History of ELCA Actions and Involvement in Caring for Creation

Significant Points in ELCA’s care for creation work

January 2010 (1/28/10)

1988 Job Ebenezer begins work as director of Environmental Stewardship and Hunger Education for the Commission for Church in Society. He produces a variety of print resources and plants a demonstration roof-top container garden.

1989 ELCA initiates and cosponsors shareholder resolutions: protecting the earth’s ozone layer, styrofoam packaging material, and environmental disclosure on environmental impacts.

1991 September – A churchwide conference, hosted by Women of the ELCA (with support from the ELCA Hunger Education program), on “Caring for Creation: A Challenge for the Church” held in North Carolina. Two hundred people attended. Job Ebenezer, director for Environmental Stewardship and Hunger Education in the Division for Church in Society (DCS), begins assembling a churchwide environmental stewardship network of synod contact people.

1993 ELCA adopts social statement Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice. The social statement recognized the potential threat of global warming.

1994 The focus of environmental stewardship work in the Division for Church in Society is educating members, congregations, and related institutions in “global sustainability.” (Major program directions, Oct. 3, 1994)

The Corporate Social Responsibility program in DCS approves shareholder resolutions: 1) endorsement of the CERES Principles for Public Environmental Accountability; 2) Public Environmental Reporting; 3) Utilities, Energy Conservation, Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Climate Change; and 4) Recycling.

1995 The 1995-1996 Advocacy Plan for the Division for Church in Society states that the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs will support: the Environmental Justice Act, reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act, and legislation that addresses water-related pollution problems such as the Clean Water Act.

1996 Job Ebenezer does trainings and workshops on energy and resource conservation in churches, environmental degradation, sustainable building technology, etc. Resources are produced: “EarthScore: Your Personal Environmental Audit and Guide,” a booklet for ELCA audiences; “At Least 10% for God’s Creation”—a 40-day Lenten calendar emphasizing the environmental tithe.

1997 The DCS director for environmental stewardship works with seminaries on promoting environmental concerns in the curriculum. The roof top container garden is operational on the 7th level of the parking deck, with produce going to the Chicago food depository. Technical and financial assistance is given to establish container gardens in other cities. A three-part video, “Faithful Earthkeeping,” was completed and two hundred copies were distributed.

The Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs (now ELCA Washington Office) encourages Lutherans to circulate the National Council of Churches petition urging the U.S. government to establish firm policy measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to initiate debate on climate change, and to maximize public participation in exploring solutions. (LOGA Issue Report, September 1997)

Lutheran Earthkeeping Network of the Synods (LENS) is formed by a small group of ELCA Lutherans meeting in a denominational breakout session during a National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Ministries conference in Colorado.

1998 Trinity Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, and Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia offer seminar on global sustainability. The Northeastern Iowa Synod initiates an energy efficiency program. Luther College initiates a course on “Sustainable Development for the U.S.” The latter two initiatives are supported by grants from the churchwide organization. One hundred copies of the book “Guide to Resource Efficient Church Buildings” produced for the ELCA by the Center for Resourceful Building Technology are distributed to interested churches.

Energy Star congregation program established through NCC with support from the EPA. A “Guide for Congregations” was sent to congregations requesting them. This program was scaled back by EPA in 2000.

State Interfaith Power and Light (IPLs) begin to form, starting with 10 Midwestern states. A number of ELCA members are involved and/or serve as state coordinators. These state and ecumenical initiatives educate and advocate on climate change.

1999 ELCA Washington Office publishes articles and action alerts on climate change.

August – ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopts the social statement Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All which states that the economy rests on wise management of the earth and its resources, called for policiesto help reverse environmental destruction, and development and use of energy-efficient technologies.

2000 ELCA Corporate Social Responsibility program publishes Web page on climate change, listing Internet and print resources. Meetings on sustainability held at Capitol University and Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

2001 April – Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson writes to President George W. Bush requesting that the president work with leaders in the faith and scientific communities “to work out a sustainable solution to the problem of global warming.”

May – ELCA Washington Office signs on to letter to Congress in support of legislation addressing global climate change (HR 1646)

May – Presiding Bishop Anderson joins 40 heads of major religious communities in an open letter to the president, Congress, and the American people in which they said, “Preventing climate change is a preeminent expression of faithfulness to our Creator God” and called for setting energy conservation targets and timetables. ELCA Washington Office publishes articles and action alerts on climate change.

Church in Society unit expands half-time position devoted to environmental education and advocacy to a full-time position with thirty percent of the position’s time devoted to advocacy on environmental and rural issues.

August – Two synods (St. Paul Area Synod; Southeastern Minnesota Synod) submit memorials to the Churchwide Assembly asking the Church in Society unit to develop or identify resources for promoting understanding on global warming.

2002 Danielle Welliever begins her service as director for Environmental Education and Advocacy in the Church in Society unit. She makes presentations at Northwest Washington Synod climate change conference.

2003 November – “Caring for Creation—For the Healing of the World” consultation held in Mundelein, IL, to observe the 10th anniversary of the social statement Caring for Creation. Sixty people representing synods, congregations, and interests and 11 churchwide staff attended. Purposes of the consultation: 1) assess how and to what extent the commitments made in the social statement have been carried out within the ministries of the ELCA; 2) assess the social statement’s adequacy to meet new and emerging needs; 3) develop strategies for action, networking and communication; and 4) report findings to the Church in Society unit and other churchwide offices and units.

2004 “ELCA Environmental Audit Guide for congregations, schools, and other groups” is produced; 2000 distributed, others downloaded.

Danielle Welliever concludes her work as director for Environmental Education and Advocacy in the Church in Society unit. Matthew Anderson-Stembridge begins work as director.

2005 Matthew Anderson-Stembridge concludes work as director for Environmental Education and Advocacy. The position is moved to ELCA Washington Office; Mary Minette begins work.

Lighting at the Lutheran Center is refurbished and changed 2005. Recycling at the Lutheran Center moves beyond recycling aluminum cans and light bulbs to other items.

Kim Winchell is the first ELCA rostered leader (diaconal minister) consecrated with a call to earthkeeping education and advocacy, by the North/West Lower Michigan Synod.

April – Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson issues Earth Day message.

August – The Metropolitan New York Synod memorializes the Churchwide Assembly asking the ELCA to “offer increased attention and support to both churchwide and synodical programs and ministries for environmental education and advocacy….” The assembly acts to “encourage congregations, synods, and public policy coalitions to renew their study of [the Caring for Creation] social statement, to communicate with each other, and to advocate with their local and state governments individually and corporately through local and state councils of churches….”

2006 ELCA stewardship program, through the initiative of Keith Mundy, begins to incorporate earthkeeping into its holistic approach to stewardship.

2007 April – Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson issues Earth Day message outlining the ELCA’s concerns about climate change and its potential impact on “the least of these.” He urged people to advocate for improved policies and laws to address climate change and for congregations to reduce energy use.

August – Six synods (Oregon, Southeastern Pennsylvania, South-Central Wisconsin, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, Minneapolis, Metro Chicago) submit memorials expressing concern for climate change, asking the ELCA to develop materials to educate on climate change, calling for a revision of the social statement, asking the Office of the Treasurer to take energy-saving measures and use green building guidelines for new or renovated build to advocate at the federal and state levels regarding climate change. The assembly urged all expressions of the ELCA to study the social statement, conduct energy audits, reduce consumption, follow green building practices, invest in corporations that seek to sustain the environment, and advocate. It decided against revising the social statement but asked Church in Society to consider a message on climate change.

October -- More than 6,000 participants attended “Heating Up: TheEnergy Debate,” Gustavus Adolphus College’s Nobel Conference on climate change.

“Awakening to God’s Call to Earthkeeping,” a four-session curriculum for congregations, is produced by the ELCA Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission and the Church in Society units.

2008 January – Earthkeeping Consultation held in Chicago. Conversation focuses on: assets available, identifying places and organizations for action; need for a clear vision and a strategy; models that work in synods, congregations; how to make earthkeeping more visible at all levels of the church; funding; and specific next steps.

First email reflection series for Lent, “Creation Waits with Eager Longing,” is produced by ELCA Washington Office.

October – Al Gore trains The Climate Project’s first-ever faith community members to give presentations on global climate change. Six ELCA members participate in training: Pr. Robyn Hartwig, Portland, OR; Bishop David Brauer-Rieke of the Oregon Synod; Peter Bakken, Sun Prairie, WI; Sam Mozley, Raleigh, NC; Pr. Carol Baumgartner, Racine,WI; and Prof. Barbara Rossing of LSTC.

ELCA Mission Investment Fund architects and building consultants decide to pursue LEED accreditation so that they can be better informed about sustainable strategies when meeting with congregations.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Wheat Ridge, Colorado, does a geothermal system and other sustainable improvements with a MIF loan and is featured in MIF annual report.

2009 Lutheran Center environmental team is organized.

January – MIF hires Betsy Williams who is LEED accredited. Staff architect Bill Betzinger and building consultants Pat Dever, Anne Gerietts, Carol Schneider, and Hank Wellnitz become LEED accredited in spring 2009.

January – ELCA study trip to Nicaragua on “Climate Change, Hunger, and Poverty”

“Living Earth: Joining the Hymn of All Creation” Lenten email reflection series is produced by ELCA Washington Office.

May -- Callon W. Holloway Jr., Southern Ohio Synod bishop, was one of seven witnesses to testify before the U.S. House Energy and Environment Subcommittee on March 25 on climate change.

August – Sierra Pacific Synod memorializes the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to participate in the Genesis Covenant, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in every facility within 10 years. The assembly acts to request the Church in Society unit, as resources permit, to bring a proposal (including timeline, budget, funding sources,partners) to the Church Council for the development of a strategy to address climate change.

November -- ELCA and other faith leaders hold a prayer event in November on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, urging Congress to support climate change legislation. They also present U.S. senators with thousands of "Countdown to Copenhagen" campaign postcards.

2010 January – release of congregational study materials in DVD format and discussion guide on 2009 study trip to Nicaragua; Web posting of new resource linking hunger, poverty, and climate change: www.elca.org/caringforcreation

January – ELCA Climate Change consultation was held in Chicago, sponsored by the Church in Society unit in partnership with Lutherans Restoring Creation. Out of this gathering, the "Lutheran Climate Change Coalition" was formed, to help Lutherans across the ELCA to respond to climate change through changes in how we use energy and in advocacy on better policies.

Apr - June : Ten synods of the ELCA approve a resolution on Energy Stewardship, to call for energy audits of church facilities, a commitment to reduce their energy use/carbon footprint, a call to "share the story" with others (by reporting what steps were taken), and a Memorial to the 2011 Churchwide Assembly, to urge all expressions of the ELCA to take up this challenge.