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Demonstrators protest U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to exit the Paris climate change accord.

Demonstrators protest U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to exit the Paris climate change accord. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Offering Moral Leadership, UCC Urges Clergy to 'Be Bold and Courageous' in Climate Fight

 'The Earth is the Lord's—Not Ours to Wreck,' declares church document.

Jessica Corbett

The United Church of Christ on Monday passed a resolution that calls on clergy to lead educational and legislative efforts to combat climate change, urging its members to be "bold and courageous as we address the greatest moral challenge that the world has ever faced."

The resolution, titled "The Earth is the Lord's—Not Ours to Wreck: Imperatives for a New Moral Era," was supported by 97 percent of the delegates of the church's General Synod, which meets every two years to discuss church structure and policies.

"This sets the stage for engagement and hope. This is a proclamation of truth and the love of God's gift," said Rev. Jim Antal, head of the UCC's Massachusetts conference and author of the resolution. "The climate crisis is an opportunity for which the church was born."

Framing climate change prevention as a moral obligation—similar to the message of Pope Francis's 2015 encyclical—the resolution reads: "As people of faith, recognizing that the earth is the Lord's, it falls upon our generation to embrace the imperatives set forth in this resolution."

It details a strategy for "the whole of the church to prayerfully engage" with the issue of climate change through three key imperatives:

  • Let our clergy accept the mantle of moral leadership.
  • Let all of us incarnate the changes we long for.
  • Let us proclaim truth in the public square.

In addition to preaching the clergy's obligation to protect the planet and educate the public about the climate crisis, the resolution encourages church members to advocate for wide-scale transitions to accessible, sustainable energy sources. "Let us commit to resist all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and demand new sources of renewable energy that are accessible to all communities," the resolution states.

It also takes a swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration's recent actions on climate policy: "While the leaders of every country in the world recognize this reality, our current Administration ignores science, defunds the Environmental Protection Agency, and withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord."

Along with ditching the Paris Agreement and the administration's controversial choices regarding the EPA, Trump and his apointees have attempted to halt an Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks, frustrating U.S. citizens and world leaders alike. The administration's disregard for climate science and environmental protection is pushing cities, states, and groups such as the UCC to take action. 

This is not the UCC's first move to address climate change. In 2013, the church's General Synod approved—also with major support from Rev. Antal—a five-year path toward divesting from fossil fuel companies, and became the first major U.S. religious body to act on divestment. They also adopted a resolution to make UCC buildings more carbon-neutral.

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