We Support A Green Planet
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” Psalm 24:1
It is a mission of Northaven United Methodist Church Community to mobilize our members to take action, both as individuals and collectively:
o To conserve and protect our Earth's natural resources,
o To promote the sustained use and development of renewable energy sources, and
o To persuade our elected representatives to implement public environmental policies that respect and support our world.
The Global Methodist Church Position on the environment
The United Methodist Church has long witnessed to rural peoples and their concerns. Each General Conference since 1940 has suggested responses for improving rural church and community life, and the economic and environmental well-being of rural peoples. The 1988 General Conference accepted a study on U.S. Agriculture and Rural Communities in Crisis. This resolution reaffirms that study and calls The United Methodist Church to continue its commitment to rural church ministry and its advocacy for agricultural and rural community concerns.
II. Theological Statement: Land, People & Justice
God is the owner of the land (Lev. 25); thus it is a gift in covenant which involves the stewardship of keeping and tending the land for present and future generations; as God's creation, land has the need to be regenerated that it may sustain life and be a place of joy. It is a common gift to all of life requiring just patterns of land use.
Social, economic, and ecological justice with regard to the use of land was central to the Law. The land itself was to receive a rest every seven years (Lev. 25:4). Voluntary charity or occasional care of the land was not enough. Israel's failure to follow the laws related to the land was considered a cause of the exile to Babylon (2 Chron. 36:21).
The care of the land, the rights of the poor and those in need were at the center of the Law. Adequate food was regarded as an inherent right of all, such that the poor could eat grapes in a neighbor's vineyard or pluck grain when passing by a field (Deut. 23:24-25). Owners were urged not to be too efficient in their harvest (Lev. 19:9-10), so that gleaning by those in need was possible.
Indeed, the concept of equal access to community resources according to need formed the basis of the covenant the community was expected to embody. The caring for one's neighbor, especially one in need, became a religious obligation. Jesus both inherits and fulfills this tradition when he lists the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself as second only to the commandment to love God (Matt. 22:38-40).
The prophets saw the patterns of economic exploitation, social class consciousness, judicial corruption, political oppression, failing to care for the land, and exclusiveness as opposed to God's desire for full life and wholeness for all (Amos 2-8; Isa 5:1-1, 58:3-7, Jer. 2:7-8; Hos. 4:1-3). Some would suggest that both the contemporary world and Israel under the monarchy came to worship “bigness” more than God.
Today, rural parts of the globe suffer from many of the same maladies as did ancient Israel. Land holdings have become more concentrated. The accumulation of material wealth often is worshiped as the solution to other spiritual and economic problems. Creation itself groans under a burden of eroding topsoil, toxic wastes, and polluted waters. Neither the land nor most of the people who work it can celebrate the wholeness God intended.
III. Major Findings
A. The Farm Crisis
As the adverse economic conditions affecting rural America continue to be chronic, the patterns of diverse land ownership and control are disappearing. The structure of agriculture is changing. In 1986, the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress estimated that about 72,000 farms may be lost each year until the year 2000. Most of the farms expected to be lost are family sized units.
Ethnic-minority-owned and small-scale farms will decline further if present trends continue. A family farm is defined not by the number of acres in operation, but as an agricultural production unit and business in which the management, economic risk, and most of the labor (except in peak seasons) are provided by the family, and from which the family receives a significant part, though not necessarily the majority, of its income.
Declining land values, the relationship between farm product prices and incomes, farm debt and bankruptcies, forced land transfers and foreclosures, changes in the structure of agriculture, and tax policy continue to contribute to the loss of family farms.
Black and other minority farmers are even less likely than white farmers to benefit from any changes in the rural/farm economy. According to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Emergency Land Fund, if present land loss continues, there will be virtually no black farmers by the year 2000. Surveys of Native American farmers suggest that their situation may be nearly as bleak as that of black farmers. Farming is the leading occupation among Native Americans living on reservation lands. Asian
Americans and Hispanics have historically been excluded from significant farm ownership.
Farm workers have difficult and dangerous work. Inadequate wages, benefits and living facilities keep most farm workers in poverty.
Many farmers have internalized the external cause of their losses which has led to deep depression, spouse and family abuse, alcoholism, mental breakdown, divorce, suicide, participation in extremist groups, and at times, murder.
The farm crisis accelerates the loss of rural community.
B. Rural Community in Crisis
The rural United States today is a contrast between beauty and desecration, isolation and industrialization, wealth and poverty, power and oppression, freedom and exploitation, abundance and hunger, and individualism and dependence. Thindustrialization, wealth and poverty, power and oppression, freedom and exploitation, abundance and hunger, and individualism and dependence. The nation's poorest housing and health facilities occur disproportionately in rural communities, as do the worst education, the worst roads and transportation systems, the least progressive justice systems, and the greatest poverty and malnutrition. Towns which not long ago were vibrant communities of economic, social and spiritual life now have become ghost towns with empty businesses, abandoned homes, closed churches, and broken spirits. Broken homes, broken lives, suicides, bankruptcies, spouse and child
C. The Ecological Crisis in Rural Areas
Much of the rural population of the United States depends on ground water from shallow wells, many of which are already polluted. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 1984 survey of rural water quality found that almost two-thirds of the supplies tested exceeded EPA's drinking water standards for at least one contaminant.
Soil conservation practices such as contour plowing, crop rotation, wind-breaks, and covering-cropping are affected as farmers are pushed to farm more and more acres with bigger and bigger equipment.
The decline of conservation practices is paralleled by an increase in pesticide and herbicide use. While their use brings many benefits, there are still unanswered questions that need to be carefully examined.
Absentee land ownership and all its shortcomings are endemic to mining. Restoration of mined land continues to be a concern. Studies by the Commission on Religion in Appalachia reveal that mining interests often pay little heed to restoration laws, and have the political clout to get away with ignoring them.
The loss of genetic diversity, including the consequences of the loss of native seed and animal varieties is a concern.
The genetic engineering of plants and animals and the patenting of genes, plants and animals raise major concerns.
IV. The Church Responding to Crisis
In some areas the churches have been helpful in assisting farmers to cope with the loss of their farms and in aiding others to help keep their farms. Unfortunately, in many cases, churches have been ineffective in fulfilling this ministry. A number of reasons have been cited for the church's shortcoming:
Many church members are still accepting a theology that “goodness” means “success,” and that failure means that God has punished the person for his/her “sins.”
Many clergy are not trained adequately to minister to the needs of the hurting families in their communities.
In general, clergy are more involved in responding to congregational needs than the needs of the larger community.
In many rural areas, churches are still operating under an independent rather than a cooperative model.