response: July/August 2021

Taking Action for God’s Creation

United Methodist Women members call on 
their legislators to enact legislation that prioritizes climate justice.

Taking Action for God’s Creation
Texas Impact and Texas United Methodist Women hosted its virtual Legislative Days January 23-26, 2021.

And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
—Matthew 25:40

As United Methodist Women members our faith guides us to care for God’s creation and the “least of these.” The production, transportation and combustion of fossil fuels cause catastrophic changes to the planet’s climate system and harm the health of communities around the world. Currently, 80 percent of the energy consumed in the United States comes from fossil fuels. We must urgently transition to a renewable energy economy across all sectors, one that is centered on equity and justice.

Addressing climate justice requires a commitment to 100 percent renewable energy, clean transportation and just transition. A just energy strategy requires us to not only embrace renewable energy but support programs for those currently working in the fossil fuel industry to transition to new opportunities. It also calls for policies to ensure that marginalized communities are not negatively impacted by the transition. Implementing just climate solutions requires us to recognize the disproportionate harm faced by Tribal and Indigenous communities, Black communities, communities of color, low-wealth communities, rural communities and particularly to women within these communities.

Part of a movement

In January 2021 United Methodist Women in Texas partnered with Texas Impact, an interfaith legislative network, for the 35th Texas United Methodist Women Legislative Day. The virtual event included time for learning about important social issues and legislative solutions, training, fellowship and ultimately virtual visits with elected officials. The four-day event included a panel on climate justice, featuring United Methodist Women’s executive for environmental and economic justice Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee, along with Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program; Keya Chatterjee, executive director of U.S. Climate Action Network; and Avery Davis Lamb, resilience coordinator at Creation Justice Ministries.

“The work that we need to do requires partnership and collaboration,” said Lee. “United Methodist Women connects among members at circle, unit, district and conference level, and within the United Methodist connection, we’re part of the United Methodist Creation Justice Movement, of which United Methodist Women was a founding member.”

Lee also explained about ecumenical partnerships and interfaith work, naming such partners as Texas Impact, National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, GreenFaith and Interfaith Power and Light.

“Then we really try to make sure we aren’t just talking amongst faith groups,” Lee said. “We want to connect with environmental justice fence-line and frontline groups that are directly being impacted. Their experiences are the most important in terms of hearing, as Jesus did, from the margins, not the center. We come together for common action.”

Advocating for climate justice at a policy level is an extension of this calling. As part of United Methodist Women’s Just Energy for All campaign, members have engaged directly as consumers with car and oil companies to encourage better emissions standards, and a partnership with Wespath Benefits and Investments means United Methodist Women can advocate as investors for corporate responsibility. Calling on government representatives to enact legislation can lead to infrastructure and energy delivery that is clean and sustainable and does not disproportionately harm marginalized communities is an act of faith.

“In Genesis God called us to be stewards of God’s creation, and we have failed in that,” Lee said during the panel. “But repentance is part of our Christian faith-living. When we have wronged God’s creation, when we have wronged others in society, we have an opportunity: repentance is about building bridges, returning back and making amends. God is inviting us, saying, be co-creators, be healers, repent.”

You can watch the panel on the Texas Impact YouTube page at youtu.be/15tFc138gXg

Climate Justice Legislative Advocacy Day

On April 14, 2021, United Methodist Women hosted a federal legislative action day to urge Congress to pass climate legislation that prioritizes just energy for all. More than 300 people participated, with 80 meetings with legislators occurring in almost 40 states. Half of the participants responded that this was their first ever legislative visit. Partnering with the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, United Methodist Women members urged Congress to pass infrastructure and energy legislation that advances renewable energy, clean transportation and just transition.

“I’ve participated in the Texas Legislative Event for many years, but this was my first federal level experience, and it was great!” said Ellen Lipsey, president of the South Central Jurisdiction United Methodist Women. “United Methodist Women members are committed to being informed and prepared, and as women of faith we are called to be advocates on behalf of women, children and youth. Meeting with elected officials to communicate support or recommendation for policy that protects, nourishes, and uplifts all of earth’s communities is an important action of that faith calling.”

A March 17 training and April 13 pre-briefing helped legislative day participants prepare to meet with their elected officials. An optional debriefing was also offered the day after.

The effects of climate change include melting glaciers leading to rising sea levels; changes in precipitation patterns, growing seasons and plant and animal ranges; and increased occurrence and intensity of hurricanes, droughts, heat waves and wildfires. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes climate change as disruptions to physical, biological and ecological systems, the health effects of which include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases and threats to mental health.

Age, economic resources and location play a large role in who is affected by climate change, and women and communities of color suffer disproportionately. Women constitute the majority of the world’s poor and rely more on natural resources than do men. They also face more barriers to economic, social and educational resources. According to the United Nations, women farmers currently account for 45 to 80 percent of all food production in the global south, biodiversity decline makes women and girls’ fuel and water collection more difficult, and effects of climate change force women to move their families more often.

The term “fence-line community” refers to communities closest to the emissions, odors, noise, waste and traffic of an industrial facility, and are most often low income and communities of color. These Black and Brown and poor communities are considered “sacrifice zones” for environmental racism and economic divestment.

Take action

You too can urge Congress to address the pandemic and climate crisis by enacting a recovery package that includes infrastructure and energy legislation that prioritizes climate justice that is centered on racial, economic and gender justice. Use United Methodist Women’s easy phone-to-action form at p2a.co/FpD9Ujd or contact your representatives via phone, e-mail or letter and tell them you are a member of United Methodist Women and you want them to enact the following economy-wide targets and strategies for reaching 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050:

• Support only energy sources that are renewable, such as wind and solar, and avoid energy sources that have adverse health, climate, environmental and societal impacts such as nuclear and woody biomass.

• Ensure adequate, equitable access to funding and finance for clean renewables, prioritizing environmental justice, frontline communities and women who are underrepresented in the energy sector.

• Eliminate subsidies for polluting fuels. Enact legislation that modernizes crumbling infrastructure and supports the decarbonization of transportation.

• Invest in and support infrastructure that helps achieve zero emissions from the surface transport sector and includes funding to increase zero-emission vehicle-charging infrastructure and transform school buses and public transportation vehicles to zero-emission fleets.

• Provide financial support to increase energy efficiency and modernize electrical grid and energy-storage infrastructures. Ensure old infrastructures are properly disposed of or recycled so as to not pose a burden on frontline communities.

• Expand public transit that is clean, reliable, affordable and accessible to all.

• Enact legislation that supports a just transition for disproportionately impacted workers and communities.

• Ensure a just transition for impacted workers and communities that does not perpetuate economic, racial and gender inequities on historically marginalized and disproportionately impacted populations, especially Tribal, Indigenous, Black, people of color, women and low-wealth and rural communities.

• Prioritize local hires in renewable energy projects to ensure that the most impacted communities receive the health and economic benefits of the clean-energy transition.

• Include the leadership, experience and expertise of frontline communities in all stages of the legislative process and implementation.

Be a part of the movement to restore God’s creation in all its forms.


Tara Barnes is editor of response.

Posted or updated: 7/2/2021 12:00:00 AM
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* Tara Barnes: Editor