Emergency Climate Declaration
On April 22, 2022 (Earth Day) The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, signed a document declaring a climate emergency and challenged members of our diocese and other midwestern dioceses to respond with commitment.
"As followers of Jesus and stewards of creation, the most pressing issue facing our world is climate change. Holding the good creation in trust for those who come after us is perhaps the most sacred duty we have been given by God," Bishop Johnson said. "We are now called to make concrete steps to ensure the legacy we leave for our children is one of sustainability and wholeness."
The Emergency Climate Declaration is adapted from similar declarations made in other Episcopal dioceses around the country. The declaration offers theological and denominational imperatives as well as ways our diocesan community can respond to the crisis through spirituality, advocacy, and worship.
The Rev. Kevin McGrane, Chair of the Diocese of Missouri's Creation Care Ministry and Priest-in-Charge at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. James, says the climate crisis should be on our theological radar just like racism and evangelism are on our radar.
"The earth is a living system, not just a bundle of resources, and as such it is as marginalized as the poor, the weak, the sick, and the alien in our life," Rev. McGrane said. "We need to treat it as a living system, and the Declaration of Climate Emergency does that with a theological/biblical explanation of why this is important to the community of Christ, and specific steps we must take to respond to the emergency."
Parker Williams, the Diocesan Missioner for Creation Care and Stewardship and a member of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Poplar Bluff, was introduced to the declaration by the Rev. Margaret Bullitt Jonas, Missioner for Creation Care in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Rev. Bullitt Jonas will be our featured guest at the May 26 Creation Care Speaker Series.
Bishop Deon Johnson and the Creation Care Ministry team is also be inviting bishops throughout the Midwest and in Province V to adopt the Emergency Climate Declaration. As of May 2, Bishop Susan Candea from the Central States Synod, ELCA and Bishop Mark Cowell, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas have agreed to support this declaration.
Read the Bishop's Letter
April 22, 2022
Dear People of the Diocese of Missouri,
With the advent of spring, our thoughts turn with renewed gratitude to the great gift of God’s creation. “For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)
Our thoughts turn also to the devastation of that created order which continues to unfold around us. With the prophet, we ask, “How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it, the animals and the birds are swept away.” (Jeremiah 12:4)
Each year on Ash Wednesday, we offer the Litany of Penitence, decrying “our self-indulgent appetites and ways… our waste and pollution of [God’s’] creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us.” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 268). In our stewardship of God’s creation, we are thus called into the fullness of gratitude, repentance, and amendment of our lives.
What follows is a Declaration of Climate Emergency by your bishop. I urge you to read it thoroughly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully, receiving it as both challenge and invitation, and responding with commitment, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson,
Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri
Read the Emergency Climate Declaration
Declaration of Climate Emergency
As the bishop of Missouri, I declare a climate emergency.
We honor the call of our church’s presiding bishop, the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, to care for God’s beloved world. We recognize that accelerating global warming and mass extinctions are destroying God’s creation, threatening to make our planet uninhabitable. We likewise recognize that the climate crisis affects low-income communities and communities of color first and hardest. We confess that we, and our churches, have not yet responded with adequate seriousness or urgency to the ongoing, intensifying effects of climate change, and to its underlying causes.
According to Scripture, God created the physical world and all its creatures as inherently good (Genesis 1). The very first task that God entrusted to human beings was responsibility to care for the earth (Genesis 2:5). As Christians, we honor the goodness and sacredness of the created world, recognizing that the earth does not belong to us. but to God (Psalm 24:1). The scope of God’s loving embrace is not only humanity but also the rest of creation (Genesis 9:8–17), and we recognize that Jesus gave his life for the whole world, so that all things could be reconciled (Colossians 1:15–20; Ephesians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 2:19). As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, the “supreme work“ of Jesus Christ is to reconcile us to God, each other, and all of God‘s creation.
As a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church upholds the Five Marks of Mission as our understanding of God‘s mission. The fifth mark establishes as an essential dimension of Christian mission and ethics the commitment “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.” Because caring for God‘s creation is central to our moral and spiritual concern, General Convention, the church's triennial legislative governing body, has adopted scores of resolutions addressing the environment, environmental justice, and climate change. At the 79th General Convention in 2018, 19 resolutions that relate to care for God‘s creation were adopted. One of them (2018 – A018), adopted the House of Bishops 2011 Pastoral Teaching on the Environment as an official position of our church; a document that urges every Episcopalian “to acknowledge the urgency of the planetary crisis in which we find ourselves.” In 2019, the Anglican Consultative Council recognized a global climate emergency. The General Synod of the Church of England recognized a climate emergency in 2020.
Other denominations are also responding. Pope Francis declared a climate emergency in 2019. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has spoken repeatedly about the ecological crisis. The Methodist conference (UK) recognized the climate emergency in 2019. For the first time in history, the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Communion have jointly warned of the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on poverty, and the importance of global cooperation in the drafting of A Joint Message for the Protection of Creation.
Standing with our siblings in Christ, including St. Paul, we hear the groaning of creation as it waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19 - 23). We believe that God is calling us all to embrace brave and difficult change. Everything we do as faithful individuals and as a church must be reckoned with the unprecedented emergency in which humanity now finds itself.
We therefore encourage all Episcopalians to explore The Episcopal Church’s Covenant for the Care of Creation, a commitment to practice loving formation, liberating advocacy, and life – giving conversation as individuals, congregations, ministries, and dioceses.
We strongly urge congregations across the Midwest to pray, learn, act, and advocate as we build a bold and faith-filled response to the greatest moral challenge of our time. We urge members of our diocese is to explore available resources; including Creation Care Justice Network, the Great Middle Creation Care Group, and resources in all areas of engagement.
Reflecting on the four areas of engagement we urge our members to:
- We ask all preachers in our diocese, lay and ordained, to take up the mantle of moral leadership and preach regularly about our moral obligation to protect God’s creation.
- We encourage the use of the liturgical materials for honoring God and creation from our church from the standing commission on liturgy and music. Our worship services should regularly include prayers that lift up the urgent needs of God‘s creation (for example, to keep fossil fuels in the ground; to protect and restore forests), and prayers for our own transformation (for example, repentance for the role humans have played in creating, denying, and accelerating the emergency).
- We encourage observance of the season of creation (September 1 to October 4) as a time for renewing repairing and restoring our relationship to God, one another, and all of creation.
- We encourage outdoor services (which might be ecumenical or interfaith) that express reverence for God‘s creation, lament and repentance for humanity’s assault on earth, and renewed resolve to protect the web of life and trusted to our care.
- We encourage retreats and educational events that teach emotional and spiritual resilience, including ways of prayer that quiet our minds, calmer nerves, steel our spines, and open our hearts to the still small voice of God.
- We encourage deaneries and congregations to convene conversations and educational events around such topics as: how tackling the climate crisis connects with efforts to alleviate poverty, fight racial and social injustice, and defend human life; how eco–theology and eco–spirituality can guide us in the days ahead; how to cultivate the values and practices that liberate us from consumerism, hyper–individualism, and violence of the dominant culture.
- We encourage everyone to read and reflect on the 2011 House of Bishops Pastoral Teaching on the Environment,, which was adopted by the 79th General convention in 2018 as an official teaching.
- We urge all people to cut back sharply on their use of fossil fuels and to support each other in changing their patterns of consumption and waste. We commend the carbon tracker, Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home, as a free educational tool for cutting carbon use in our households. We urge houses of worship to complete energy audits and implement the findings.
- We welcome all new endeavors by parishes to become climate friendly including, installing solar panels, mitigating energy use by installing energy efficient lighting, and implementing other energy-efficient investments.
- We support efforts to restore ecosystems, soil, habitat and biodiversity – such as making space for wildlife near our homes, a practice that has been called, “reconciliation ecology.”
- We encourage congregations to identify and find ways to assist those in our communities who are most vulnerable to climate disasters.
- We further encourage collaborations between diocesan groups at work on interrelated justice concerns such as racial justice, food security, and creation care, among others.
- Because of the scale and pace of the climate crisis, we are required to advocate for systemic change. We urge all Episcopalians to become informed about – and participate in – local, state-wide, and national efforts to make a swift and just transition to clean, renewable energy and to support vulnerable communities.
- We acknowledge that the Midwest is the highest producer of carbon emissions within the United States. As a region, we are the fifth largest global producer of climate-change causing emissions. It is imperative that we change.
- We also urge connecting with local organizers in environmental justice communities and supporting their priorities and efforts in appropriate ways. In our advocacy work, we can draw upon our faith and make prayerful and prophetic public witness for creation and it smells vulnerable people and creatures, to envision a new world, and to call upon the God of life and resurrection to assist us.
In the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do so much.
Our efforts to revive God’s creation, to build a just and sustainable society, and to restore a safe climate will require communication and collaboration. We encourage everyone to sign up for the monthly creation care network in newsletter and creation care justice network emails.
We give thanks to God who makes all things new (Isaiah 43:18–19; Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:5) and who came among us to bring life, and life abundant (John 10:10).