Change is NOT “Very Much” a part of the coverage.  One article every 3-4 months is not “VERY MUCH” a part of the news coverage. And these past 3-4 months have INCLUDED the momentous and theologically significant and , for the church,  GROUNDBREAKING theological response by a global church leadership (in this instance,  the widest reaching , most authoritative figure of religious stature on the face of the earth, the Pope.  And that was but 6 weeks ago,  and only ONE response has been offered since then (and that was an article borrowed from an internal agency written by an officer of that agency.  Not that this isn’t encouraging,  but when it represents the sum-total of the featured response by a denomination’s news agency,  something is certainly missing.  A disturbing lack of urgency and sense of significance is indicated.

I had made the suggestion of a dedicated “Climate reporter” such as the ones like Joe Romm or several folks at The Guardian,  which has become the model journalistic effort in covering the things which unmistakably lay the urgency right at our feet.  And these are “secular” operators,  but who , sadly for us as a church,  are displaying a deeper level of responsibility for informing the public than denominational agencies are providing for their members,  who are called to represent a different order, a  Kingdom of God which models a new life that’s possible.

I must confess,  that I have to say these things with a clear sense of humility in recognizing that the place to where I have come,  that gives me this sense of urgency,  is a place to which I have come only in the last 10-11 months.  It was a realization on the order of a new conversion;  a reformation of my theological outlook that now operates within the context of “an earth in peril” (a phrase and idea about theology articulated by Philip Clayton).  Prior to this,  I had scarcely noticed the gaping hole in coverage at a level of urgency appropriate to the reality.  But this lays before me an unmistakable, unshakable sense of call upon my life and work.  It is to offer up my communication skills and technology specialties to the task of enabling the church to be the church,  and tell the story of where we find ourselves, and how we got here,  and where we need to go.

 

 

 

 

The absence of any sustained and serious effort re: The Climate Crisis in recent UMCom history

July 29, 2015 By: Theoblogical Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, People's Climate, Theoblogical

So, I scan the timeline*, and at no time has the issue of the Climate Crisis been considered worthy of a serious communication effort, even as this has become glaringly obvious as a reality of IMMENSE social , political, and economic upheaval. When will this cross the threshold from “an issue” among others, to a Crisis worthy of SERIOUS ethical, theological, and technological reflection? UMC is certainly not alone in this neglect of the Crisis. The American churches , in particular, must awaken to the level of responsibility we bear as a nation for this situation. And the churches, as bearers of theological resources to “speak the truth to power”, MUST begin undertaking this task.

*  I do not expect that this urgency would go back to the earliest days of the discovery of the global warming problem (which I set at around 1988, when James Hansen first went public with the concern of many in the climate science community).  But as the evidence mounted,  this became a bigger and more urgent call for the churches to begin to speak up.

Climate as “Topic” on Denomination’s Website?

July 26, 2015 By: Dale Lature G+ Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, People's Climate

So I see this page on UMC.org under “What We Believe” and “UMC Topics”  at http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/united-methodist-topics

I scan,  see no listing for Climate Change or even Environment.

So I click “Ask A Question” and submit this:

I am asking this questiuon from the page http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/united-methodist-topics

I want to know if “Climate Change” or “Climate Crisis” is ever going to make this list? It certainly belongs on this list and is much more wide-ranging in its possible consequences, especially if we Christians and UMethodists continue to relaegate it to the “every once in a while mention” status it is getting lately, which is BACKWARDS from what should be the case. BACKWARDS because we are learning ever more about how serious this matter has been getting as we continue on our merry way with business as usual. PLEEEZ, pay attention.

A little confrontive, you say?  You betcha.  This cannot be left unquestioned?  How is this NOT a “Church Topic”, “Huge Issue”, “Worthy of being ‘obsessed’ over”?

I go MUCH further than these rather obvious questions.  Why is this even relegated to “News” or “Topics” or “Issues”.  This needs to become a HUGE, Theology-shaping, Reformative issue for the very way we conceive of ourselves as a church in this time where the very issue of civilization and human survival is at stake?  It is APOCALYPTIC,  and yes,  in the truly Biblical sense.  It is literally to shape how we articulate our theology.  And this is NO HYBERBOLE.  Theologically, scientifically, or logically.  It’s the reality.

I want my present home denomination to wake up to this reality,  in a MUCH , MUCH bigger and obvious way.  The Reformation we need here is much larger than that “Protestant Reformation”.  This is something we can’t “Compartmentalize” and insist that the church is all about “Spiritual Things” ,  and by implication,  NOT Social or Political or “Environmental Issues”.  That is a most destructive version of Gnosticism.  The deepest disservice that Gnosticism does is to cordon God off into this “Spiritual reality” that does not intersect and interact and flow through the creation in which we find ourselves.  God is very much : “in, with, and permeates ALL” things.  God is best conceived as a holy dialogue back and forth between Pan-EN-Theism and the One.*

* I have begun a book “Ask The Beasts” by Elizabeth A. Johnson that will be diving into the concept of the “Word become flesh” and how the word for “Flesh” is Sarc(s),  which , contrary to the common conception,  is different from the anthropomorphic flesh,  but of “life substance”…not only human life,  but life in the cosmos; God became “part of creation” and that in which it all “holds together” (Col. 1:17) The Colossians reference is mine,  not Johnson’s (unless she happens to incorporate it.  I don’t know yet.  Haven’t gotten that far into it yet). Stay tuned for lots of postings here and on other social media as I read on.

upcoming UMComm 75th anniversary: Will they help the church to tell the Climate Story and to participate in the New Economy?

July 25, 2015 By: Dale Lature G+ Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, People's Climate, Theoblogical

Saw this article on the UMC.org website this week,  and ,  as I am apparently programmed to do,  reflected upon it in the context of “A Church in a time of Climate Crisis”,  or “A Planet in Peril” (as I once heard Phillip Clayton say).  There was no place for me to make comments below this article which was published at the UMComm website,  so I “Shared” the post on my Facebook timeline with the following lead-in:

Let’s hope that the Communications agency of the United Methodist Church considers it a calling to begin to help the church awaken to the urgency of the Climate Crisis, which will, in the NEXT 75 years, become more and more obvious, intense, and destructive of cities, communities, economies, and all of life. Talk about a “Pro-Life” issue. And it’s not just something “75 years in the future that we can push to the side and say, “we’ll deal with that later”. What is happening NOW and into the next 75 years is largely already caused by what we’ve ALREADY done. What we must do now is to change course, and seek to DECREASE the amount of dire effects we will experience. I think this is an issue that is arguably the most far-reaching ethical issue humanity has ever faced. It is past time for the church to begin acting like it.

A new conceiving of “Mission” for our crisis situation

July 15, 2015 By: Dale Lature G+ Category: ecotheology, Occupy Theology, Theoblogical

I tweeted these three tweets out to my 3 Twitter accounts yesterday,  and again just a few minutes ago.

Our churches should be generating ministries of “Eco-Mission”
Let us not allow this to become a point of great O-mission
Rather, it should be considered an integral part of “The Great Commission” as we seek to be a church in the Anthopocene

This is an enormous issue for theology today,  in a time where churches aligning with the values of Empire and Oligarchy have adopted an ideology of strident opposition to economic and ecological change.   Ecological change requires a radical re configuring of our economic and social awareness.  And theological legacies have been built which fail to take in to account the ecological limitations,  which was inconceivable to a pre-scientific mind which perceived the earth as infinitely unlimited.  The cosmology was severely restricted to literally what we could then perceive with the senses.  That is no longer the case.