From Eco-Justice to Creation Justice

July 24, 2013

Yesterday, I attended a gathering at the offices of the National Council of Churches. The NCC's offices are in the United Methodist Building (often nicknamed the "God box" since it houses many religious-political groups), which sits at an intersection with the Supreme Court across the street on one side and the Capitol across the street on another side (the first photo is one I took of the Methodist Building, which first started as a religious-political advocacy site in 1924 to house the Methodist work during the Temperance movement). The NCC suite used to be the Washington office of the organization that unites many mainline Protestant groups for common action, witness, ministry, and fellowship. However, the NCC has experienced decline for many years and announced earlier this year that it would shut down its main office in New York City to move to D.C. (the second photo is one I took of the doorway to the NCC area that shows they have not changed the branding away from "Washington Office" yet). As they say in real estate, location matters; the shift will likely symbolically and practically shift the NCC's attention to becoming more of a D.C. political group. With the consolidation and cutbacks, the Eco-Justice Program came to an end. Yesterday's gathering of numerous religious-political activists from various organizations recognized staff and other leaders of the NCC Eco-Justice Program, and also celebrated the launch of a new, independent group to be led by some of the departing staff to continue the work. The NCC's Eco-Justice Program accomplished a lot of work over its thirty years (as outlined here), and many of those at the gathering testified to its impact. Yet, as the NCC continues its decline, the Eco-Justice Program joined the casualty list. The decline of the NCC should concern mainline Protestants and those who support its social justice efforts. But the decline has been going on for so long that few are likely surprised at the current struggles. In some ways, the NCC's declines can be attributed to religious shifts I noted in my book (Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics) as the religious and political rise of evangelicals has often come at the expense of the mainline tradition. Thus, the new separate group that emerged from the ashes of the NCC's Eco-Justice Program, Creation Justice Ministries (which is a name that will likely communicate better), might actually find more success on their own instead of being tied to an apparently sinking ship.



UPDATE [7-30-2013]: Aaron Weaver, who studied the NCC's Eco-Justice Program for his doctoral dissertation on Baptist environmental work, mentioned this post in a blog for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

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