AME Church: Climate change disproportionately hurts blacks

The John Amos coal-fired power plant is seen behind a home in Poca, W.Va., on May 18, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

(RNS) African Methodist Episcopal Church members have joined the call of other religious leaders for action on climate change, citing its disproportionate effect on the health of black people.

“We can move away from the dirty fuels that make us sick and shift toward safe, clean energy like wind and solar that help make every breath our neighbors and families take a healthy one,” reads a resolution passed on Wednesday (July 13), at the end of the church’s quadrennial General Conference in Philadelphia.

The resolution, echoing Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, pointed to research that shows climate change has a negative impact on African-Americans: 39 percent of Americans living near coal plants are people of color, and black children are four times as likely as their white counterparts to die from asthma.

“We believe it is our duty to commit to taking action and promoting solutions that will help make our families and communities healthier and stronger,” said Bishop John F. White, president of the AME Church’s Council of Bishops.

The statement calls for leaders and members of the 2.5 million-member denomination to advocate for support of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement for reduction of carbon emissions and encourages congregations to have more energy-efficient buildings.

RELATED STORY: AME Church continues 200-year journey toward racial justice

The resolution passed at their 50th General Conference, a gathering of some 30,000 people that marked the denomination’s bicentennial.

In other action during the meeting, AME Church members:

  • Maintained their stance opposing same-sex marriage. “The African Methodist Episcopal Church reaffirms our belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, and forbids our ministers from uniting in, performing or participating in same sex marriage ceremonies, or the use of our facilities for such events,” concludes a position paper that passed during the meeting. A motion to remove that topic from the paper failed. Jackie Dupont-Walker, director of the church’s Social Action Commission, said she expects discussion will continue “at every level of the church” before its next meeting in four years. “With the fastest-growing segment of our church being on the continent of Africa, it must be a very strong discussion,” she said. “Because there’s less willingness there than here to embrace it.”
P.S. Duval, Mrs. Jarena Lee; half, seated, 1849, Lithograph. Courtesy of Charles Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University

P.S. Duval, Mrs. Jarena Lee; half, seated, 1849, Lithograph. Courtesy of Charles Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University

  • Posthumously ordained a woman permitted to preach by founder Richard Allen. Jarena Lee, a member of Bethel AME Church, which Allen started in 1791 in Philadelphia, was allowed to serve as a traveling preacher. “While the ordination did not take place, he affirmed her calling by the way he allowed her to use her talents and skills,” said Dupont-Walker. Two centuries later, Lee was declared ordained by the denomination’s senior bishop.
  • Elected six bishops, two of whom made history. Bishop Frank M. Reid III, a longtime Baltimore pastor, follows both his father and grandfather, who were also bishops. In another first, Bishop Anne Henning Byfield, a presiding elder from the North District of the Indiana Annual Conference, is the sister of retired Bishop C. Garnett Henning Sr.

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • Shame that the AME is for discrimination when it comes to Methodist Gay couples.

  • RNS is reporting on an internal discussion of the AME Church, the issue you cite is not even the chief point of the reporting. Further, Each community of believers has the right and duty to set the parameters for conduct, lifestyle, and participation in and of their particular fellowship. They are not pontificating on public policy (at least with respect to the issue you have raised). Their internal rules reflect their understanding of what the bible teaches about marital relations. For those disappointed by this there are numerous and sundry putatively Christian churches where they would be welcomed with open arms. Since AME stands for African Methodist Episcopal would you additionally assert that they are discriminating against people who are not African/Black?

  • While not raised in the AME, they are fellow Methodists and my criticism of them is the same as for the United Methodists. It’s a shame…to understate.

    You don’t have to be Black to be a member or clergy of the AME, so no, they don’t discriminate as you suppose. The United Methodists and the AME are in full communion with each other.

  • I think AME is a good church. They’re wrong on the gender issues, but they do a lot of good stuff.

    They nailed it on climate change. The poor, disproportionately black and brown, are suffering more from climate change and will continue to do so if this global catastrophe is not addressed definitively and immediately.

  • Actually, solar-power and wind-power are significantly **more expensive** than the fossil-fuels.

    That’s going to automatically mean HIGHER heating, fuel, and transportation bills for low- and fixed-income Americans, once the global-warmers force the USA to abide by the Paris CC Agreement.

    Thanks, global warmers!!

  • You are welcome to your opinion, but not your facts.

    As a result of global warming an entire village in Alaska had to be moved off the island because it was going underwater. The same is true for other villages, and more to come, like parts of Miami and other coastal cities around the world. That’s pretty expensive.

    BP said the Deep Water Horizon oil disaster cost several billions of dollars. Pretty expensive, and like most contemporary businesses, they’ll recoup that money off the citizens backs. Pretty expensive.

    An oil train derailed and exploded in Quebec and killed people. Pretty expensive.

    There is much, much more that’s costing trillions of dollars in total as a result of fossil fuel use. People who are now employed by fossil fuel industries will have the opportunity to learn skills for the renewable energy field. Most will get government help to pay for that education.

  • But you ARE agreeing (via your silence), that solar and wind power is significantly more expensive than the fossil fuels which poor Americans (and many of the REST of us!), rely on every day to afford heating, gas, electric, and daily transportation.

    So who’s going to come up with the money to enable low and fixed incone people to afford solar and wind every day? The AME Church? Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama?

  • No! Didn’t you read my comment? I explained how vastly more expensive fossil fuel is. Costs are very high right now, and will get higher and higher as global warming proceeds with no big moves away from fossil fuels.

  • As far as the money? It should come from the polluters, Exxon-Mobil, BP, Shell, big coal, etc, because they’re causing this global disaster. However, if they’re not forced to do so, the government will have to foot the bill, wrong as that is. It’s just another example of corporate welfare.

  • Solar/wind is the cheapest form of electricity. On my congregation the 125 panels (30 kw) will save over 900,000 dollars over the life of the panels. The cost was 75 K.

  • The Harvard School of Medicine found the hidden costs of coal alone to be 300-500 billion dollars per year, from over 70 negative side effects. PER YEAR!

  • The question on my part was primarily rhetorical. We will have to disagree on the degree of shame associated with the position taken by the Methodists on this question.

  • Sorry, it turns out you ARE wrong. You and Jfreed are merely HOPING that one day, several years down, the price of solar-power will drop down to where ordinary apartment-dwellers and home-owners (especially minorities, fixed-income and low-income) can afford it for electric, HVAC, and transport needs.

    (Wind power? Forget it.)

    But solar’s still down in the future, as last year’s “polar vortex” winter proved. And even today it makes a huge difference whether you’re buying LOTS of solar panels or relatively few, as well as your geography. If fewer panels or less sun, then nope, it’s NOT cost-effective. Plus, poor and fixed-income people can’t afford shiny new hybrids or electric cars.

    Yes, those who can buy LOTS of solar panels (like Jfreed’s church), can at least get it cheaper, especially if they live in a state where taxpayers pay for bribes like “subsidies” or “net metering” sell-backs (and many states do NOT). But how many black, Latino, urban and small churches can shell out $75,000 next Sunday morning for 125 panels?
    And even so, what good does that do for minority or poor home and apartment-dwellers? (Better stick with fossil fuels, folks!)

  • Give it up Floyd. As jfreed27 has shown, and as I have been saying, the *total* costs of fossil fuels are enormous and increasing daily. Renewable sources continue to trend toward less costly.

  • Not sure I get the point here. The argument seems to conflate a range of issues in an apparent effort to portray everything in terms of race. Climate change does not disproportionately hurt blacks, whites, or any other color. It is a complex GLOBAL issue.
    The effects of pollution on health is a different issue. While there is contradictory information about which creates the most pollution in the US today, the primary causes appear to be coal plants and motor vehicle traffic. Since housing costs fall within two miles of coal plants, we can reasonably assume that those who live near coal plants are the poor, and the majority of US poor are white. Traffic is another issue. The majority of poor black people live in urban neighborhoods where traffic pollution can be excessive, while the majority of poor white people live outside of the cities, thereby having far less exposure to traffic pollution.

  • Actually, no, the majority of US low-income and poor are white. People of color, however, are disproportionately poor. Overall, American Indians have the highest rates of poverty.

    How are people of color (and which color/colors) suffering more from global climate change? Note the meaning of “global.” The manifestations of climate change (intensified storms, concentrated areas of flood and drought, etc.) effect all humans the same.

  • Such a self-absorbed perspective. Keep costs down for ME, and forget about future generations. The survival of all life is a tad bit more important than protecting the comforts of our bourgeoisie. True, we might have to scale back on handouts to the rich/corporations, maybe even take a break from war, to transition to a modern energy system, but that’s the way it is.

    Solar and wind-power have grown here, grown more in the more advanced nations, and as these options expand, prices go down.

  • The US has shown very little concern about poor and low income people in recent decades, so don’t even try that bit of hypocrisy. This country is at the point where it either changes its spending priorities, or the country will collapse, making this discussion pointless. Take a break from the war business for a few years, restore pre-Reagan tax rates on the rich/corporations, and invest the money in modernizing the US energy system/training people to run and maintain alternative energy plants, significantly reducing energy costs for consumers.

  • That’s crazy because you’re talking in all-or-nothing extremes. Transitioning to alternative energy sources is a process, it takes time, and the US has fallen far behind the more advances nations when it comes to making this necessary transition. It’s time for America to begin accepting responsibility for significantly reducing our contribution to catastrophic climate change.

    These are complex issues that, frankly, you don’t appear to grasp.

  • True, so nothing about it is particularly relevant outside of that specific group. However, they don’t own the issue under discussion — climate change.

  • No, as is evident by the comments in this thread. I merely responded to Gregory Peterson, who I felt strayed from the point. On the subject under discussion, I’m all for advances in clean energy technology, but costs come there as well. The Columbia Gorge is filled with windmills; not very pretty, but relatively clean. However, they do appear to be interfering with the path of migratory birds, causing a certain number of deaths among them. Solar panels may contribute to the raising of ambient air temperatures where they are clustered. There is no perfect solution, of course, but there’s no reason to not keep on looking.

  • These comments appear to be going around in circles with nits being picked to the bone. I’m done here.

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