The National Religious Partnership for the Environment
By Steve Theunissen
We’ve covered the connection between environmentalism and Judeo-Christian thought elsewhere on EdenKeeper. In Genesis, God gave humans dominion over the Earth. But this doesn’t mean that humans have absolute rule and can subjugate the environment. Instead, humans must act as stewards of the environment, actively trying to benefit the planet as we better our souls.
Many realize that environmentalism is a Judeo-Christian value, but few actually put that connection into action. In the early 1990s more than 30 prominent scientists, distressed by humanity’s inadequate response to the deepening environmental crisis, wrote an “Open Letter to the American Religious Community.” The letter encouraged religious leaders to address the spiritual and moral dimensions of the ecological crisis and to incorporate environmental awareness into the various dimensions of religious life.
Religious leaders responded. Founded in 1993, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment was formed to further the connection between religious life and environmentalism. NRPE comprises four religious associations: The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life; the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops; the National Council of Churches of Christ; and the Evangelical Environmental Network. Guided by the Bible, NRPE seeks to encourage people of faith to weave values and programs of care for God’s creation throughout the entire fabric of religious life:
What, then, has the NRPE accomplished in its 20 year history? Here’s a sampling of the impact that they have made:
- NRPE has taught religious agencies that have been focused on other areas of social concern, such as hunger, economic justice, and security, to incorporate an environmental component into their message. As a result, organizations like the Association of Evangelical Relief and Development send staff into 40 countries who are now environmental advocates as well as hunger workers.
- NRPE has been instrumental in facilitating environmental projects at the congregation level. Annual Creation Care Awards are presented to outstanding environmental work done by congregations within the Partnership associations.
- NRPE has undertaken many local and national policy initiatives. In doing so it has become a key player in the formation of policy in climate control, energy consumption, and deforestation. Acting beyond political partisanship, NRPE always works from a basis of moral principles founded on the Creator’s wisdom.
NRPE continues to be a model of interfaith environmental advocacy. By championing Creation, it has helped to pave the way for humans to fulfill our original mandate:
The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden as its gardener, to tend and care for it. (Genesis 2:15)
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Steve Theunissen is a middle school teacher, father of two and author of several books on history and culture. Living amidst the unspoilt beauty of New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, Steve is a committed Christian who endeavors to model respect for all aspects of creation. Steve is also a personal fitness trainer and former gym owner.