Religious Leaders Call for Local Action on Climate Change

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ann Arbor area religious leaders today called for local action to address the climate crisis, echoing Pope Francis’ message in his encyclical on the environment.

“Never have we mistreated and offended our common home as we have in the last two centuries,” Pope Francis wrote in the encyclical published today.  “The warming caused by the enormous consumption of some wealthy nations has repercussions in the poorest places on the planet.”

The Cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have each adopted Climate Action Plans, designed to reduce their respective climate impacts by 90%.  However, neither has yet assigned implementation strategies or major funding to their climate plans. Some faith communities have taken steps to become more sustainable but three out of five Americans say that their congregational leader seldom or never discusses climate change.  

Washtenaw County—and the planet—needs all segments of the community working to address climate change—governments, congregations, businesses, environmental groups, and ordinary citizens.

“As a scientist and as pope, Pope Francis is posing several important questions that all of humanity will need to answer, namely are our lifestyles promoting the care of the creation that we all share and ultimately depend upon, and secondly, are our social, political and economic structures and choices promoting the interests of all of humanity, especially those caught in poverty and deprivation or do they simply meet the needs of the few?” said Fr. James Conlon, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Ann Arbor.  “Pope Francis has helped craft and pose the questions for us, now it is up to all of us to begin to answer them.”

While the Ecology Center and other organizations are organizing residents and businesses to turn the Ann Arbor plan into reality, St. Francis of Assisi parish and a number of other area congregations have taken steps to become sustainable and are echoing the Pope’s call to action and making a moral case for climate action.

“[The Pope's] unique situation as a world faith leader with scientific training enables him to address the deep spiritual and material concerns with human caused climate change and the urgent need for all the peoples and countries of the world to take this threat seriously, said Pastor Greg Briggs, Associate Pastor of Bethlehem United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor.  “Pope Francis reminds his followers and indeed all people that we have been called by God to be stewards of the world and we have not taken that responsibility seriously.”  

Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, the Ecology Center and many other area groups are stressing the need to support state leaders in enacting new clean energy legislation and a strong plan to implement the federal Clean Power Plan. The encyclical is calling people of all faith traditions and “every person living on this planet” to swift action regarding climate action.  

“Our tradition teaches that it is our responsibility to act as guardians of God's creation. All of us, of all faiths, must commit ourselves to living responsibly in order to see that the earth we pass on to our children and grandchildren will be beautiful and life sustaining,” agreed Rabbi Robert Dobrusin, Beth Israel Congregation. “I admire and respect Pope Francis' statements concerning climate change and hope that all of us will find the wisdom of our faith traditions which remind us of obligations in this area.”

More information about how your congregation or community can get involved with climate justice work in Washtenaw County:  or

Published on June 20, 2015