Churches around the world are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on Thursday. And while some are taking the call to go green to a whole new level, others are more hesitant.
"I think our churches should be the first to push the envelope in terms of reducing our carbon footprint," Molly Harper Haines, 27, told the United Methodist News Service. "If every church 'got off the grid' by installing solar panels or using wind energy (for example), had community gardens to grow food and flowers for decorations ... the world would be a different place."
United Methodists are among dozens of Christian groups taking seriously the call for creation stewardship and for greener congregations.
Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, is nearly complete with the construction of its new $15 million green sanctuary, and is looking to be the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified sanctuary in the state.
"When the building committee of Christ United Methodist Church began visioning the new sanctuary in 2007, it was decided that the place where we worship must be a reflection of our own stewardship of God's creation," the church of more than 6,000 members states.
Some new features at the church will include low flow sinks and toilets and waterless urinals, drought tolerant landscaping, a steeple composed of aluminum, and preferred parking for fuel efficient vehicles.
Earth Day was created in 1970 by Sen. Gaylord Nelson. Forty years later, environmental groups believe the world is in "greater peril than ever" and that climate change is "the greatest challenge of our time."
Those words don't sit well with Reformed Pastor Kevin DeYoung of East Lansing, Mich.
Though not opposed to Christians celebrating Earth Day and thinking through ways to steward the earth, DeYoung believes the Earth Day movement rests on "several debatable premises" like the world being in greater peril than ever. Moreover, the annual observance is also steeped in politics, advocacy and assumed solutions, he argues.
"[T]here are deep assumptions, unspoken assumptions, that too often provide the foundation for our basic thinking about the environment," he wrote in his blog. "And unless Christians are building on the right foundation, we will not think about environmental issues in ways that are most helpful and most biblical."
As Christian leaders have continued to call believers to reduce their carbon footprint, the Reformed pastor believes it is often assumed that the earth is a healthy organism while humans are "cancerous cells" who "pillage, pollute and destroy."
"We must resist the temptation to think of humans as intruders from another world wrecking carnage in a pristine environment," he said. "Instead we must see ourselves as stewards, called to subdue, enjoy, protect, use, develop, and make more humane God’s fallen creation."
Other evangelicals, including the We Get It! Campaign, have expressed concern over global warming being overhyped. The campaign contends that there is no scientific consensus that global warming is man-made, and is likely to be catastrophic.
Celebrations and church services for Earth Day will continue through the weekend.