Read the white paper to learn about these survey results in more detail.
“What is the church thinking and doing about political advocacy for climate justice?” This was the guiding question for this survey of Mennonite churches. A key element of this year’s climate advocacy-focused fellowship involved surveying these churches to understand how they relate to the work of climate advocacy. This survey may give us a partial picture of how and why some churches are using advocacy, particularly climate advocacy, to express their collective faith.
The following is graphed data from the survey results. The survey was conducted primarily via an online form; however, in a few cases, church leaders were contacted via phone for an informal conversation. Those conversational responses were recorded within the confines of the survey format, when possible.
One clear limit of the survey is that only one member was responding on behalf of an entire church. Sometimes multiple people responded on behalf of the same church. When possible, we selected the response of a creation care or green team leader, using the justification that the leaders are often the most involved in a church’s creation care work. Barring those responses, we used the responses of pastors and lay leaders to understand how a church is relating to this issue. Survey respondents were primarily from the Mennonite Church USA denominational, but a few were from other Anabaptist-affiliated denominations.
Finally, the demographics of survey respondents were overwhelmingly skewed toward white churches. While we are unaware of statistics depicting the current demographics of Mennonite Church USA, we can be confident that churches of color, particularly BIPOC churches, are underrepresented in this survey. The ways that information is gathered, and the ways in which classic survey methodology perpetuates systemic injustice are issues that we must interrogate moving forward.
To begin our understanding of the churches represented in the survey, we asked them about the work that they are currently doing on creation care and climate change. Of note is the comparatively low number of churches engaging in advocacy.
This is the breakdown of church receptivity to engagement with elected officials as a form of advocacy.
When we asked them about their history of advocacy on the church level, we saw that churches were engaging in a. diverse range of types of advocacy. We see a clear emphasis on letter writing and phone calls. Direct meetings with an elected official or their staff member appear to be less common.
Other significant trends appeared when we asked respondents about their perceived sense of the efficacy of advocacy, depending on whether the advocacy was directed towards local, state, or federal government. The following three graphs depict these trends:
Local Government Advocacy
State government advocacy
Federal Government Advocacy
This data indicates that these potential advocates perceive a greater level of efficacy in advocating to local government officials. There were less differences between advocacy to state and national government officials, although a greater number of advocates “somewhat agreed” that engaging with state government officials was more effective.
Given these results, we have to ask, “why?” A sense of the intersection between faith and policy is, of course, one reason why people may or may not be drawn to the work of advocating. However, a majority of survey respondents seems to think that engaging with policies and policymakers is a part of their faith.
In an attempt to answer this “why” question, we also wanted to understand more fully what the church’s perceived barriers to advocacy were.
It is important to note that this data was collected at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time where, anecdotally, many churches were experiencing a lack fo energy. We may be seeing some of that energy void in the main barriers that respondents selected, especially the large portion of respondents who noted that not enough people are interested in church advocacy.
However, the second-most selected barrier to advocating was the sense that the church was unfamiliar with advocacy. This is where the work of CSCS can be particularly helpful. We hope you will use our resources to educate your church on the ways in which faithful climate advocacy can be a party of your mission and vision moving forward. The final graph of these survey responses depicts how surveyed churches are thinking about climate advocacy for the future.