Greetings, my brothers and sisters. May the peace and joy of Christ be with you!
I have never had bigger or more joyous news to share with you. Never has the gracious hand of the Lord been more clearly seen in our ministry. We are beginning two new programs which are the fruit of five years of work and seed planting. These programs will change the manner and the scale on which we operate. Before I begin telling you about our new work, I want to share that we have received a $3.2 million gift to help us in our new labors. Now forgive me if I back up a bit to tell you the story.
Less than ten years ago, I became a follower of Christ. At that time the Lord called me to work in the area of creation care. This is not a new calling: in Genesis 2:15 the Lord placed our great grandparents on earth and instructed them to “tend and protect” it. Failure to heed this mandate has resulted in our current environmental problems. The results of our lack of stewardship are undeniable for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. In the American West, hundreds of thousands of acres of evergreen forests are rust red. A recent report on the state of the earth’s seas predicts an accelerating systems collapse over the next half century. Adding hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil in the Gulf and nuclear material from Fukushima’s crippled plants has not helped matters. Unusual weather events are becoming the norm.
Even our legacy in space is mixed. Today there are half a million pieces of trash orbiting the earth; 20,000 of these hunks of litter are large enough that NASA must continually track them lest they threaten the space station. The moon has a car up on blocks, the result of man’s giant leap. In many ways the situation is grave. We are reaching the point where humanity’s choices will become more and more limited.
Never has the moral compass of the church been more sorely needed. As surely as thousands of environmental articles will appear in the press this month, it is unlikely that even a few will bother footnoting what Christians think about the situation. It is as if the 300,000 Christian congregations in America decided not to get involved as a gang of hoodlums vandalized their Father’s masterpiece. The non-Christian observer must surely question whether we love, much less believe in, our own Father.
It is the mission of this ministry to rouse the church in defense of their Father’s creation. We have never been alone. Moms, dads, children, schoolteachers, pastors, journalists, publishers, film makers, as well as seminaries and denominations have heard the clarion call of the 24th Psalm and turned to help.
Two persistent problems have yet to be overcome. The average seminary graduate has no systematic training in what the Bible says about caring for creation, and the church has little voice in the noisy and pressing worldwide environmental crisis. To help with these two areas of need, we are beginning the Blessed Earth Seminary Stewardship Alliance and the Blessed Earth Church Stewardship Alliance.
The Seminary Stewardship Alliance will start with a dozen flagship seminaries covenanting to lead schools and churches in research, teaching, and modeling stewardship. It is important to note that many of the modes of dealing with the world’s environmental problem are not anchored in the scientific method, but in the Bible. The sabbatical principles, as well as those of sacrifice, restraint, concern for the future, and mercy for the poor come from the Lord, not the lab. We will bring the seminary presidents and leaders together next year in Washington, DC, to sign a covenant and to announce before the Lord, the nation, and the world their commitment to provide leadership and accountability in stewardship.
At the same time, we are launching a five-year creation care teaching program, starting with one year of programming at the National Cathedral. The Cathedral is a place of magnificent architecture and history. One half million visitors come every year to its location on the highest elevation in the nation’s capital. We believe that the Cathedral’s location serves as a metaphor for the project we are undertaking. After our year at the National Cathedral, we will bring the year of teaching to five additional large and influential churches. In each city, we will relate the eternal truths of the Bible to the trials of our current age. We will include media outreach, concerts, films, forums and other special events. Further details will follow, but make plans to join me and my wife for the launch at the National Cathedral next April 22nd.
To help fulfill this expanded mission, Blessed Earth has brought on Dr. Chuck Gutenson as our chief operating officer and head of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance. Dr. Gutenson is a seminary professor at Fuller and Asbury, an author, an electrical engineer, and has spent the last four years at Sojourners as their chief operations officer. We are blessed to have Chuck on the Blessed Earth team and will keep you informed as other staff joins us.
Please continue to pray for us and communicate with us as we begin these bold new programs. Pray that we choose the other city/church sites for the Church Stewardship Alliance wisely, and that we round out our first dozen seminaries with leaders who represent a group that seeks the Lord’s will. Join us in thanking the Lord for providing the initial $3.2 million dollars to do this work, in thanking all those who have supported us thus far and who continue to do so, and in helping us raise an additional $10 million in the next 24 months.
All glory, honor, and power are the Lord’s. Agape, love, and blessing to you, my brothers and sisters.
Dr. Sleeth is the executive director of Blessed Earth and is the author of Serve God, Save the Planet (Zondervan, 2007), the introduction to the Green Bible (HarperOne, 2008), and The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book (HarperOne, 2010).