By Bob Allen
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter challenged faith leaders in Washington for this week’s papal visit to “reawaken your actual love of God’s world” during a Sept. 24 service at the National Cathedral focusing on creation care.
“We are not loving God’s world if we’re only talking about God’s world, or viewing it as a commodity, however beautiful, to consume,” Paynter said in remarks at Coming Together in Faith on Climate, a gathering of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other national religious leaders expressing interdenominational support for the pope’s call to action on climate change and creation care.
“Home begins at love,” Paynter said. “Use your imagination to experience God as creator. Use your worship place to feature his creation. Use your prayer to touch his creation and let love beget advocacy.”
Invited to events surrounding Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States because of the 1,900-church Fellowship’s reputation for support of religious liberty and ministry to the “least of these,” Paynter has met during the week with faith and government leaders to discuss international religious freedom, global poverty and ending hunger.
She joined more than 100 faith leaders Monday on the eve of the pope’s arrival at the Interfaith Religious Leaders Summit calling for a shift in the country’s national priorities and to end hunger by 2030.
On Tuesday Paynter attended a luncheon in honor of Pope Francis hosted by the United States Agency for International Development and met with Rabbi David Saperstein, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
On Wednesday she met with the leadership of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a global religious freedom advocacy organization.
Paynter planned on Friday to join more than 150 faith leaders at the National Cathedral to watch the address of Pope Francis to the United Nations in New York City and share ideas for how congregations, communities and the nation can support the Pope’s call to climate action.
Thursday’s event on the environment included a public letter applauding the pope’s environmental encyclical, Laudato Si, and pledging to meet “our moral obligation to our common home.”
The group called on people of faith to engage on environment-oriented issues, form clean energy groups within their faith communities, make environmentally responsible personal and congregational investments, ask candidates and elected officials to make climate issues a top priority, and to stay informed and educate others about how to better care for God’s creation.
“We are all bound together in a fragile ecology of life, human dignity, and grace,” the letter said. “In recognition of the moral urgency of the time in which we live and the ways that we have failed to protect our common home, we are coming together now in faith to address changing climates.”
— With reporting by Aaron Weaver and Carrie McGuffin of CBF communications.