What the Green Climate Fund Means for The Widow and The Orphan

by Alexei Laushkin

In the summer of 2013, I traveled to Malawi as part of a trip organized by the ministry I serve with the Evangelical Environmental Network. Like many Christians who travel overseas for missions, I was changed by the experience.

What made this trip so unique is that I went simply to listen and ask questions. Over the course of 10 days I got to do exactly that.

There’s something very refreshing about getting outside of yourself long enough to orient yourself around the lives of other people. To see, to taste, to sense how another culture lives and another people, equally made in the image of God, strive for fullness of life.

Malawi has long been a center of vibrant Christianity, which was evident in the people we spoke with. I can remember one interview in particular where we delved into the subject of sorrow and loss, a subject that we approach uncomfortably in the west. There were actually two of us interviewing this woman. She said when she was sorrowful she would go to her closest friend and sing the songs they sang in church.

I’ll never forget when that dear woman sang for me, her song of comfort in the midst of loss. I was deeply moved.

In the last year, Malawi has suffered; suffered from horrible floods, floods that overwhelmed our partner in ministry Eagles Relief and Development. You can read more about these floods and how climate plays into the story here and here.

The relief and development community and corresponding donors have a historic opportunity to look at changes to our natural world and what these changes might mean for those who suffer in countries like Malawi. Changes in rainfall patterns, changes in climatic growing zones, changes in extreme weather, all fueled by changes in the climate need to be examined and looked at.

Congress has a historic chance to do something about investing in that sort of smart innovation through the Green Climate Fund. These funds would be used to pilot programs that look at life as it is, not as we might wish it to be, and make smart and sustainable investments. Investments that can be the difference maker in an extreme deluge and help an often underfunded response team know what to do when the weather overwhelms their capacity.

These are worth wild investments and ones that fit with the generous and farsighted nature of America’s approach to the world. We have always known that thinking about the well-being of others leads to our own well-being. What does Malawi have to do with our problems at home? Well, for such a time as this we have been placed and blessed with the capacity to encourage positive and lasting changes for the least of these around the world. If not us, who? When we act on behalf of the orphan, the widow, and the poor we are living into our true nature as a people set apart for better purposes in the world.

Christians at home face a lot of challenges and worrisome signs in the midst of a culture in change, but even at moments like this we can harken to the angels of our better nature and like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, we can choose to have mercy.

When it comes to the Green Climate Fund let us look towards mercy. Pope Francis is calling the Catholic Church to a year of mercy. May we as a nation live into the first fruits of that mercy and be a part of proactive solutions for the many who are in need.

Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network. 

Senator Casey Supports Climate Action and the Clean Power Plan

by Alexei Laushkin

Starting with the chorus of the hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King – the paraphrased words of St. Francis of Assisi, Senator Robert Casey (D,PA) announced support for President Obama’s Climate Action Plan including The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan at Eastern University.  The statement came as the Senator moderated a panel discussion on Friday, September 18, 2015 at the university’s St. Davids, PA Campus.

Surrounded by a Catholic Sister, Evangelical Biologist, Catholic Theologian. Catholic Mom and EEN’s President, Rev. Mitch Hescox, Senator Casey stated, “Our Faith should guide and inspire our decisions.”  Referencing Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si’, The Bible, The Evangelical Climate Initiative’s Climate Change: An Evangelical Call To Action and the Lausanne Movement For World Evangelism’s Cape Town Commitment,  all panelists supported Senator Casey’s announcement and continually referred climate change as a moral imperative and not a political issue.

“So, needless to say, I am delighted to be here today to applaud you, Senator Casey, a fellow Catholic, for your support of the Clean Power Plan. As a PA Senator this is not an easy position to take politically. However, morally it is the best position,” stated Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark.

Thanking the Senator for his announcement, EEN’s Hescox said, “Climate Change is the greatest moral challenge of our time as it already impacts all of God’s children throughout His creation.  However it also the greatest opportunity for hope.  With less than 7000 coal mining jobs left in Pennsylvania, it’s time to rebuild Pennsylvania with a clean energy economy.  Renewable energy jobs throughout United States are growing dramatically and already employ more workers than the coal industry.” “How can we continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry at the rate we do?  As a lifelong Republican, we are propping a dying industry and that’s unfair to the market,” Hescox continued.

The panelists continually referenced the need for a just transition for the loss of coal jobs, while highlighting the children’s health threats, national security implications arising from food and water scarcity worldwide, and biblical imperative to steward God’s creation.

The discussion entitled, “Faith, Children, and the Moral Dimensions of Climate Change” was sponsored by Eastern University, The Evangelical Environmental Network, and Moms Clean Air Force.   Panelists in addition to Senator Casey included: Dr.  Daniel P. Scheid, Assistant Professor of Theology, Duquesne University; Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark, SSJ. The Sisters of Saint Joseph Earth Center; Dr. David W. Unander, Professor of Biology, Eastern University Haynes; Ms. Gretchen Dahlkemper, Field Director, Mom’s Clean Air Force, and The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, President, The Evangelical Environmental Network.

Discussion of Faith, Children, and the Moral Dimensions of Climate Change at Eastern University

Sen. Casey Leads Panel Discussion on the Biblical Imperative For Climate Action

Starting at 2:30pm ET TODAY watch a live stream of the event by clicking here

On Friday, September 18, 2015 from 2:30pm ET, Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) will moderate a discussion on the moral call for climate action issued by Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’, the Cape Town Commitment by senior evangelical leaders worldwide, and by the Evangelical Climate Initiative representing over 300 senior evangelical leaders in the United States.

Climate-intensified water and food scarcity, the spread of disease, sea level rise, and ocean acidification are impacting the vulnerable worldwide, leading to forced migration, violence/instability, and even death.

2014 was the warmest year ever recorded and 2015 may break that record.  The increased temperatures worsen asthma and are linked to the rapid rise of Lyme Disease here in Pennsylvania.

“Climate change impacts every person in the world making it the greatest moral challenge of our time,” states the Rev. Mitch Hescox, President of the Evangelical Environmental Network. “It also presents the greatest opportunity for hope in building a clean energy economy providing  good jobs, clean air, pure water, and a quality future for all God’s children worldwide.”

Integral to discussion will be ways to implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s The Clean Power Plan, investing in clean energy, and working to ensure a just tradition for Pennsylvania workers.

What: Panel Discussion on the Biblical Imperative for Climate Action

When: 2:30pm ET, Friday September 18, 2015

Where: Eastern University’s McInnis Auditorium, 1300 Eagle Road, St. Davids, PA

The event is free and open to all by registering at (Seats are limited). http://www.eastern.ticketleap.com/climatechange/

Welcome & Opening Prayer: Dr. Keith Iddings, Provost of Eastern University

Panelists include:

The Rev. Mitchell Hescox, President & CEO, The Evangelical Environmental Network
Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark, The Sisters of Saint Joseph Earth Center
Daniel P. Scheid, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, McAnulty College & Graduate School of
Liberal Arts, Department of Theology, Duquesne University
Ms. Gretchen Dahlkemper, National Field Manager, Moms Clean Air Force
David W. Unander, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, Eastern University

Laudato Si’ on a Capable Culture

by Alexei Laushkin

The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis (Laudato Si’, 53).

Laudato Si’ makes a number of very poignant observations, perhaps none more so than the need to build and embody a culture capable of confronting the crisis.

Now what crisis is the encyclical referring to? Is it the climate crisis? The technocratic paradigm that helps to diminish human life? Is it our disregard for the elderly or the unborn?

The answer is yes, yes, and yes, but perhaps the biggest problem is what underlies all of those problems, mainly human sin. This putting off of sin has to begin with each of us and has to be embodied in the body of Christ even as we make our views known and push for change in the public square. In this way reaching back to a sense of personal and social holiness/righteousness is key.

In the United States the problem of our culture is particularly evident. On the same week that the President took significant action to reduce carbon, Congress could not pass legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. As Pope Francis has said we do not yet have the culture to confront the crisis at hand. Our inconsistent regard and at times totally disregard for human life as at the center of this crisis.  Here’s Bishop Kalistos Ware on what exactly this image and likeness is that motivates our common concern for human dignity:

The image is that which man possesses from the beginning, and which enables him to set out in the first place on the spiritual Way; the likeness is that which he hopes to attain at his journey’s end.

Laudato Si’ gives fresh impetus to the notion that work to engage issues that have such an impact on human life flow from a similar conviction. Here’s Laudato Si’ on why those of us who are concerned about creation, can’t ignore the unborn:

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away (136).

And further on the interconnection or similar well-spring of concern for human life:

When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature (117).

 

Pope Francis is right we have a crisis of culture, and it’s well time that we address and embody a culture of life. Until we do so we won’t have the culture capable of really valuing all of life well.

Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network

Laudato Si’- Living a Life of Praise

by Alexei Laushkin

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Laudato Si’ is about climate change, about the environment, and about our culture. The temperament of mankind is manifesting itself in profound brokenness and alienation as evidenced by abortion and how we tend not to esteem marriage, the well being of all children, our elderly, and certainly a whole host of vulnerable peoples. These are issues that the scriptures themselves would take us to task over, especially given that some of the main drivers of global influence and culture are coming from nations that in some way lay claim to Christian heritage, or even if they don’t at present have certainly been heavily influenced by Christianity. Even in our land, the United States we dare not forget the work of God through many people within our midst.

So what sort of life and faith is necessary for these times? Here’s Laudato Si’ addressing a portion of that question:

We are convinced that ‘man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life’.[100] Nonetheless, once our human capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired, it becomes easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood.[101]We need to remember that men and women have ‘the capacity to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments.’ [102]Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God (127).

Our capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired, our spiritual vision has narrowed. In the words of scripture:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,  and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-11)

We have become near sighted in our faith. We have very much lost the divine love that ought to animate our works of mission and our care for one another not to mention our family life and our life with those we are closest with. Not love of abstract ideas or zeal for salvation without transformation, but real rooted and anchored love that banishes sin from our lives and brings us into a holiness and wholeness of life. The sort of faith that in the words of Laudato Si’: “[that dares] to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (19).

So what do we do to return to a life of praise? What can we learn from the examples of St. Sergius of Radonezh, St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Francis of Assisi, or even Brother William J. Seymour of the Azusa Street Revival.  Divine love was made manifest and so real in each of their lives that creation itself changed. The grace of God was so real and present and holiness so manifest that they each showed us the way to be Christ in their time and place.

Think of what happened in Los Angeles in April 1906 almost 100 years ago. America was still going to go through Civil Rights and years of needing to work through the sins of racism and indifference of other kinds of people that still plagues us to this day. And yet the Lord broke down barriers and brought heavenly unity, a foretaste of what Martin Luther King Jr. saw in hisI Have a Dream speech. A reality not brought about by legislation or clever ways to curb sin, but a radical heart transformation that allowed what was true in heaven to be true on earth.

Think of what happened with St. Seraphim of Sarov. On the eve of the great wickedness that would break out in Russia in the 20th century, the Lord sent this living example of humility, faith, and holiness to strengthen the church and God’s people for the times ahead. This account by Nicholas Motovilov is well worth the time.

Think of what happened with St. Francis of Assisi who was bothered and grieved by what he saw around him in his time, that the Lord used that and his purity of heart to bring something totally new back into the life of the church.

The example of being radical for Christ is at heart of these great saints and this is just a sampling of what God has done through many kinds of people and movements of his people to bring a sense of restoration and wholeness to times of crisis.

Let us not be self-deceived, we are in a time of crisis. The crisis as of yet is not manifesting itself in the same violence of the 20th century, but the crisis in some ways is more severe because the doors and clear teaching on how to become fully Christ like are quickly closing or vanishing from the earth. Think of what is happening to ancient Christian communities around the world, let alone the sort of veiled gospel that is too often preached in this land. We are failing to remember what it means to be God’s people and without that the gates of hell won’t be too far behind. Even today we are seeing the first fruits of this distancing from God in our midst. It is possible that as man tries to live further and further apart from God and each other that the worst days of human nature are just ahead, manifested in an imperial narcissism and indifference to the suffering and frailty that we all experience apart from God.

If we don’t know where we are in our cultural moment we can’t possibly rouse ourselves enough to wake up and turn. To repent and grieve to what’s become of the pursuit of God in each of our own personal lives and than more broadly in the lives around us. This is not for a form of arrogance, as the scripture rightly reminds us we need to look to the sin and log in our own eyes before we attend to our neighbors. But as we look, we ought to grieve, we ought to lament and cleanse ourselves of our own deep defilement before God.

Once we have repented, our eyes can more clearly see what is right around us, and we begin to take steps through small acts of justice and wholeness beginning with our families and than working outwards to our communities.

God has not abandoned us, but we must turn and strive with all our might to achieve another, more heavenly quality of life. That’s what I see as being essential for Laudato Si’ to take hold in the life of the church. We need to be reminded as Pope Francis himself is embodying, mainly what Christ looks like when he is fully present in our lives. What sort of generosity of spirit should characterize our living and being, and than with what patience and creativity we can than use for the life of the world and the life of God’s people and indeed all people on the face of the earth.

Come Lord Jesus, do a work in us that is necessary for the times we face.

Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network 

Second Take on Laudato Si’

by Alexei Laushkin

My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23)

The Trinity has something very profound to teach us about relationships. Have you ever thought about that? Ever been on the same page with someone so much so, where there is so much love, care, deference, trust, dependence, that you can act in concert together? Sometimes we see this in a particular friendship, certainly it’s how marriage was designed. When we live into these possibilities as Christians we are experiencing a reflection of the Trinity itself, and as the verse from the Gospel of John states we are invited to do so as we grow in our love and trust of the God who comes to heal and to save.

Can you imagine just for a moment when Jesus went away to pray during his ministry what things He, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit talked about. Knowing the problem of the separation between God and man so well, knowing the history of God’s people so well, knowing their rescue out of Egypt, their wanderings in the wilderness, their rejection of the prophets, can you imagine the creativity, the love, and intimacy that marked their fellowship as they discussed and discerned what to say, what to embody, how to set us on a new path of new life and new creation.

Let’s remember that  Jesus said that his words were the words the Father gave him to say. Sometimes in the gospels we get visual manifestations of the Trinity in relationship, as in the Baptism of Jesus, or on the Mount of Transfiguration, but those realities were all present to our Lord Jesus.

Healing and full fellowship. That’s the aim of the Trinity for us. My thoughts go to love and peace, life and contentment, or in other words the glory to glory of sanctification as I continue to reflect on ‘Laudato Si.

Here’s what I believe is one of the central points to ‘Laudato Si’ which is about the environment, but it’s as much about us, human nature, the challenges facing the church, and the grave challenges facing humanity:

The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation (48)

The causes aren’t just structural they are internal. Both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Sergius of Radonezh experienced a profound healing in their relationship with mankind, with God, and God’s creation. As Orthodox and Catholic commentators will say, they both experienced some return to the original state with God with some earthly manifestation of that reality. That’s incredible! A healing and love and intimacy so profound between God and man, in relationships that they had with other people, that it inevitably spilled over to the relationship with God’s creation.

Charles Spurgeon says something very similar on reflecting on these dynamics. He says when we look at why there is so much enmity between man and creation that really what we are seeing is God’s creatures take up their masters quarrel with us.

Well if we have ceased to quarrel with the master, if we have ceased to quarrel with each other, then naturally God’s creation will cease quarreling with us.

As many of you know, I was recently at the Vatican for several different reasons. During my trip I had up to 5 meetings with various senior officials.

A bit of background. Evangelicals have long exercised a degree of leadership on climate change and the environment. Also the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has done much to bring leadership and the full richness of Orthodox thought to our contemporary environmental challenges. I have many friends and colleagues who have done the same in the Roman Catholic world. Now the Papal encyclical offers fresh and compelling leadership. The encyclical itself opens the door for dialogue and action.

This is a unique time to build our heart muscles with each other. As Christians divided by human nature and sin, we have a unique opportunity for new dialogue and encounter. Who knows what God will do with these fruits? We do know that they can be in accord with the profound prayer for unity found in John 17.

Alexei Laushkin is the Vice-President of the Evangelical Environmental Network. 

Senator Kirk Makes A Stand For The Least of These

New Freedom, PA (July 10, 2015) – Putting statesmanship ahead of partisanship, Senate Republicans Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined their Democratic colleagues in an important Senate Appropriations subcommittee vote yesterday to allow our nation to play our part in helping the poor in poor countries adapt to climate impacts and grow their economies with clean energy.  The amendment they voted for, offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), effectively permits the United States to keep its commitments to the Green Climate Fund.

“Yesterday’s vote provides hope that our elected leaders are hearing the moral and biblical call to care for ‘the least of these,’” said the Rev. Mitch Hescox.  “America has always offered our heart and support to those in need, and yesterday’s vote allows United States to maintain her moral leadership in mitigating and adapting to our changing climate.”

This vote aligns with the Evangelical Climate Initiative, The Lausanne Movement’s Cape Town Commitment, and Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical, LAUDATO SI.   As the Lausanne Movement’s (founded by Billy Graham and John Stott) states:

Probably the most serious and urgent challenge faced by the physical world now is the threat of climate change. This will disproportionately affect those in poorer countries, for it is there that climate extremes will be most severe and where there is little capability to adapt to them. World poverty and climate change need to be addressed together and with equal urgency.

“This was an especially courageous vote for Sen. Kirk, and we are thankful for his leadership here,” said Hescox.  “The fight is not over to help poor children through the Green Climate Fund.  More votes are to come.  But we hope this vote offers the chance to move away from partisanship and for America to come together and make hope happen by defending children’s health today, providing for their future, and empowering the poorest of the poor.”