When a congregation makes it a priority to act on climate change as a community, it can be a powerful example for the church. The past few months, the Center has been partnering with a local church in Harrisonburg, VA who have been doing just that.
In December of 2017, the Community Mennonite Church (CMC) congregation accepted a proposal to become a green congregation and established a committee to organize the pursuit of that goal. One product of that committee was a voluntary gas tax, both for congregants and the church.
“As a church, we recognize that those impacted most by climate change are those least able to cope with it, and least responsible for causing the problem,” Jared Stoltzfus, chair of the Green Congregation Committee at the church said. “This program is one way to take responsibility for the ways we are contributing to climate change. By taxing ourselves on carbon emissions, we become more conscious of our carbon footprint, and can take steps to reduce that impact on the environment.”
While the church is encouraging congregants to participate in the voluntary tax, it is important for congregants to realize that it is only the first step in responding to climate change. They suggest that members consider other areas of their lives where they are burning fossil fuels, such as transportation and heating, and try to minimize their impact as well as participate in the tax.
The funds collected from the voluntary tax will “go towards projects that reduce carbon emissions, such as energy-saving measures for local low-income residents or installing solar on our own facilities” according to Stoltzfus.
The church published a rationale for their decision to offer a voluntary carbon tax for congregants to read. The rationale ends with a powerful statement: “Our impact on the planet is too high. We must work to bring carbon use down locally, regionally nationally and globally. We cannot do this alone, but the world cannot afford our waiting for someone else to start. God calls us to care for and cherish the planet. We are not heeding that call to the full extent of our resources and abilities. We see this as a step in that direction. Other steps are needed, the voluntary carbon tax is just the first of what we hope are many steps.”
The Center is excited to be partnering with CMC to help their congregation go green. As well as providing a space for their calculator on our website, we have created our own version, with the option to calculate based on location, so that anyone in the country can benefit from the work of CMC, and the passion of their congregation. If you, or your church is interested in calculating your carbon tax, you can find our Carbon Tax Calculator here.
The Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS) is a collaborative effort of Eastern Mennonite University, Goshen College, and Mennonite Central Committee. CSCS advances thinking and action in Anabaptist and other faith communities to mitigate climate change. Our goal is to make climate change the moral equivalent of war and violence in the Anabaptist community and to change hearts and minds around climate change in the church.