(RNS) — The United Church of Christ has signed on for the Green New Deal.
It may be the first Christian body to endorse the environmental protection legislation sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York.
A resolution endorsing the Green New Deal, entitled “Let Justice Roll Down — Declaring Support for the Green New Deal and Affirming the Intersectionality of Climate Justice with all Justice Issues,” passed 662-30 on June 24 at the UCC’s General Synod, which ran June 21-25 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee.
The vote followed endorsements from the UCC’s executive leadership and Council for Climate Justice.
Support from the Green New Deal “comes out of the history of who we are,” said the Rev. Brooks Berndt, the UCC’s minister for environmental justice.
The denomination helped launch the environmental justice movement in the 1980s, and the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., a UCC minister, is believed to have coined the phrase “environmental racism,” Berndt said.
More recently, the UCC became the first denomination to call for divestment from fossil fuels, he said.
“When the Green New Deal came out, we immediately saw this as reflecting the values and the commitments that we’ve been holding dear for all these many years,” Berndt said.
The Green New Deal — introduced in the House in February by Ocasio-Cortez — aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, build smart power grids, update buildings to be more efficient and train workers for jobs in a new “green” economy over the next 10 years.
The UCC resolution framed its support for the legislation in terms of faith.
The resolution notes that climate change already is “on a scale we can hardly comprehend” and has a disproportionate impact on the poorest people and people of color, who often live in areas most likely to be affected. It also points to research by Yale University showing that most registered voters approve of the Green New Deal.
And it calls on the church to bear witness to the role science plays in understanding the challenges posed by climate change, incorporate awareness of climate change into worship and help prepare communities for extreme weather and other impacts of climate change.
“This historic moment provides Christian communities with a powerful opportunity to bear witness to the sacredness of God’s Creation and the urgent call to preserve it,” the statement reads.
Berndt said the UCC’s endorsement of the Green New Deal is not about politics but is about taking a stand on one of the key “moral issues of our day.”
“It’s being attuned to where suffering and oppression is happening and then realizing that part of our Christian calling is to be in solidarity and present with that,” he said.
The endorsement won praise from author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, who grew up in the UCC.
In a video filmed for the denomination, McKibben said of the Green New Deal, “This is a big deal — the first legislation that’s on the same scale as this crisis we face — and so it’s really important to have not just economists and scientists lining up behind it, but people of faith as well who can remind us what the real bottom line is.”
The UCC, a mainline Protestant denomination, tallied its membership last fall at 853,778 members in 4,956 congregations. The Pew Research Center listed it among the 15 largest Protestant denominations in the U.S. in its 2015 America’s Changing Religious Landscape report.