Bob Whitaker wants to put solar panels on the sloped brown roof of Evangelical Community Church in Bloomington, Indiana. Then he wants to help other churches get solar power too.
Although COVID-19 has complicated fundraising efforts, Whitaker hopes to soon see clean energy projects at churches across the state, dramatically increasing the number of evangelical congregations committed to creation care in a very practical way.
“This whole thing for me has been a bit of a conversion,” said Whitaker, who has pastored at Evangelical Community Church for 22 years. “I didn’t grow up thinking this way. I didn’t begin serving this church with this mentality…. Among evangelicals—churches, pastors, even theologians—we’ve focused on the salvation of the soul to the exclusion of other parts I now consider to be part of the Good News.”
His change was gradual—an expansion of his understanding of how the gospel applies to everyday life and a growing sense that God’s people should treat the earth not as consumers but as caretakers. Now, he wants to take the next step.
As chair of Creation Care Partners, a nonprofit with a goal of helping evangelical and Jewish organizations work together to promote environmentally friendly initiatives, Whitaker is asking 20 evangelical churches in the state of Indiana to commit with him to cut their energy usage by 25 percent or more.
One Indiana church has led the way. Englewood Christian Church, in Indianapolis, has reduced electricity use by 27 percent and natural gas use by more than 60 percent. About a third of Englewood church members have reduced their personal energy usage too, some by as much as 40 percent.
Hoosier evangelicals who sign on to be Creation Care Partners can get a $25,000 matching grant to install solar panels. The money comes from a $500,000 fund established as part of a legal settlement between American Electric Power and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Evangelical Community Church is raising its initial funds now. Whitaker knows it can be a challenge for a church to come up with $25,000, especially during a pandemic. But he’s hopeful.
“We’re experiencing a gradual shift,” he said. “I think it’s a good one.”
The executive director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Creation Care Task Force agrees that there is reason for optimism. Chris Elisara is amazed at how far the creation care movement has come since the 1990s.
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Source: Christianity Today