Christian churches are becoming more eco-friendly
Christian churches are coming to see that preservation, care and stewardship of God’s creation is an important component of practicing their faith. One megachurch, in fact, did so well in its environmental campaign that it won a national award.
The First Baptist Church, Orlando, is a megachurch that was awarded the Energy Star from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year for its effective practices in energy management and reduction of pollution.
In so doing, FBC generated some $373,000 in annual savings in energy costs last year. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the church that same year was equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions annually of 300 homes through the use of electricity.
Darby Ray, associate professor of Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss. told Orlando Sentinel, “The surprising thing for me is there seems to be some consensus. We are seeing very conservative Protestant denominations embracing Earth care, and you are seeing some mainline, more-liberal denominations.”
The initiative to be more environmentally friendly seems to be largely coming from the worshippers themselves. Gerald Smith, religion professor, University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn., told Orlando Sentinel, “I think it’s congregation-driven rather than leadership-driven. This is what people are bringing to the church.”
However, some pastors are also taking the lead, largely inspired by the example of First Baptist. One of them is Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed.
Hunter told Orlando Sentinel, “The evangelical part of the church has always focused on saving souls. But these other issues we are facing here on Earth are just as important.”
At Northland, the church building is closed on Fridays. A team from its church ministry separates trash, and an information-technology department has been recycling old computers and electronics. Printer paper is reused before it is recycled, and there has been careful monitoring of the use of electricity.
“We’ve seen this explosion of activity at the individual and congregational level that is really a sign that this is firmly centered in terms of who we are as a religious people,” Matthew Anderson-Stembridge, executive director of National Religious Partnership for the Environment, told Orlando Sentinel.
The NRPE website is lush with stories of churches, both Christian and Jewish, that made great strides for the cause of environmentalism. One example is Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX which has been holding annual hybrid car shows.
Four years ago, the church started with just four hybrid cars for the church’s Earth Day Celebration. This year it has featured 19. Rev. Eric Folkerth said consumer choices put faith into practice.
Folkerth said on the NRPE website, “As Christian people we clearly see that God has called us to be stewards, not abusers of the environment. You can have scientific motivations for saving the Earth and for some, that’s enough. But there are a whole lot of other people for whom it is connected to faith—it’s the right scientific thing and the right moral thing to do.”
Also mentioned in the NRPE website is an initiative by the Washington State Catholic Conference WA to develop a greenhouse gas reduction plan. A new grant program was also set up to promote urban forestry programs and Evergreen Cities. It has also launched awards programs for waste reduction and recycling among private schools.
Churches are doing things, large and small, for a better earth. Winter Park Presbyterian Church grows food on its church grounds for the needy, and may consider solar power.
Christ Church Unity in Orlando uses rain water collected in a barrel to water church grounds, and sells metal bottles to replace plastic water bottles. Cloth napkins are replacing paper napkins, and china plates are replacing paper plates.
Even food scraps from church activities are recycled. It is fed to the church pig, who is named Mr. Greengenes.