Bishops Updating "In Defense of Creation" Document

May 23, 2007

UMs are invited to assist the church’s bishops in drafting a statement exploring the problems of and solutions to nuclear weapons, environmental degradation, global warming, endemic poverty, and disease. More than 20 years ago, the Council of Bishops introduced a pastoral letter called “In Defense of Creation.” The

1986 letter responded to the possibility of nuclear war and the potential for extinction of life. On May 3, the council heard a presentation from a task force seeking to update the 1986 statement with input from the UMC and “other persons of goodwill” as authorized by the 2004 General Conference. The Churches’ Center for Theology and Public Policy at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. is assisting the bishops with their research on these complex issues. The center was founded 30 years ago by Bishop James Mathews and assisted in drafting the 1986 document.


“The problems facing the world have changed dramatically in the 20 years since the previous pastoral letter,” said Barbara Green, a Presbyterian clergywoman and the center’s executive director. Those challenges, she said, include global warming, endemic poverty, disease, “and a world awash in weapons.” David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and a Lutheran pastor, thanked the council for including poverty in its new creation document since roughly a billion people live in “subhuman conditions” and “people who live in serious poverty never are able to come close to the potential that God has built into them.” Poverty, he said, breeds violence, cynicism, disorder, and environmental degradation.


The task force will host a two-day hearing in October in Washington to explore the interconnection between debt and nuclear weapons, poverty and economics, and the environment. The task force encourages annual conferences, seminaries, and other constituencies to conduct hearings, conversation, and study on nuclear proliferation, the environment, and poverty in 2007 and 2008. The results should be sent to Green at 4500 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20016.


For more information contact Green at (202) 885-8648. The findings will be turned into a pastoral letter and foundation document, as was done for the 1986 statement.


The bishops anticipate approving a new document, written by J. Phillip Wogaman, in May 2009 and releasing it to the church for study and action. -- Linda Green