“If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” Martin Luther is supposed to have said that, which is probably why it gets rolled out so often by evangelical climate campaigners. You can’t argue with Luther.
When “hippies,” “New Agers” and “liberals” get behind “progressive” issues like creation care, the church seems to shrug and sigh, “So what?” When Bible-believing, Protestant heroes seem to do it, well, it seems like people are more likely to take notice.
That’s why it’s important for Bible-believing, adult-baptizing, church-planting, Christ-proclaiming, evangelizing mission societies to do the same. It means something.
BMS World Mission is one of those mission societies. It was founded in 1792 by William Carey. And, if you know about the history of missions, you’ll know that name means something, too.
It works in about 40 countries – mostly through churches and Christian umbrella bodies – in partnership with local Christians; its highest goal is making disciples of Jesus Christ.
It’s also working hard to fight climate change. The reasons are many, but they’re not complicated.
The world’s poor who we are called to serve are the ones who will suffer first and most from climate change.
The more flooding that happens, the worse the droughts, the lower the yields of crops, the less chance there is of “the least of these,” identified in Matthew 25, experiencing the fullness of life that is promised in the Bible.
Creation care is a justice issue as much as it is an issue of stewardship, and the reason it concerns BMS is the same reason that poverty, illiteracy and a lack of access to life-saving medical care are concerns.
And we’ve started small. Over the last few years, we have installed solar panels on the roof of our building, we’ve produced resources for churches to engage with creation care as a theological and missional issue, and we’ve started offsetting all our travel.
As you can imagine, a mission agency working all over the world clocks up a lot of travel. And we are not about to stop sending workers to China or Afghanistan because airplane fuel is damaging to the environment. But we have decided to offset it.
For every mile of travel – by air, land or sea – an appropriate amount of money (calculated by a gold-standard offsetting company) was donated to our partners, Climate Stewards, and to a fund that supports creation-care work around the world.
Through this fund, BMS has delivered about $20,000 (13,000 pounds) to fund carbon-busting reforestation projects in Ghana. BMS has also:
â— Planted trees and installed solar panels for a mission hospital in Chad
â— Funded ecologically friendly ovens and environmental education in Peru
â— Supported sustainable reforestation in Nepal
â— Provided sustainable electricity in Thailand
Every one of these projects has been undertaken in partnership with local communities, often of Christians, who take ownership of the project and who are the people it will ultimately benefit.
You don’t have to agree with Luther or with the theology of Tom Wright (that teaches that creation matters because it is creation that will be made new at the resurrection) to see this work as important and necessary.
All over the world, BMS workers are seeing that sustainable, pollution-reducing ways of living are improving the lives of those who most need Christ’s mercy and love.
On the ground, these choices are far from simple. What BMS is doing is just a drop in the rising ocean.
But, like planting a tree at the end of the world or preaching the gospel in a resistant land, with God there is always hope.
Editor’s note: You can learn about a few BMS World Mission projects funded in part by their carbon-offsetting efforts here.