Elkhart Trinity

Thanks for what you wrote about Elkhart Trinity (March issue of Together). It has really been a boost to our congregation, and our Chamber of Commerce is picking up on the positives and using them to bring hope throughout the community. That also is an affirmation to us at Trinity that we are doing what we are called to do. The coolest thing is, most of what we are doing in response to the downturn in the economy is stuff we have been doing all along. We really had a sense, reading what you put together, that we are living the vision God laid on our hearts many years ago. We are who we have been called to be. That is a huge blessing to us.

- Lore Blinn Gibson
Trinity UMC, Elkhart

'Green' people

This letter is in response to the letter of Brett Loyd, in the March 2009 issue of Together.

I agree with Mr. Loyd's analysis and comments. It seems that wittingly or unwittingly, the "green" people are secularizing the Word. Social "justice," seems to be the continuing current fad, and Creation Care is another example. The decline in attendance/membership in The United Methodist Church nation-wide has been the result of the social "gospel," and our church leaders just don't "get it."

Couple Creation Care with the hysteria over global warming, and the message of the Gospel has been lost. The church should be about leading people to Christ, not to the world's green pastures.

- Harlan Hinkle

Editorial note: Social justice is a major tenant of Wesleyan thought and has been with us since John Wesley founded this movement more than 200 years ago. Wesley advocated the abolition of slavery, the abolition of debtor prisons, the support of education and health care for the poor and teaching reading and writing to street children. At the same time, he led thousands to Christ. Wesley showed the Gospel does not need to get lost in social justice issues as long as those issues are part of God's Kingdom. - DRG

Should Christians care for the Earth?

Isn't it a given for us that "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1)? And doesn't the Scripture tell us in the very first chapter of Genesis that all of creation is good . all of it? Are we not the stewards, the caretakers, of God's earth? Would it not, therefore, be a sin to harm the earth or any of its creatures, or, to not take care of it?

Yet biologists everywhere are alarmed that we are now undergoing one of the greatest mass extinctions of species in the history of the plane ... and it is caused by humans (Dr. E.O. Wilson, Harvard University biologist). But there are many other ways we, as a human race, are harming our earth. For example, researchers speak to us of vast islands of trash now floating on the surface of our once pristine oceans. This is trash people discard, some of which is then carried by our rivers and deposited into the ocean.

As I read and listen to scientists, I am hearing the vast majority are alarmed about something greater, a problem that will have devastating consequences for humanity. It is an issue that will impact many of us in our own lifetimes, but especially our grandchildren and great grandchildren. Global warming is not some "hoax" thought up by a conspiracy of some demented scientists. The buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, by our burning of fossil fuels, is creating the greenhouse effect . an effect I was told by one scientist can easily be demonstrated in the lab. Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide were at 280 parts per million. Today, we are at 386 ppm and it continues to rise at about 2ppm per year. Many scientists, such as Dr. James Hansen of NASA, says that we must get this stabilized at 350 ppm, or humanity will suffer great consequences that will not be reversible for many millennia.

Global warming will affect the poor the most - but all of us will suffer. The greatest danger, of course, is the rise in ocean levels through the melting of the ice caps and through thermal expansion. This alone will displace untold millions of people who live along the coasts. Also, climate patterns will drastically change and be very disruptive.

I could go on, but the question is this: Can the church stand by in silence on this issue and be faithful to our Creator, as well as to our grandchildren who follow us? Some will say, "But this is a controversial issue. Maybe the scientists are wrong." I hope they are wrong - but what if they're right? Do we take comfort in our wishful thinking and gamble with our children's future?

Many churches are stepping up and forming "green teams" or, "Creation Care" teams to help their churches become more responsible environmentally. They also are helping their churches to save money by becoming more energy efficient. This past January, I participated in a "Green Congregations" workshop in Indianapolis. More than 160 people attended - representing 60 congregations. So, good things are happening. One of the most important things to be done now is for our church members to support large-scale government action to combat climate change.

Thomas Friedman said, "Volunteer action alone won't do it." We need to support legislators who see climate change as a vital issue that needs to be addressed. Sadly, Forbes magazine has ranked Indiana 49th for its environmental quality.

Our United Methodist Council of Bishops feels this issue needs to be addressed. On May 9, at Fishers UMC, we will hold an "In Defense of Creation" hearing for everyone in the conference to come and share together on the environmental issue (among others). We in Indiana will then give our feedback to the bishops as they work to put together their new document. I hope you will put it on your calendars. May God be with us as we work together.

- Dennis Shock