Disclaimer: The author is a member of the CRC and a participant in the Climate Witness Project.
“Human-induced climate change is an ethical, social justice, and religious issue,” reads the Christian Reformed Church’s (CRC) 2012 Synodical Statement on Climate Change. The statement went on to urge churches to reduce their carbon emissions and suggested that members should urge their government officials to assist vulnerable populations.
In December 2015, when the Paris Agreement was first announced, the Office of Social Justice celebrated it as a hopeful milestone in the battle against climate change. Now, the CRC has once again spoken out about the Paris climate agreement, but this time it was to lament a blow dealt to the deal by the United States.
On June 1, 2017, President Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by announcing that he would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. After Syria signed the Paris agreement in November of 2017, the United States stood alone as the only country opposing it. Trump formally initiated the yearlong withdrawal process on November 4, 2019.
The CRC Office of Social Justice issued a statement condemning Trump’s decision.
“We lament that the U.S. will no longer be a part of this global agreement. We also lament the impacts this decision will have on the world’s most vulnerable people and future generations.”
Andrew Oppong, a Calvin grad and former student body president who works for the OSJ as a justice mobilization specialist, explained why the CRC feels that climate change is a social justice issue.
“When you examine the issue of climate change, you realize that those impacted most by negative effects are the poor and vulnerable among us” said Oppong. “We begin to see very quickly that we cannot surgically separate the issue of climate change and social justice — the two are inextricably linked.”
The Christian Reformed Church has a long history of action and awareness of social justice issues, and looking through the CRC official website records, it is clear that climate change has been on the denomination’s radar since at least 2008. The CRC Office of Social Justice (OSJ) is a ministry of the church focused on social justice concerns and, along with World Renew, it co-sponsors the Climate Witness Project.
“The Climate Witness Project operates within four main pillars of principles: education, worship, energy, stewardship and advocacy” said Oppong.
Recounting what he liked best about being on the Climate Witness Project Leadership, Oppong said “When it comes to the issue of climate change, I am most passionate about exploring ways we can continually articulate and communicate to our elected officials that as Christians, this is something we care very much about.”
The OSJ statement also said that the denomination will continue to advocate for climate justice after Trump’s decision.