Lutherans Reflect on Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen

12/31/2009 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- While many who attended or observed the
proceedings of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in
Copenhagen this month expressed disappointment in the outcome, others saw
the proceedings as an important first step in addressing the effects of
climate change -- which may lead to more effective action in the future.
     Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and
Lutherans from other parts of the world participated in the conference.
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Geneva, sent a 7-member delegation,
which included members from India, Mauritania, Tanzania, the United
States and LWF staff.
     Mary Minette, director for environmental education and advocacy,
ELCA Washington Office, was part of the LWF delegation. Writing a blog
while in Copenhagen, she said the LWF delegation expressed concern
that "the future of all creation is in jeopardy. Our belief is the issue
is not only about science and policy and politics, but also an issue of
justice." Minette's blog is at on the ELCA
Web site.
     More than 3,000 ELCA members, along with a coalition of U.S. faith
leaders, sent some 20,000 postcards to President Barack Obama, urging him
to be at the meeting, she said.  Obama attended the conference and urged
leaders of Brazil, China, India and South Africa to join the United
States "to fund developing nations' projects to deal with droughts,
floods and other impacts of climate change, and to develop clean energy,"
among other agreements, according to a U.N. news release.
     The World Council of Churches, Geneva, criticized the agreement, and
in particular cited the "lack of transparency" among those who negotiated
it.  U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged other nations to sign the
     Minette said the foundation laid by Obama and other world leaders at
the conference makes feasible U.S. climate legislation this spring. "The
outcome of the conference in Copenhagen is only the start, and the fight
against climate change isn't over yet. There is much left to do to ensure
the long-term protection of God's good creation," she added.
     The Rev. Barbara R. Rossing, professor of New Testament, Lutheran
School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), was part of the LWF delegation.
She is a member of the LWF Executive Committee. LSTC is one of eight ELCA
     Rossing signed an ecumenical statement urging world leaders to be
courageous and make "decisions that must be made for all of humanity and
for the future of creation."  Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was
among those who signed the statement, found at on
the Web.
     In an ecumenical forum on climate change, Rossing said, "It's the
world's poorest people, those who have done the least to cause the
problem of climate change, who are the first to suffer its catastrophic
effects." She said they ask, "'Why is God punishing us?'"
     The Bible can help Christians address the adverse effects of climate
change in a positive way, she said. The Book of Revelation, which Rossing
has studied and written about extensively, makes clear there is still
time to repent for human actions that adversely affect the earth's
climate, she said.
     Revelation focuses on the urgency of the present moment, Rossing
said. She said some scientists have said humanity has less than 10 years
to act to significantly reduce carbon emissions before so-
called "critical tipping points" are reached on certain environmental
     "We as theologians, ethicists and biblical scholars must take
seriously such mounting evidence from science and name this 10-year
window as a kind of kairos moment for our churches and for our world -- a
moment of hope and urgency," Rossing said.
     "When this planet is threatened, it is threatened for all of us,"
the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary-elect, said at the
forum. Tveit, a Lutheran, is general secretary, Church of Norway Council
on Ecumenical and International Relations.  In one way, he said, the
climate crisis "brings us together as one humanity."
     "Are we able, are we willing to be one church, representing the one
humanity with one heart showing the love of the one God for the one
world?  This is the challenge for the ecumenical movement today and
tomorrow," he said.
     Rossing's and Tveit's comments can be found at
on the Web.
      The LWF asked its member churches to join people of faith
throughout the world to observe Dec. 13 as a day of action for climate
change, and to ring bells for climate justice.  That same day Archbishop
Tutu addressed a rally in Copenhagen, attended by many Lutherans, Rossing
said.  The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and leader
of the Anglican Communion, preached at an ecumenical worship service at
Copenhagen's Lutheran cathedral.
     The ELCA's social statement on the environment, "Caring for
Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice," is at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or


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