As we follow Jesus, Mennonites value simplicity and responsible stewardship of the resources God gave us. At the Assembly in Pennsylvania in 2015, these convictions drove Mennonite World Conference organizers to give each participant a reusable water bottle and a convention bag made of upcycled ties; to stock the Farm Show Complex with 25 water stations; and to truck away 4.25 tons of food scraps, plates, cutlery, napkins for composting.
This year, Mennonite World Conference appointed a Creation Care Task Force to help the global Anabaptist communion understand our responsibility and take action in the global climate crisis.
Although the climate crisis calls the people of God to respond with repentance and accountability, it is not a situation without hope.
God’s activity of renewal
“We celebrate the emergence of this task force. Central to our mission is to respond faithfully to God’s renewal of his creation – which is one of the works of the Holy Spirit,” says MWC general secretary César García. “This contrasts with the world’s practices of domination, exploitation and accumulation.”
The Creation Care Task Force will explore the diverse ways in which members are affected by the climate crisis, assess practical ways to encourage ecologically faithful living, encourage the development of biblical and theological capacity relevant to the climate crisis, and formulate both short-term practical responses and a comprehensive plan for MWC ecological commitment.
“Taking care of our planet is one of the major challenges of our time,” says Doug Graber Neufeld, task force chair. “We hope to give voice and leadership for the many people in churches around the world who passionately believe that being a disciple of Christ means we should care about all of creation.”
The task force includes representation from MWC’s five regions, Mennonite Creation Care Network and Mennonite Central Committee. It has been organized by the Faith and Life Commission and will report to the MWC Executive Committee.
Carbon Offset Account
Since 2010, MWC has imposed an internal surcharge on organizational travel that has gone into the Carbon Offset Account in the Global Church Sharing Fund. For every mile of travel for MWC meetings (including General Council, Commissions and networks), $50 per 1 000 kilograms of carbon burned goes into the fund.
This account will be managed by the MWC Creation Care Task Force. As the majority of their meetings will happen electronically; the Carbon Offset Account offers seed money for grants to help churches with creation care initiatives or projects.
Pandemic and creation
Although the global pandemic seems like the priority for this time, the drop in air pollution and the emergence of wildlife in regions under lockdown has demonstrated the interconnectedness of humans and their environment. “COVID-19 shines a spotlight on the way that our well-being depends on a healthy relationship with God’s creation,” says Doug Graber Neufeld.
“The impacts we are feeling from the pandemic show more clearly similar challenges that will occur if climate change continues unmitigated,” he says. “However, we also see more clearly how we can change to live in better relationship with creation.”
Members of the task force
Chair: Doug Graber Neufeld, professor of biology at Eastern Mennonite university, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA; director of Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions. Home church: Community Mennonite Church (MCUSA), Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA
Europe: Rebecca Froese, PhD candidate in Environmental Sciences, University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany; associate fellow, Research Group Climate Change and Security, University of Hamburg, Germany. Home church: Mennonite Church Hamburg-Altona, Germany.
Africa: Sibonokuhle Ncube, national coordinator of compassionate development service, Brethren in Christ Church, Zimbabwe; MDiv (candidate), Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana
Latin America: Juliana Morillo, missionary in Peru and now in Colombia, with the Mennonite Teusaquillo Church in Bogotá. MSc development and environmental management; Latin America Facilitator for the Lausanne/WEA Creation Care Network.
Asia: Nindyo Sasongko, PhD (candidate), systematic theology, Fordham University, minister, GKMI Mennonite church, Indonesia
North America: Jennifer Schrock, MDiv, Chicago Theological Seminary; director, Mennonite Creation Care Network, Goshen, Indiana, USA. Home church: Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship, Goshen, Indiana, USA.
MCC: Anna Vogt, director of MCC Ottawa, formerly of MCC SEED and Justapaz in Colombia
—Mennonite World Conference release