Letting our light shine: United Church of Christ supports Energy Innovation Act

United Church of Christ

Rev. Penny Lowes, one of the moderators for the United Church of Christ’s 2019 General Synod.

Letting our light shine: United Church of Christ supports Energy Innovation Act

By Bob Taylor

Carbon pricing and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 763, have received a groundswell of support during the last year, including from communities of faith. Statements of support have been issued from the national bodies and leadership of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, U.S. Catholics (even the Pope), Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, and various evangelical organizations. In some cases, CCL volunteers within these faith communities were responsible for initiating the endorsements. In June the United Church of Christ (UCC), a protestant denomination of 850,000 members with nearly 5,000 congregations, became the latest to add its support for the Energy Innovation Act. The story of how this came about illustrates what CCL volunteers—or even just one CCLer—can achieve with determination, knowledge, and persistence.

Jim Martin

Jim Martin

Jim Martin, ScD, is a retired aerospace scientist living in Huntington Beach, California. In 2016 he became a volunteer with CCL’s Orange County Coast Chapter. Because of his science acumen, he quickly became the chapter’s go-to person for help understanding the complexities of global warming. Many of his well-researched letters to the editor have been published in major newspapers. Jim is also an active member of a local UCC congregation. “My faith is based on following the teachings of Jesus, especially loving my neighbor,” Jim says. “And I have long understood that climate change is bad for ‘neighbors’ near and far.” 

Here’s my Q&A with Jim about his work on this endorsement and what other CCLers can do in their faith communities.

Why did you pursue an Energy Innovation Act endorsement from the United Church of Christ?

In response to President Trump’s announcement that he was pulling out of the Paris Agreement, our 2017 General Synod meeting passed a resolution called “The Earth is the Lord’s, Not Ours to Wreck.” This resolution confirmed the urgency of the climate crisis, calling for moral leadership not only from the pulpit but from members and congregations, through making clean energy choices and “advocating for legislation to reduce the human impact on the environment.” After this action, our adult education class discussed this resolution and others that had been approved, and I understood the importance of getting climate resolutions passed and studied by congregations.

How did you get started?

I spoke with the leader of our adult education program, who gave me some ideas and advised me on the process of submitting resolutions. I wrote a draft resolution and sent it for review to the head of our denomination’s environmental ministry. I identified other UCC congregations in my area and sent emails asking for support. Using CCL resources, I was able to identify other UCC members who were also active in CCL. I came across a list of UCC congregations identified as “green” and emailed them. I then took the resolution to our regional Conference’s Annual Gathering and got their endorsement. For the most part, I argued the resolution by explaining the Energy Innovation Act’s benefits: it’s effective, good for people, good for the economy, bipartisan, and revenue-neutral. In most cases, once I got in contact with the right people, they were easily in favor.

Did the General Synod consider other resolutions about climate change?

Two other climate-related resolutions were also passed. One dealt with the global forced migration problems that climate change is causing, calling for support for refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers. The other asked for endorsement of the Green New Deal primarily because it addresses “the intersectionality of climate justice with all justice issues.” Economic and social justice has always been a core concern of our denomination. No doubt the carbon dividend part of the Energy Innovation Act, which delivers economic justice to lower income families, was influential in winning the support of General Synod commissioners.

How will you get the word out about this resolution to the rest of the United Church of Christ community?

I have written a piece in support of the Energy Innovation Act to be distributed throughout the denomination in an electronic newsletter on environmental issues, which is organized from our national offices. I’m working with others on a possible direct email to UCC congregations.

What advice would you give to other CCLers who may want their own faith communities to endorse the bill?

Start small. Get a small group in your local congregation to understand the carbon dividend approach and its benefits. Then, move out to other congregations to identify people who could become supporters. Look for denomination-level resources, statements on environmental and justice issues, particularly on being stewards of the Earth. Review the endorsements from other faith communities for ideas in crafting your own resolution. Learn the procedures for bringing resolutions to your church’s national governing body. Then, become relentless in pursuing support for the bill.

The theme of the UCC’s 32nd General Synod was based on the scripture passage which exhorts us to “let our light shine before others.” Conference minister Franz Rigert said, “When we light just one candle in the darkness, it illuminates dimly, but when many candles are lit, and all their lights shine, together we can bring brightness to the world.” Hopefully this story of one volunteer who let his light shine will inspire us to do likewise. And furthermore, the image of “accumulating lights bringing brightness to the world” can inspire us as we work together in CCL, across political, cultural and geographic divides, to address humanity’s greatest challenge.

Bob Taylor is a volunteer with the Orange County Coast Chapter, Newport Beach, CA.

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