Friday, December 3, 2021

Recommended Reading: Climate Change, Natural Disasters, and the UMC in Zimbabwe

United Methodist News Service published a piece earlier this week entitled, "Storms destroy two church institutions in Zimbabwe." This headline accurately sums up the main event in the story, but it omits what I found most interesting. In commenting on the disaster, UMC Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa remarked, "Within 24 hours, all roofs were blown off from buildings at our two institutions by a heavy, windy storm. Experts are saying that it is because of the change in the climate," adding, "We never used to get cyclones in Zimbabwe."

While it is impossible to ascribe any particular storm solely to the effects of climate change, Nhiwatiwa is right that climate change is driving more extreme and often more harmful weather. This connection prompts a reminder and an open-ended question.

First, the reminder: While climate change is polarized along liberal / conservative lines in the United States, that is not true elsewhere. The politics of climate change look very different outside the United States, so US United Methodists should resist making assumptions about the environmental views of United Methodists outside the United States based on other political or theological positions.

Second, the question: The UMC is well-known for its disaster response work through UMCOR, both within the United States and globally. What happens to that ministry focus in a world changed by climate where there are increasingly more disasters, many more than the UMC and UMCOR could ever respond to?

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