The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Daring to tread in environment

Surefire topic to stir a response

The Lutheran wades into some choppy water with its cover story "Environmental urgency". No matter what is said on certain issues (such as the environment) it's the magazine's experience that someone will take exception.

For example, as part of the cover story on "Food & faith" we featured a sidebar, "The trouble with food". One reader wrote to say the article "neglected to mention the suffering and environmental degradation caused by industrial animal agriculture." Conversely, another reader said the article "nitpicks through all the things that might possibly be negative about our abundant food supply" (page 48).

So here we are, knowingly stepping into a topic that stirs debate. By way of background, a study released in May of nearly 12,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers from 1991 to 2011 found 97 percent of scientists agree that anthropogenic, or human-caused, global warming exists (http://iopscience.iop.org).

Why risk this cover story? Readers repeatedly ask that we address topical, relevant issues regardless of controversy (perhaps even because of it). It's not as if our church hasn't weighed in on the environment. The ELCA adopted a social statement in 1993 titled "Care for Creation". So how shall we think about this issue?

The cover story includes the usual study guide by our regular columnist, Robert Blezard, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Arendtsville, Pa. He is passionate about environmental issues and it shows in the study guide. "I really liked this piece (the cover story)," Blezard said. "I remember back in 1997 I did one of my first pieces for The Lutheran on the Kyoto Climate Treaty. A letter writer called me an 'eco-commie tree hugger' simply for suggesting that climate change was an issue we should take seriously. ... Sixteen years later, with the planet still on square one when it comes to climate change, I've gotten more blunt."

Finally, a word about the proposed 25th ELCA anniversary fundraising campaign of $69 million. Still in need of Churchwide Assembly approval, the goal is to raise that sum during 2014 to 2018. The funds would be used to grow support for new congregations, leadership, global mission and more. The ELCA Church Council allocated $5 million from a churchwide 2012 income surplus to cover campaign expenses.

One reader questioned: "With so much need in the world, why would any church finish the year with an 'income overage'?" Simple answer: with mission support of churchwide operations uncertain after several years of being clawed back, expense cuts were made to assure no deficit occurred. Now this prudent surplus is being used to grow the ELCA.

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