Pastor joins forces with CCL, makes headlines

The historic St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, home to North America’s oldest African American Lutheran congregation

Pastor joins forces with CCL, makes headlines

By Elise Koepke

For our volunteers who are members of faith-based Action Teams, it’s no surprise that CCL’s mission and vision often go hand in hand with the work religious groups are doing in their local communities. Recently, St. Philip’s Lutheran Church in Baltimore teamed up with CCL’s Baltimore chapter to generate buzz in their local media about climate change and environmental justice issues.

After hearing about CCL through our volunteers’ outreach efforts, Reverend Louis R. Tillman IV of St. Philip’s Lutheran Church contacted CCL Baltimore Chapter Co-Lead Ren Englum. As a religious leader who teaches to “aspire to inspire before you expire,” Tillman recognized climate advocacy as something important to his congregation and was interested in joining forces with CCL.

Rev. Dr. Louis R. Tillman, IV

He attended Maryland’s FLOW workshop and several national calls during the pandemic, familiarizing himself with CCL’s mission and preferred policy. “I was very infatuated by what CCL stood for, the people at the table, and very pleased by what the CCL chapters in the state of Maryland were doing,” he said.

After endorsing the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, Pastor Tillman continued engaging his congregation in discussions about climate change and the ways they could further activate the faith community. CCL volunteers collaborated with the church, which Rev. Tillman says birthed “so many great conversations, opportunities for change, and for us to take action.”

Publishing power of LTEs

While partnering with St. Philip’s, Ren Englum published a letter to the editor in the Baltimore Sun praising St. Philip’s commitment to “facing the multitude of today’s issues head-on” and highlighting Pastor Tillman’s endorsement of the bill. Lutheran faith leaders caught wind of the story and began amplifying the message with further publications, uplifting the call for climate action in Baltimore and within the hierarchy of the church.

“It was a lesson for me on how impactful an LTE can be,” said Ren, who is thrilled with the positive attention the article brought to Pastor Tillman and his congregation. Both groups are encouraged by the “many doors the story opened for the church and the work they are doing,” both in and outside of the environmental community. St. Philip’s Church and its Congregation have kept the momentum going, publishing more than 10 additional media pieces about climate change in the last few months.

The partnership also got the ball rolling with congressional outreach. Because their local Congressman, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, had not yet endorsed the Energy Innovation Act, CCLers and members of the St. Philip’s congregation teamed up to seek his support. “The LTE invited us into a conversation with his legislative assistant where we were able to advocate for the bill on lobby day, which was an amazing experience,” Tillman said.

Joining forces for an exciting event

On top of their collaboration in published media, CCL Baltimore and Pastor Tillman are co-hosting an event next month. They’ve put together a virtual panel discussion with leaders from Baltimore City discussing the challenges they face and the opportunities they see for solutions and environmental justice.

Titled “East Side Certified: Conversation on Environmental Justice in Baltimore City,” the panel will feature three speakers who Tillman feels represent the community at large, giving them the space to share their stories. If you’d like to learn more about the intersection of climate change and environmental justice, you can register for free here.

Faith-based groups and CCL

The successful relationship between CCL Baltimore and St Philip’s shows that anything’s possible when working toward a shared goal. While we’re all inspired for different reasons to take action on climate change, everyone wants the planet to be in better condition for future generations. “At the end of the day, we all have one common mission,” says Tillman. 

Pastor Tillman hopes that people can continue to bring together religious and environmental groups to have these conversations. He wants to see more bishops, pastors, and clergy encouraging their congregations to take action on climate change. “I hope people look at us as an example—you can do this work,” he said. “We endorsed the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act so that we could finally put flesh on our faith in order to move forward in this fight for ecological and environmental freedom. We are blessed and thankful to partner with CCL, as they have created a platform for our congregation to amplify the immediate environmental needs that exist in East Baltimore.”

Elise Koepke is a communications intern with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. She is a recent graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she studied Earth Science.