Building Partnerships with the Faith Community: A Resource Guide for Environmental Groups


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Building Partnerships with the Faith Community: A Resource Guide for Environmental Groups

  1. 1. T H E B I O D I V E R S I T Y P R O J E C TBuilding Partnershipswith the Faith Community:A Resource Guide forEnvironmental GroupsUpdated and expanded versionof the Spirituality Outreach Guide:An Outreach Guide forEnvironmental Groups toFaith-Based OrganizationsThe Biodiversity Project214 N. Henry Street, Suite 201Madison, Wisconsin 53703(608) 250-9876(608) 257-3513
  2. 2. T H E B I O D I V E R S I T Y P R O J E C TThe Biodiversity Project is a unique public education strategy project. Wework through informal partnerships of nonprofit organizations, and draw onthe expertise and integrate the perspectives about biodiversity from science,education, ethics, advocacy, and communication groups. After starting as a spe-cial initiative of the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity (a grantmaker’s affinity group) in 1995, we made the transition to an independentorganization at the beginning of 2000.Our shared vision is a society that appreciates and celebrates the grand diversi-ty of life on earth in all its richness and life-giving connections. We see a timewhen people view biodiversity as a valued part of their lives and dwell withrespect, harmony, and appreciation for the Earth and all its inhabitants. We seea time when our institutions and cultures reflect a commitment to protecting,restoring, and nourishing the ecological integrity of Earth.Our mission is to advocate for biodiversity through designing and implement-ing innovative communication strategies that build and motivate a broad con-stituency to protect biodiversity.Our work is focused on three strategies:• Develop the strategy and resources to implement an integrated outreachcampaign on biodiversity, working in partnership with many organizationsand institutions.• Develop the strategies and resources to reach new audiences beyond theenvironmental “choir.”• Integrate biodiversity messages into ongoing outreach campaigns in the fieldon issues related to biodiversity.
  3. 3. T H E B I O D I V E R S I T Y P R O J E C TBuilding Partnershipswith the Faith Community:A Resource Guide forEnvironmental GroupsUpdated and expanded versionof the Spirituality Outreach Guide:An Outreach Guide forEnvironmental Groups toFaith-Based OrganizationsWritten for The Biodiversity Projectby Suellen Lowry and Rabbi Daniel SwartzRevisions by Marian Farrior and Suellen LowryCoordinator: Marian FarriorCopy Editor: Cassandra CarmichaelResearch Assistant: Beverly Fowler, O.P.The Biodiversity Project214 N. Henry Street, Suite 201Madison, Wisconsin 53703(608) 250-9876(608) 257-3513 faxproject@biodiverse.orgwww.biodiversityproject.orgPrinted on recycled paperMadison, Wisconsin, November 1999Revised May 2001
  4. 4. The Biodiversity Suellen Lowry and Rabbi Daniel Swartz, Lead Writers Project wishes to • Suellen Lowry has developed programs of partnership between secular environmentalist thank the following groups and members of religious and other communities, termed Allied Voices programs, individuals and for the Endangered Species Coalition and Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. She also organizations for their is active with the Christian Environmental Council and the Society of Friendsvaluable contributions (Quakers). Suellen can be reached at (707) 826-1948, this outreach guide: • Rabbi Swartz is the Executive Director for the Children’s Health and Environment Network and can be reached at He was the former head of the Washington, D.C. office of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and has worked with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Marian Farrior, Coordinator Marian Farrior is a Program Coordinator for The Biodiversity Product and serves on the Biodiversity Education Network steering committee. She can be reached at (608) 250-9876, Cassandra Carmichael, Copy Editor Cassandra Carmichael is the Director of Faith-Based Programs for the Center for the New American Dream ( She can be contacted at Beverly Fowler, O.P., Research Assistant Beverly Fowler is Dominican Sister, an educator, and a former church liturgist. She can be reached at (608) 834-9544. And thanks to our text reviewers and contributors: Peter Bakken, Au Sable Institute Reverend Clare Butterfield, Interreligious Sustainability Project, Center for Neighborhood Technology Brian Cole, The Sabbath Project Elizabeth Dyson and Paul Leistra, North American Coalition for Christianity and Ecology Joe Heimlich, Ohio State University Extension Office Peter Illyn, Target Earth Mark Jacobs, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life Thea Levkovitz, The Wilderness Society and Partnership for Religion and the Environment William Meadows, The Wilderness Society Pat Pearson, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Carol Saunders, Brookfield Zoo Robert Schildgen, Sierra Magazine Terry Tempest Williams Mary Evelyn Tucker, Forum on World Religions and Ecology Reverend Nancy Wright, Earth Ministry Building Partnerships with the Faith Community: A Resource Guide for Environmental Groups is made possible by a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
  5. 5. Table of ContentsPreface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9I. The Value of Partnerships Between the Environmental and the Religious Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 A. The Religious Presence Has Always Been There . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 B. The Unique Dimension of the Religious Message on Biodiversity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 C. Policy Makers Are Inclined to Listen to the Religious Community Voice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 D. The General Public Cares about Religion —And Links Religion with the Environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14II. Outreach Approaches and Tone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 A. Services the Environmental Community Can Offer . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 B. Tone in Outreach to Members of the Religious Community . . . . . . 19 C. Finding Religious Community Partners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24III. Types of Activities for Partnerships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 A. Meeting with Policy Makers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 B. Media Outreach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 C. Long-Term Dialogues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 D. Reaching Others in the Religious Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 E. Place-Based Projects and Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 F. Issue Initiatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 G. Lifestyle Education Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 H. Theological Explorations and Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38IV. Introduction to Aspects of the U.S. Organized Religious Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 A. Diversity of the U.S. Spiritual Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 B. Profiles of Faith-Based Organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
  6. 6. V. Theological and Historical Roots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 A. Conservation Within the Jewish Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 B. Conservation Within the Christian Community . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72VI. Hebrew and Christian Scripture Quotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75VII. Excerpts from Additional Religious Traditions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79Outreach Tips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 I. Ten Hot Topics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 II. Summary of Some Key “How To” Points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
  7. 7. P R E F A C EAbout This Resource GuideThis guide was designed to help environmental leaders open dialogues andbuild bridges with the faith community. Why? Because we believe that thesetwo communities can learn from each other and ultimately strengthen thehuman response to the ecological crises of our modern world.Lasting social change is often the result of a moral imperative, and the religiousinstitutions in our society play a critical role in shaping that which our societyconsiders right and wrong, ethical and unethical.In recent years there has been a wellspring of new activity between the envi-ronmental movement and the faith community, from churchyard habitatprograms to interfaith community working groups. Given the number of newprograms and publications that have flourished in the past few years, weexpect these partnerships to continue to grow in response to environmentalcrises and inner callings. For some, these relationships are a new kind ofactivism, for others, an extension of their practice of a deeply held faith.Respect for biodiversity— a.k.a. the fullness of Creation—is deeply interwoveninto the spiritual texts and practices across many faith traditions. This guideis an effort to share the growing wealth of resources in the field in order tohelp interested individuals and organizations learn from (and build upon) theexperiences of complementary activity.Each of us comes to this dialogue from a different perspective; each bringssomething from our unique experience. Collectively, we are finding newsources of inspiration, affirmation, positive change and an earnest explorationof why we are moved to care for the living Earth and its inhabitants. There isjoy and power in this work, and we wish you well in your endeavors.Jane ElderExecutive Director, The Biodiversity ProjectBuilding Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 7
  8. 8. I N T R O D U C T I O N A word of clarification about the use of the term “secular environ-Building Partnerships mental groups”: The United States is a deeply and broadlywith the Faith Community: religious nation. In most environmentalA Resource Guide for groups, whether national or local, and whether focusing onEnvironmental Groups biodiversity or addressing a numberIn the following manual, we seek to provide guidance for activists in the secular of environmentalenvironmental community on how to communicate and form partnerships issues, some memberswith colleagues in the religious community. Given the diversity of religious will be committed members of identifiedcommunities in the U.S. and their substantive conservation work, this is not religious communities.and should not be treated as a definitive guide. We hope, however, that it will Others will be deeplyprovide useful background about some portions of the U.S. religious community spiritual, although theyand present helpful suggestions for secular environmental groups. are not presently affili- ated with any particu-We also ask for a generous spirit and tolerance concerning semantics. When lar spiritual tradition.discussing important, complex matters like connections with spiritual motiva- Still others will truly betions and groups, language has its drawbacks. We cannot always use everyone’s “secular,” which alsopreferred term. For example, some people prefer the word “spiritual,” while means civil, worldly,others like the words “religious” or “faith-based.” These words are not com- temporal, or material.pletely interchangeable, but the concepts they represent overlap (please see We call such groupsGlossary for definitions of terms). To address this, we have used all these terms. “secular” not becauseIn addition, for the sake of clarity, we have, at times, used the term “secular,” we mean to imply that their membership isbut this is not meant to imply that individuals who work with secular groups entirely secular butare not also deeply spiritual or religious (please see sidebar on this page). rather to distinguish them from the spiritu-The first four chapters of the Guide cover the “why,” “how,” and “who.” They ally-based organiza-discuss the importance of partnerships between secular and religious conserva- tions and communities,tionists. They include suggestions for tone and perspective as secular environ- environmental andmental organizations work with their faith-based community colleagues, examples otherwise, that areof projects on which they may wish to collaborate, and ways to locate religious the subject of thiscommunity individuals with whom to work. In addition, it provides specific back- guide. We hope thatground about some U.S. religious denominations and organizations, including as “secular” groupscontact and resource information. The last three chapters provide some historical engage in outreachbackground and context. They include brief historical overviews, some Bible to spiritually basedquotes, and quotes from other religions to round out the picture of the immense communities and organizations, they willrichness of the interface between faith and the environment. Throughout this come to realize moreGuide, the focus is on outreach and partnership with Jewish and Christian and more how they tooreligious communities because these faith traditions are dominant in the U.S., are spiritually based.but we hope it will lead to work with other spiritual traditions too. We alsohope this will be a journey of fulfilling experiences and friendships.Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 9
  9. 9. C H A P T E R O N EI. The Value of Partnerships Between the Environmental andthe Religious CommunityThere are many reasons for people who care about conservation from secularand religious perspectives to work together. In part, these include the naturaloverlap that has always existed between the secular and spiritual environmentalworlds, the importance of the religious voice to policy makers and the generalpublic, and the long history of social action in the religious community. Harvardprofessor Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: America’s DecliningSocial Capitalism, has noted, “Religious affiliation is by far the most commonassociational membership among Americans. Indeed, by many measuresAmerica continues to be (even more than in Tocqueville’s time) an astonishingly‘churched’ society.”1A. The Religious Presence Has Always Been ThereSpiritual and faith-based reasons to protect the environment have always had a During his thousand-powerful presence in the environmental movement. Reflections on religious mile hike to thereasons to care about conservation have provided inspiration, sustenance, and Gulf of Mexico,joy in the long struggle to protect the earth. John Muir wrote During his thousand-mile hike to the Gulf of Mexico, John Muir wrote about animals heabout animals he encountered as “beautiful in the eyes of God . . . part of God’s encountered asfamily, unfallen, undepraved, and cared for with the same species of tenderness “beautiful in theas is bestowed on angels in heaven or saints on earth.”2 Prior to Muir, Henry eyes of God . . . part of God’s family,David Thoreau called the ancient forests of Mt. Katahdin “a specimen of what unfallen, undepraved,God saw fit to make this world.”3 These and other founders of today’s environ- and cared for withmental movement were motivated and counseled by their own spiritual convic- the same species oftions as they focused on the beauty, awe, and protection of God’s creation. tenderness as is The presence of the religious voice and spiritual motivation for individuals bestowed on angelswho care about conservation and biodiversity go back much farther. Thomas in heaven or saintsAquinas wrote in the thirteenth century: “God brought things into being in on earth.”order that His goodness might be communicated to creatures and be represent-ed by them. And because His goodness could not be adequately represented byone creature alone, He produced many and diverse creatures, that what waswanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be suppliedby another—and hence the whole universe together participates in the divinegoodness more perfectly, and represents it better, than any single creature what-ever.”4 For centuries, we have been inspired by the words of St. Francis ofAssisi, as he reminds us to treat animals with kindness: “Not to hurt ourhumble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. Wehave a higher mission—to be of service to them wherever they require it.”5 St.Francis was preceded by St. Hildegard of Bingen, who gives us beautiful imagesfor God’s love of the world: “As the Creator loves His creation, so creationBuilding Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 11 Chapter I: Value of Partnerships
  10. 10. God is the foundation loves the Creator. Creation, of course, was fashioned to be adorned, to befor everything. gifted with the love of the Creator, and the entire world has been embraced by this kiss.”6 There are many others, including the authors of Sefer Ha-Hinukh, aThis God undertakes,God gives such that seventh century Jewish guide to moral living, who wrote that “God’s desire isnothing that is for the endurance of God’s species . . . for under the watchful care of the Onenecessary for life who lives and endures forever . . . it (every species) will find enduring existenceis lacking. through God.”7 Moreover, long before these spiritual guides were speaking and writing,Now humankind Hebrew and Christian scriptures in the Bible imposed a responsibility uponneeds a body that humans to care for creation. One of the first commandments in the Bible is toat all times honors care for the Garden of Eden, “to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The Bibleand praises God. teaches that creation belongs to God: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it”This body is supported (Psalm 24:1) and “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land orin every way of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30).through the earth. These Scriptures also note that nature is a place to recognize God: “The God who made the world and everything in it . . . does not live in shrines made byThus the earth glorifies human hands” (Acts 17:24). “For what can be known about God is plain tothe power of God. them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the worldHildegard of Bingen 13 His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly per- ceived in the things that have been made” (see Romans 1: 19-20). In whispers and shouts, the world’s spiritual traditions speak to the impor- tance of conservation. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama writes that “all beings seem beautiful to us, beautiful birds, beautiful beasts,”8 and Buddhist hermits regard “unspoiled nature . . . as the most favourable environment for spiritual progress and true happiness.”9 The Qur’an notes that “The herbs and the trees adore [Him].”10 Hinduism’s foremost ethical principle is Ahimsa, or noninjury: “Ahimsa is not causing pain to any living being at any time through the actions of one’s mind, speech or body.”11 This idea has been a basis of the Chipko Andolan in India, where villagers have stopped destruction of their natural resources by hugging trees to prevent logging. And Navajo teachers counselWhen religious that “We the five-fingered beings are related to the four-legged, the wingedleaders explain that beings, the spiritual beings, Father Sky, Mother Earth, and nature. We are allspecies diversity relatives. We cannot leave our relatives behind.”12should be preservedbecause “God saw B. The Unique Dimensions of the Religious Message on Biodiversityall that God hadmade, and behold it One of the most lasting—and perhaps most significant—contributions thewas very good,” the religious community can make to biodiversity lies in its core teachings: thediscussion moves unique message it can proclaim about biodiversity. This message has sometimesaway from utilitarian transformed not just the particulars but the entire tone of the debate.calculations. For example, when religious leaders explain that species diversity should be preserved because “God saw all that God had made, and behold it was very good,” the discussion moves away from utilitarian calculations. While such considerations have their place, discussing biodiversity purely on utilitarian grounds sometimes leads to debates about the “usefulness” of a given species, which in turn can lead to “loggers vs. owls” conversations.Chapter I: 12 Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity ProjectValue of Partnerships
  11. 11. Similarly, describing the Endangered Species Act as a “Noah’s Ark” helps us Religious leadersunderstand that our relationship with the rest of the natural world is ancient. can help articulateEcology is not some modern fad that will fade away in a few years; it is part visions of society thatof an ancient tradition, a new word that describes very old relationships. provide powerful, More fundamentally, religious leaders can help articulate visions of society persuasive alternatives to the hyper-indi-and government’s role in that society in a manner that reaches well beyond vidualistic, anti-established environmental groups. Whether it is Catholic teachings about the government messagesimportance of the common good, Evangelical writings on how God’s owner- of environmentalship of all takes precedence over “property rights,” Protestant declarations of opponents.solidarity with the least powerful in society, or Jewish traditions about ourcommon responsibility to and for each other, these visions provide powerful,persuasive alternatives to the hyper-individualistic, anti-government messagesof environmental opponents. When we help religious leaders and groupsspread these messages (or sometimes help them realize just how importantand powerful such messages can be), we help build a stronger public com-mitment to biodiversity.C. Policy Makers Are Inclined to Listen to the Religious Community VoiceThe spiritual voice is important to the protection of the environment not onlybecause it is and always has been one of the key rationales for why we careabout conservation. It also is important because the religious communityaffects overall societal values, which in turn impact public policy and the O Lord, How manifoldelection of policy makers. are your works! In the Therefore, when policy makers hear the conservation message from a religious wisdom you haveperspective, they not only are moved by the spiritual tone, but also realize that made them all; thereligious community members have the potential to motivate a larger commu- earth is full of yournity in support of environmental protections. In addition, many policy makers creatures.were taught at an early age to respect religious messages and messengers,inclining them to be receptive to conservation rationales from a spiritual Psalm 104:24standpoint. When policy makers hear a conservation message from a religiouscommunity messenger, a wedge is driven in the stereotype some policy makershave about people who care about the environment, and driving a wedge instereotypes can be the first step in getting someone to listen. This powerfulcombination of religion and conservation makes the spiritual community oneof the most effective advocates for environmental protection. In recent years, the organized religious community’s effectiveness in askingpolicy makers to consider the importance of biodiversity has been witnessed anumber of times: for example, in the mid 1990s, when legislation was intro-duced to rewrite and seriously weaken the Endangered Species Act, and whenattempts were made to extend a rider that placed a moratorium on the listingof endangered species. Christian and Jewish leaders and constituents wroteletters and met with members of Congress expressing concern about theseefforts. The Evangelical Environmental Network held a packed press conference,and the National Council of Churches devoted an Earth Day mailing, whichwent to thousands of congregations, to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 13 Chapter I: Value of Partnerships
  12. 12. We must ask our- moratorium on listing was not renewed; and the anti-ESA rewrites have notselves as Americans, been passed. While it is impossible in any complex legislative battle exactly to“Can we really survive pinpoint the items that made the difference, it is instructive to watch the directthe worship of our reactions of members of Congress to various actions. When the religious com-own destructive- munity letters were delivered to the Hill, senators stood up the next day andness?” We do not read them during debate. When a member of Congress asked that pro-ESAexist in isolation. Our religious community letters be inserted in the hearing record of the Housesense of communityand compassionate Resources Committee, Chairman Young, sponsor of an anti-ESA bill, becameintelligence must be flustered and tried to prevent this normally routine action. (This was so unusualextended to all life that the Washington Post wrote a brief story about it.)forms, plants, animals, Similarly, in the years 1999 and 2000, letters to the Clinton-Gore Administrationrocks, rivers, and signed by over 2000 religious community leaders and activists urged adoptionhuman beings. This is of a strong policy to protect roadless areas in national forests. The first suchthe story of our past group letter was instrumental in gaining attention of the White House Chief ofand it will be the story Staff, an important step in the process toward an effective roadless rule. Inof our future. addition, religious community representatives testified at many of the 600 hearings held across the country pertaining to the roadless policy and submittedTerry Tempest letters during public comments periods on the rule. In its last days in office,Williams 14 the Clinton-Gore Administration issued a strong roadless policy. These and other instances are indications that policy makers pay close attention to communications from the religious community.Sixty-seven percent D. The General Public Cares About Religion—And Links Religionof the general public with the Environmentpolled believed thatbiodiversity should In the United States, 40-45 percent of the public consistently reports attendancebe protected because at religious services in any given week.15 According to polling and focus group“nature is God’s cre- data compiled by Lake Sosin Snell and Associates for the Biodiversity Projectation and humans Spirituality Working Group, 95 percent of American voters believe in God.should respect God’s Most of these voters are Protestant and Catholic Christians, with 40 percentwork.” These beliefs identifying themselves as born-again or Evangelical Christians. Also accordingprovide a powerful to this data, people in the United States appear to be fairly evenly divided overmotivation for envi- whether religious and spiritual values should influence politics.16ronmental concern A variety of faith-based beliefs among members of the public provide a pow-and action. erful motivation for environmental concern and action. In a 1996 Biodiversity Poll conducted by the research firm Belden & Russonello, 67 percent of the general public polled said they believed that biodiversity should be protected because “nature is God’s creation and humans should respect God’s work.”17 A recent multinational study “showed that people with more literal beliefs in the Bible tended to have . . . environmental concerns . . . rooted in the effects that this degradation will have for humans.”18 Similarly, polls and focus groups indicate that the most widespread values that underlie attitudes on the environ- ment are the responsibility to save the planet for future generations and the desire to have families live in a healthy, pleasing environment. These values are at least implicitly spiritual. In addition, nature’s explicit connection to God is an important value for many, though some see religion as a private association not concerned with the environment.Chapter I: 14 Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity ProjectValue of Partnerships
  13. 13. Messengers from spiritual communities can influence the public in a more A Prayer forbasic way. Explicitly linking conservation with religion can awaken new interest Awarenessin the environment among some members of the public, as they put the twotogether for the first time. In addition, like policy makers, some members of the Today we know of thegeneral public at times have narrow stereotypes of the kinds of people who energy that moves all things:care about conservation. The presence of religious community spokespersonscan debunk this stereotype, perhaps making these members of the public more The oneness ofreceptive to the conservation message. existence, The diversity and uniqueness of every moment of creation, Every shape and form, The attraction, the alurement, The fascination that all things have for one another, Humbled by our knowledge, Chastened by surprising revelations, With awe and reverence we come before the mystery of life. Rev. Daniel Martin 19Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 15 Chapter I: Value of Partnerships
  14. 14. C H A P T E R T W OII. Outreach Approaches and ToneIf you are part of the environmental community, remember that it is entirelyappropriate for you to work with the religious community. Several items,including the spiritual grounding of some of the founders of today’s secularenvironmental movement, show that there always has been a connectionbetween the two—that in many instances there has been a great deal of overlapas people motivated in whole or part by spiritual concerns have helped buildsecular environmental groups.Secular and religious environmentalists can help each other, combining theinspiration and power of the religious voice with the ecological expertise andresources often found in secular groups. This is a significant partnership thatcan make a difference.A. Services the Environmental Community Can OfferWhen approaching religious groups, clearly show what you and others in thesecular environmental community can offer in this relationship—not only In part, secularsolid information about important subjects, but exciting possibilities to make environmentala difference on critical issues. Relate anecdotes about how environmental groups can offeractivities have brought new energy, excitement, and people, especially young the religiouspeople, to other congregations engaged in caring for creation. The more you community:can offer, the more likely it is that religious leaders and groups will want to • Additional excitingwork closely with you. Here are five things that you and others in the secular possibilities toconservation community can offer religious groups: make a difference on critical issues1. Information through outreachYou and others in secular environmental groups can provide substantial, activities;well-documented information that members of the religious community canuse to inform themselves. These data will help faith community conservation • Substantial, well-activists answer questions and defend their own positions in favor of protecting documented, andbiodiversity. You have a great deal of scientific and economic data that show accurate ecologicalthe trends in biodiversity and why biodiversity is important. This information and economicalso demonstrates that conservation in general and the protection of biodiversity information; andare not harmful to the economy and are necessary for long-term economic • Assistance aswell-being. If this information, with footnotes, can be compiled succinctly and religious groupsgiven to spiritual community activists, it can aid their efforts considerably. reach out to policyFor example of ways to impart information, members of Aldersgate United makers and theMethodist Church in Tustin, CA, have sponsored educational programs, media.including a potluck dinner discussion on global warming, facilitated by ascientist from the Union of Concerned Scientist, and an Earth Watch columnis included in the congregation’s newsletter. 20Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 17 Chapter II: Outreach Approaches and Tone
  15. 15. 2. Assistance and Staffing You and others in environmental groups can offer to assist religious community members when they decide to take action. For example, if faith community individuals have a message to deliver to policy makers, you can help arrange the meeting with policy makers, gather ecological and economic information useful for the meeting, and perhaps attend in partnership with the religious community persons. Similarly, if religious community activists wish to do out- reach to other members of their congregation, you can help compile fact sheets that may be useful and even help find speakers if appropriate. Essentially, you are helping to staff the activities of your religious partners. 3. Trainings When appropriate, you and others in secular environmental organizations can provide, or help with, a variety of activism trainings for religious groups, such as media and message trainings, and information about the legislative process. Or the trainings can be on ecological activities, such as habitat restoration, community gardening, energy audits, green buildings, watershed assessments, simple living, etcetera. Allied Voices has conducted trainings for the Endangered Species Coalition on how to partner with religious conservation activists on biodiversity issues; for more information about these trainings, contact Suellen Lowry at (707) 826-1948, or 4. Education You and other secular environmentalists can offer your substantial ecological and economic information for use in religious community educational settings. Don’t underestimate the value of helping to provide interesting topics for sermons or religious school classes. If you have readily available materials that focus on the ecological and economic reasons to care about conservation, religious institutions (from seminaries and religious colleges to pre-K-12 schools, camps, and day care centers) may be willing to integrate environmental education into their curriculum. This ecological and economic information can be coupled with spiritual information, such as Bible study guides, to create a fully rounded curriculum. For example, Holladay United Church of Christ, Holladay, UT, engages creative worship services to draw attention to issues such as biodiversity. An Earth Day service features a congregation elder playing the role of St. Francis, while animals from the local zoo receive blessings in the sanctuary; prayers and Bible verses focus on the interdependence of all life. Children are introduced to injured local creatures, brought in by the Utah Wildlife Rehabilitation Association, and learn about their lifestyles and healing processes. Ongoing education and systematic attention to energy consumption round out Holladay’s environmental programs.21 5. Church and State Guidelines Tax status and church/state issues are often raised by religious leaders who are relatively new to social justice activism. Many denominations publish very clear guidelines on activism, tax status, and church/state concerns for their congrega-Chapter II: 18 Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity ProjectOutreach Approachesand Tone
  16. 16. tions. Though you should not give legal advice to religious groups, you andother secular environmentalists can point out that speaking on environmentalissues in no way threatens the tax status of religious groups. The main activityreligious leaders must avoid is the endorsement of candidates for politicaloffice. Similarly, as long as they do not try to establish a religious test for apolitical office, speaking about how their religious values relate to modernpolicy questions does not intrude on church/state separation. The organization Tone in outreach:Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a succinct guideabout religious groups, political activity, and the IRS. You can view it at • Keep in mind the spiritual pres- ence has alwaysB. Tone in Outreach to Members of the Religious Community been part of the larger conservationAs you reach out to your colleagues in the religious community, it is important keep a few key facts and principles in mind, some of which also apply toother types of organizing, and some that pertain to the religious community • When makingonly. And it is important to avoid mistakes that have at times needlessly separated choices aboutthe two worlds. outreach efforts, make those that will strengthen the1. Sincere Respect for Potential Religious Community Partners relationship, and ifa. It is crucial that you and other people with secular environmental groups necessary, chooseremember that you do not own environmentalism, and that the spiritual presence maintaining posi-has always been part of the larger conservation movement. It is inaccurate and tive relationshipsinsulting to treat religious community members as if they are new to caring completing short-about conservation or are somehow “non-traditional” voices in the conservation term “We’re so glad you’re [finally] getting involved” is a misguided statement.“We’re so glad to be partnering together more” is great. • Treat every individ- ual as a VIP.b. Make choices that will strengthen your relationship with the religiouscommunity. Choose maintaining positive relationships over completing short- • Avoid discussionsterm tasks, if necessary. This guiding principle is instrumental to building a that compare values of humanspartnership with members of the religious community. In the long run, this versus flora andnetwork must exist for the environmental movement to prevail. The key is fauna.finding many people with whom to partner in your work to protect the earth;and no single action is worth jeopardizing these relationships. Therefore, always • Have a sincerethink long term, taking the time to build lasting partnerships and dialogue. respect for religiousOnce these partnerships are built, do not jeopardize them. beliefs and people motivated by them.c. Approach everyone as a potential, highly-regarded partner, not as someonewho’s just useful. It works best to treat every individual in the religious com- • Be careful not tomunity as a VIP, as indeed they all are. In addition, since partnerships are a write off peopletwo-way street, be open to learning from and listening to your religious coun- because of religious,terparts. Ask experts from the religious community sincerely for their opinions class, or educationand guidance. Also, if you are approaching someone in the religious community differences.about engaging in a particular project, take time to explain the context orgenesis of this project, while being open to guidance.Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 19 Chapter II: Outreach Approaches and Tone
  17. 17. d. Religious community members may be wary about you and others from secular environmental groups because they are concerned that you privately “look down on” or denigrate religious beliefs. Avoid discussions about com- paring the values of humans versus plants, animals, etc. Conservationists from secular organizations who work with faith communities must have a sincere respect for a wide array of religious beliefs and the people who are motivated by them. Be careful not to write off people because of religious, class, or education differences. 2. Some Internal Concerns of Clergy and Lay Members a. Religious community members are busy on a great variety of issues. Clergy typically deal with the needs of congregants, a more than full-time job by itself, as well as manage buildings, direct schools, lead services, and then try to carveInternal concerns: out time to work on a wide array of social justice concerns, one of which might be conservation. No church or synagogue focuses entirely on environ-• Be scrupulous mental issues, and it is the rare clergy person who has been told by congregants about respecting that they joined that church or synagogue because of its environmental work. the time constraints The clergy person or lay activist may not have previously given much thought of your spiritual to environmental concerns, especially biodiversity. In addition, religious com- partners. munity conservation activists often try to make a difference on a multitude of environmental issues, so they are spread very thin.• Think about people’s personal Therefore, be scrupulous about respecting the time constraints of your and broader needs. religious partners. Don’t overwhelm them initially either with reams of back- ground information or with huge demands on their time. Approach them• Understand the about time-limited, specific tasks that really make a difference, and don’t ask current pressures them to drop everything for time-consuming involvement in a last-minute with which congre- effort. Once you have successfully worked together, you may be able to move gational leaders are on to more complicated aspects of biodiversity and/or more long-term, time- coping, including intensive projects. Along these same lines, you can perform a substantial service diminishing numbers for your spiritual community partners by gathering accurate ecological and other in some cases. background information for them and offering to help in other appropriate ways.• Show the diversity b. In working with individuals, think about their personal and broader needs. of your leadership Help people involved in projects get to know each other, not just show up for to religious activists. an event. Use tactics that appeal to public stature, such as arranging face-to- face meetings with members of Congress and other policy makers. Also, in some spiritual communities, there is a great deal of interest in interfaith and interracial efforts. If your activity offers this, it is a big attraction. Finally, understand that the faith community individuals with whom you are working may have ongoing relationships with the labor and business communities. c. It is important to understand the current pressures with which clergy and congregational leaders are coping. Some denominations are dealing with dimin- ishing numbers and congregations seceding from the national denomination due to theological and policy differences. Furthermore, in some places there is a movement among individuals to discourage dollars from congregations goingChapter II: 20 Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity ProjectOutreach Approachesand Tone
  18. 18. to the national denominational structure, because they view the national How to engagestructures as too progressive. in dialogue:d. Many spiritual communities have long-standing commitments to diversity • Step back and askin their own leadership, reflecting the great diversity within their pews. Such yourself, “What would I be thinkinggroups are particularly sensitive to criticisms of the environmental movement if I had never beforeas an elitist concern held by upper-class white males. Be sure to show the considered doingdiversity of your leadership to religious activists—and if your group and its anything pertainingleadership are not diverse, you might think about asking for help from religious to biodiversityleaders to increase your diversity. issues?”3. Communication—How to Engage in Dialogue • Make sure the tonea. When you call or meet with someone in the religious community for the first is not, “you’d betime, step back and ask yourself, “What would I be thinking if I had never useful to me,” butbefore considered doing anything pertaining to biodiversity issues?” or “What “maybe we canwould I be thinking if I had never before seriously considered working with a partner on this tosecular environmental group on biodiversity issues?” accomplish some- People work together best when they have established personal connection thing.”and understanding. Therefore, share a little about yourself—who you are, why • Avoid strident-you care, and what sustains you. If you are calling about a particular project, sounding a little about its genesis and why it makes sense to spend time on it. Do not “put down” Make sure the tone is not, “you’d be useful to me,” but “maybe we can your opponents aspartner on this to accomplish something we both care about.” people. In the first few seconds of the call, ask if the person has time to talk. If not,schedule another time to call. • Reach out to lay members of theb. When you work with religious community members, avoid strident-sounding religious communitytones. Unfortunately, like the spiritual community, the secular conservation as well as labors under stereotypes at times, and one of these is that thesecular environmental movement is “wild eyed” and too radical. Stridentsounding tones, while necessary and appropriate in some places, can be troublingto people who may be considering a partnership with their secular groupcolleagues. Even words like “attack” can be troublesome—so, for example, it’soften better to say members of Congress are “seriously undermining” environ-mental protections, rather than “attacking” the protections. After drafting a letter,action alert, fact sheet, and so on, that will be shared with faith communityindividuals, read it one last time for any words that they may perceive as beinga little sharp, and change them; the power of the piece will not be diminished,and it will be accepted much more readily if it is worded carefully.c. Deliver your message without appearing to be “putting down” your opponentsas people, and avoid criticism of individuals who are not taking pro-conservationstands. Especially in the present political climate, it is easy to fall into habits ofdemonizing one’s political opponents. Direct your passion for biodiversity atthe issue itself and not at the person who may stand in the way of environ-mental goals. Some spiritual traditions believe “that of God” is in all persons;Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 21 Chapter II: Outreach Approaches and Tone
  19. 19. many are guided by various versions of the admonition to love our neighbors as ourselves. In addition, in a given congregation, one may find business leaders as well as environmentalists, property rights activists as well as biodiversity activists. If religious leaders feel that they can’t speak about environmental issues without directly attacking members of their own congregation, they may avoid the subject altogether. Give spiritual leaders the tools they need to express concern about environ- mental issues without ignoring legitimate questions about the consequences of environmental regulations. Once trust has been established, religious leaders may help bring other sectors to the table ready to work with the conservation community. In other cases, a trusting relationship may enable a religious leader to condemn practices by congregants that need condemning. d. Do not seek to communicate only with clergy. Influential religious community activists on conservation issues are often lay members of their spiritual affilia- tion. Clergy are ordained persons within a religious group, such as ministers or rabbis; lay persons are the non-clergy, non-ordained individuals. Lay persons can have quite senior roles in their denominations. 4. Communication—What to Talk About and Avoid Discussing a. In reaching out to members of the religious community, make a connection with issues on which the individuals are already working. Many clergy and religious community activists have worked for years on social justice issues. In the 1960s, many sectors of the religious community focused a great deal of energy on desegregation and racial justice, the War on Poverty, and Vietnam. Faith communities began focusing more on current environmental public policies in the 1970s, and this involvement has been growing. But the struggle for justice in other important areas goes on and needs to be respected. Make connections between social justice and biodiversity wherever possible. Make the connection between the needs of poor people and conservation. For example, legislation about cleaning up brown fields connects the issues of toxics, poverty, jobs, and ecological health of a community. Community gardens address concerns about food equity and access to fresh produce, employment opportunities for low-income neighborhoods, and green space in inner cities. Almost all denominations have national, regional, or local newspapers or newsletters (e.g., most Episcopal and Catholic dioceses have newspapers). Get copies of a few for a feeling about current issues important to them. Also, denominations and some congregations now have web pages, which contain a great deal of information; the web pages usually can be found by doing a search using the denomination’s name (see also the Profiles of Faith-Based Organizations section). In addition, most newspapers have religious pages that appear every Saturday; begin reading these pages. b. There is an image that environmentalists care about trees and critters but not people; when you talk with faith community individuals, use your message to dispel this misconception. While not couching everything in utilitarian terms,Chapter II: 22 Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity ProjectOutreach Approachesand Tone
  20. 20. explain how conservation is important to people, especially making clear What to say:how poor and oppressed people are affected by the environment aroundthem. Make both arguments: biodiversity is important because it supports • Make a connectionand sustains people (through ecosystem services); and biodiversity is important with issues onbecause species are inherently valuable as part of God’s creation. Biodiversity which individuals already are working,helps humanity understand ourselves better in a broader context, and can showing the rela-nurture our values. In other words, biodiversity is important to today’s families tionship betweenand future generations, and biodiversity should be protected because nature is biodiversity andGod’s handiwork. social justice.c. Many in the religious community consider conservation a justice issue, • Emphasize thebecause it is just to protect all of creation and because safeguarding the envi- many reasonsronment is key to economic justice for workers and families throughout the biodiversity isworld. In much of the religious community, the term “environmental justice” important,pertains to all conservation, justice for all of God’s creation; it does not pertain including species’only to environmental racism. The term “eco-justice” was coined in the mid- inherent value1970s, based on looking at the intersection of ecological and economic issues and biodiversity’sand working on them together. importance to people.d. Make sure your message sticks to the topic of conservation; just because you • Limit your messageand an individual agree on conservation does not mean you will agree on other to conservationissues. When talking about the position stands of members of Congress, for issues only; justexample, it is sometimes easy to begin praising or criticizing them for their because you and anpositions on non-environmental issues. Unless you have developed a true friend- individual agree onship with the religious community members, you are on dangerous ground conservation doesbecause you cannot assume they will be comfortable with your opinions on not mean you willthese other issues. Usually the faith community individuals are gracious enough agree on otherto ignore these tangential comments, but you can’t count on this generosity. issues.e. Stress that the involvement of a spiritual voice in conservation issues often • Stress that themakes a big difference. Use examples and anecdotes. involvement of the spiritual voice often makes a bigf. When you approach religious groups, be sure you don’t bring more than agenda with you. Resist the urge to discuss your own religious issues—anything from questions about God to old baggage from a mean religiousschoolteacher. While at least some of these questions might be appropriateonce a trusting relationship is built, they often can block the building of thatrelationship if they become too prominent too early on, especially when theytake on negative tones, denouncing religion as patriarchy or the like.Approach religious groups with an open mind, a significant commitment tolistening, and only one item on the agenda—building a working relationshipon environmental concerns.g. Do not invoke scripture or theology unless you have a theological backgroundor you are speaking from your own personal experience and religious tradition.Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 23 Chapter II: Outreach Approaches and Tone
  21. 21. h. You may run across an argument either (as sometimes raised by secular envi- ronmentalists) blaming religious communities for environmental destruction or (as sometimes raised by members of some religious communities) denigrating environmental concerns, based on their interpretation of Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them and God said to them, ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” This is not as hard to respond to as it might first appear. Christian environmentalists often point out that their “dominion” is sup- posed to be modeled after the dominion of Jesus, who came to serve those over whom He had dominion and for whom He gave His very life. So we, according to this view, should serve the rest of the planet, giving from our lives to ensure its health. Jewish environmentalists point to the traditional Jewish understand- ing of this passage, which notes that Adam and Eve, for example, are not allowed to eat meat and are, just a few sentences later (Genesis 2:15) com- manded to serve and protect the earth. Thus, according to this tradition, “dominion” is not to be understood as domination. Rather it is a recognition that humans do indeed have the power to greatly affect the world aroundThere’s a temptation them—and that therefore careful, caring stewardship is even more want to geteveryone on board. i. Be aware that some people and organizations are critical of the partnershipInstead, spend your between religious and environmental groups. To learn more about some ofenergy where it ismost fruitful, finding these organizations and their positions, see the following websites: Actiona few who are Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty at; Interfaithalready inclined to Council for Environmental Stewardship at; and Nationalpartner with you. Center for Policy Analysis at 5. Work with Individuals, One Step at a Time Don’t get discouraged. At times, it may take days to find one person in the religious community who will work with you, but you will find someone, and then the activity of that one individual will make a difference. There’s a temptation to want to get everyone on board. Instead, spend your energy where it is most fruitful, finding a few who are already inclined to partner with you. Then, when appropriate, see if these people in the religious community can give you guidance and help in recruiting others. For example, once you have a good working relationship with one member of the clergy, he or she can be extremely useful in making contacts with other area clergy, as clergy are often more responsive to calls from colleagues than from secular groups. C. Finding Religious Community Partners 1. Religious Community Partners within Secular Groups Many members of environmental organizations also are active in faith com- munities. They are quite capable of, and may be interested in, speaking from a religious perspective to policy makers and the media. They just need to be asked. Therefore, think about your membership, perhaps even conduct anChapter II: 24 Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity ProjectOutreach Approachesand Tone
  22. 22. informal survey, to determine if any of your members would be interested in Learn about thebeing active from their spiritual perspective. One of the advantages of finding issues important toan existing religious community voice within your organization is that these denominations andindividuals already are comfortable with you and your focus. In addition, your other religiousown religious community members can be helpful in reaching out to others in groups through the following:the faith community. Similarly, if you or others in your organization are active in your own faith • Religious com-community, this also can be a great source of additional religious conservation munity magazines,voices and activities. You can work within your own congregation, by starting newspapers, anda study group, a church property habitat restoration project, an energy audit or newsletters;green building survey, and so on. An excellent resource for how to get startedin your own congregation is Earth Ministry’s Creation Awareness and Care in • Denominational orYour Congregation, available through; the website Web organizational webof Creation also has great ideas and resources at pages; and2. Finding People Within Denominations and Organizations • Reading theMost denomination have a structure with national and regional offices. To find Saturday religiousa partner in the religious community, it is often best to call the denomination’s page in city news-local or regional office (e.g., the synod, conference, diocese, or presbytery papers.offices, which are all based on geographic divisions). See the Profiles of Faith-Based Organizations section for more information. You can take one or more of the following steps to find these denominationalregional or local offices:a. Call any local individual church within the denomination on which you arefocusing. Look in the phone book yellow pages under “churches” to locate thenames and phone numbers of individual churches. When you call, ask thechurch receptionist for the phone number of the denomination’s local orregional administrative office. (It helps to use the specific name for the type ofadministrative office, such as synod, presbytery, or diocese office.)b. Check the phone book for major cities in your area, or call directory assis-tance for these cities. Look both in the business pages and under “churches” inthe yellow pages.c. Look up the denomination on the web (see Profiles of Faith-BasedOrganizations for some website addresses). Denominational websites some-times include phone numbers for regional offices within the denomination;they also have a wealth of additional information. If you don’t have a specificweb address, search using the denominational or organizational name. Goodwebsites to search are also the: • Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life,; • Evangelical Environmental Network,; • Forum on Religion and Ecology,; • National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Eco-Justice Working Group,;Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 25 Chapter II: Outreach Approaches and Tone
  23. 23. Find religious • National Religious Partnership for the Environment,;community partners: • U.S. Catholic Conference Environmental Justice Program,; and• Within your own • Web of Creation, organization;• Through checking Once you have located a denomination’s regional office, consider taking the the yellow pages of following steps: the phone book; a. Explain to the staff person in the denominational office who you are and• Through web why you are looking for someone in the denomination. searches (A good place to start is the b. Ask if the regional office staff person can give you names and phone num- Web of Creation bers of clergy or lay members in the denomination who have an interest in website at www.webofcre- environmental justice, eco-justice, earth stewardship, earthkeeping, or “caring, the for creation” issues. Religious community activists who are not clergy can be National Religious quite effective, so don’t ask just for clergy names. Partnership for the Environment c. If the staff people in the denomination’s regional office do not have names website at of people interested in conservation, ask if the denomination has a local or, regional social justice committee and if you can have the names and phone or the National numbers of this committee’s leaders. There also are some national conservation Council of offices within the religious community you may wish to call; they are mentioned Churches in the overview of specific denominations. website at; 3. Denomination-Related Schools• Through calling Denominations also have affiliations with various colleges, universities, and denominational seminaries (as well as elementary and secondary schools for many denomina- regional offices; tions). Religion department and science department professors and students at such institutions can be great activists. You also can find faith community• In social justice people in religious studies departments at secular colleges and universities. You and conservation probably are aware of colleges with religious affiliations in your area. You may groups within denominations; find other such colleges by researching denominations on the web or asking a denomination’s regional office. Also see the Web of Creation website at• At colleges and universities affiliated with 4. Conservation and Social Justice Organizations within Denominations denominations; In the 1980s and 1990s, several groups that focus on environmental issues,• Through interfaith often expressed as “caring for God’s creation,” formed within denominations and ecumenical and religious communities (e.g., Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, groups. Environmental Justice Coordinators within the United Methodist Church, and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life). In addition, for many years there have been denominational groups that work on social justice issues; these tend to have experience in public policy advocacy. Individuals in denominational local/regional offices may know about leaders and activists in these groups who could have an interest in working with you.Chapter II: 26 Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity ProjectOutreach Approachesand Tone
  24. 24. Ask for names of people who are active with the denomination’s environmental The greatest beauty isjustice/stewardship and social justice organizations. organic wholeness, the wholeness of life5. Ecumenical and Interfaith Groups and thing, the divineMost communities have ecumenical and interfaith groups, and many commu- beauty of the universe. Love that, not mannities have groups of clergy who get together regularly. Once you are working apart from that.with individual members of the religious community, ask about these ecumenicaland interfaith groups and the possibility of connecting with them. The Robinson Jeffers22National Council of Churches at is a good website to checkfor interfaith initiatives on a national scale. Among our shared beliefs are an intrinsic value of nature, a respect for all life and a commitment to inter- generational obliga- tions. We strive for a healthy environment and understand the global connectedness and interrelatedness of healthy natural and healthy human com- munities. We believe in the power of knowl- edge and information to change the world and in democratic governance, guided by the principles of jus- tice, fairness and mutual respect. We are motivated by a love of place and the beauty of the natural world. From the Green Group Mission StatementBuilding Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 27 Chapter II: Outreach Approaches and Tone
  25. 25. C H A P T E R T H R E EIII. Types of Activities for PartnershipsThe partnership between secular and faith community environmentalists can When you contacttake many valuable, varied forms, depending on the situation. The following religious communitydiscusses just a few such activities that are taking place throughout the U.S. individuals about attending meetingsA. Meeting with Policy Makers with policy makers, you are offeringAs noted above, policy makers are often disposed to listen to the spiritual com- to partner with religious communitymunity voice. Such communication is most effective when it occurs in a face-to- individuals on aface meeting with the policy maker. No matter how technologically sophisticat- relatively risk-free,ed we become, nothing replaces direct conversations, especially when the topic time-limited task.concerns spiritual matters. When you contact individuals in the religious community about attending It is a good ideameetings with policy makers, you are offering to partner on a relatively risk- to end the meetingfree, time-limited task. It is relatively risk free because these are private, small between policymeetings not held in the public eye, and time limited because the initial project makers, environ-only involves reading a little background information and attending one local mental, and religiousmeeting. members with It should be clear that the faith community meeting participants are only suggestions forbeing asked to share their existing areas of expertise at the meeting. how to continueFurthermore, they do not have to be theologians to speak out; their personal the dialogue.message about why they care from a spiritual standpoint is powerful. All these factors, plus genuine excitement over the possibility of influencingpolicy makers, often result in religious community individuals generouslyagreeing to attend such meetings. When religious com- You and others in secular environmental groups can facilitate policy maker munity individualsmeetings by doing the time-consuming, non-glamorous work of communicating meet with theirwith policy makers to schedule the meetings. In addition, you can provide policy makers, youpeople attending the meetings with useful ecological and economic background and others in secularinformation. It can be very helpful for environmentalists familiar with public environmentalpolicy to attend these meetings, to provide policy information, and to answer groups can providequestions. Once you have worked on one policy-maker meeting together, a a number of crucialrelationship between you and a religious community individual often has been services. Forformed, and other activities may flow from this. example, you can help schedule Such meetings can also begin or deepen relationships between policy makers meetings, provideand people from their local spiritual community who care about conservation. ecological andThus, it is a good idea to end the meeting with suggestions for how to continue economic back-the dialogue. For example, invite the policy maker to attend a coffee at a local ground informationcongregation, visit a local green area being protected by a religious group, and and policy analyses,so on. and perhaps attend An Allied Voices project conducted under the auspices of Earthjustice Legal the meetings.Defense Fund is an example of meetings taking place between policy makers,Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity Project 29 Chapter III: Types of Activities
  26. 26. faith-based members, scientists, and environmental policy experts. Since the spring of 1997, Allied Voices has facilitated over 130 meetings between members of Congress and two or three constituents from their religious, scientific, and secular environmental communities. These meetings occurred in the congressional home state and district offices. In several places, people have reported having very powerful and successful meetings. Since the mid-1990s, Allied Voices has also initiated partnership projects between religious organi- zations and the Endangered Species Coalition. For more information about how these programs were developed, contact Suellen Lowry, (707) 826-1948, B. Media Outreach 1. Be Careful Media events can be excellent tools to communicate the spiritual reasons for caring about the environment. However, be careful when encouraging religious conservationists to use the media. By their very nature, media activities are notBe careful whenencouraging religious private. There have been instances of religious community individuals beingconservationists to targeted for criticism when they’ve taken a pro-conservation public media work. Also, reporters can be a cynical, tough audience. Therefore, never push reli-By their very nature, gious community individuals to be media spokespersons unless they are quitemedia activities are comfortable with this role.not private. 2. Specific Media ActivitiesAlmost all religious Religious community environmentalists who are comfortable speaking to thecommunities have media can pursue a number of activities, such as write letters to the editor andpublications, oftenat the regional join op ed campaigns, or sponsor an event or conference, such as Earth Day.or national levels, You can help by researching newspapers’ requirements for letters to the editorwhich may be or op eds (e.g., recommended length, fax number of journalist to whom thewilling to publish item should be sent, other information the paper may require, and whether it’sarticles. necessary to do a follow-up call to an op ed page editor). You can also help gather background information, collect sample drafts of letters, or help organize and staff an event. When considering the types of media professionals to contact with a reli- gious community message, don’t neglect religious page reporters, editors, and columnists. For most newspapers, the religious page is published on Saturdays. 3. Religious Community Publications Almost all religious communities have publications, often at the regional and national levels. These publications may be willing to publish articles and op eds or columns written by people who care about conservation from a spiritual standpoint. Once you have a relationship with religious community members who care about conservation, you may wish to ask them about this possibility. Again, you may be able to help by gathering background information for articles. Also, sometimes a meeting with a policy maker can be enough of a story for publication in local and regional religious media, especially if a pictureChapter III: 30 Building Partnerships with the Faith Community from The Biodiversity ProjectTypes of Activities