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Transcript: United Methodists Address Climate Change Concerns


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Music: “Like a rock. Like a rock. God is under our feet.”

In Portland, Oregon, United Methodists are praying for the Earth and for all God’s people who share the land, air and water.

The Rev. Emma Donohew, Green Lake United Methodist Church: “In our social principles, we have the section on the natural world. It says the Earth is the Lord’s and we are responsible for the way we use and abuse it.”

A thousand solar lanterns are gathering power to light the night sky. Each comes with a message… prayers about trees and forest or praise for creation written by church members all over the world.

The Rev. David Valera, Pacific Northwest Conference: “Young kids and older folks and Sunday school classes made the connection between what they’re seeing in their community. Whether they’re losing trees or the seas are coming higher than what they used to be. And they are making prayers."

Women reading lantern messages: “I pray for tolerance and understanding for the world.”

The Rev. David Valera, Pacific Northwest Conference: “There are many theories out there. There’s so much about, 'We’re too late. We’re beyond the tipping point.’ We read all these books and all these things but is that going to stop us? Or, will it drive us to do something better?”

The event is taking place outside the Oregon Convention Center, site of the denomination’s 2016 General Conference. Organizers hope that church leaders and decision makers will keep these messages in mind. Eighteen-year-old Amanda Tobey is glad those in her area are taking steps to be better stewards of the Earth.

Amanda Tobey, Reserve Delegate, Pacific Northwest Conference: “Our annual conference has started making an effort toward being completely digital to lower our footprint on the Earth. It is a lot of information and the less of it we have to print, the less we have to take down trees.”

The Rev. Emma Donohew, Green Lake United Methodist Church: “UMCOR provides a lot of witness out in the world after there are natural disasters. But we know that there are a lot of disasters that have some human caused impact to them. So, our climate vigil is an opportunity to visually represent the prayers that we have, not only for the people of the earth but for all creation.”

Church members from across the globe tell stories of man-made disasters related to deforestation and the effects of typhoons, superstorms and rising sea levels.

The Rev. Ikani Fakasiieiki, Elder, Methodist Church of Tonga: “According to the scientists, in 2050, some of the islands will be evacuated.”

The Rev. Pat Watkins, Creation Care Missionary: “It’s one thing for you to read about some logging operation in the Philippines. It’s another thing for you to hear from a United Methodist brother or sister in the Philippines who has to live with that stuff every day." 

Claudine Blessing Kasongo, Democratic Republic of Congo: “People are cutting trees in my area but they’re not replacing them."

The Rev. Jeanelle Abloba, California-Nevada Conference Philippine Solidarity Task Force: “One year, I went to Iloilo where the typhoon hit. There was an oil spill because of the typhoon."

Mike Koob, Baltimore-Washington Conference: “We are a global church and we are in a unique position to impact the entire world. This is just so important that The United Methodist Church act decisively on climate.”

After the prayer vigil, the solar lights in these lanterns will be sent to the Philippines, Africa, and parts of the United States to communities without electricity. And for the church, they’ll shine a light that we can have a future with sustainable energy.

The Rev. David Valera, Pacific Northwest Conference: “At one point, when the sun sets, we will go off grid. Everything, including the sound systems, will be running off renewable resources. Bask in the reality that it can be done.”