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The United Methodist Church and Organizational Policies on Environmental Justice


United Methodist Women are governed by several layers of Church policy that form the foundation for implementing environmentally just guidelines when planning events.


The Social Principles


‘The Social Principles’ found in The Book of Discipline for the United Methodist Church serves as the base for the entire Church’s call to environmentally just action.  Below are relevant excerpts:


The Natural World


‘All creation is the Lord’s and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it.  Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.  Therefore we repent of our devastation of the physical and non-human world.  Further, we recognize the responsibility of the church toward lifestyle and systemic changes in society that will promote a more ecologically just world and a better quality of life for all creation...’


The Social Community


‘We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God.  We therefore work toward societies in which each person's value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened.  We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection...we recognize racism as a sin...’


The Economic Community


‘We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less that other facets of the created order... We believe private and public economic enterprises are responsible for the social costs of doing business, such as employment and environmental pollution, and that they should be held accountable for these costs...’


General Conference Resolutions


Caring for Creation  2000

Shows the Church’s commitment to protecting and preserving the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.


The Church and God's creation  -  1996

Encourage a simplified and environmentally sound lifestyle throughout the Church.


A Dioxin-Free Future  -  2000

Calls on cancer research organizations to move to a prevention-based approach to cancer research and funding, including more studies on the relationship between cancer and chlorine-based toxins in the environment.  The United Methodist Church supports a phase out of the production of dioxin, beginning with the immediate action on the three largest sources of dioxin:  incineration of chlorine containing wastes, bleaching of pulp and paper with chlorine, and the entire life cycle of polyvinyl chloride plastic.  The Church supports worker production programs for people working in industries that make toxic chemicals or result in toxic by-product and related chemicals, who may lose their jobs with a phase out of these chemicals. 


A Dioxin-Free  Future  -  1996

Calls for the phase-out of processes that create dioxin


Steps Toward a Dioxin-Free Future  2000

Lays out specific steps that the Church should take towards a chlorine-free future:


1)         Challenges al United Methodist-related health care institutions, United Methodist health care professionals and workers, and United Methodist individuals and congregations to begin immediately to take action to change health care policies and practices in order to stop the harm being caused by the nonessential incineration of medical waste and by generating a waste stream that is more toxic than necessary.


2)         Urges all health care facilities to explore ways to reduce or eliminate their use of PVC plastics.


3)         Calls upon all health care professionals and workers to encourage health care institutions with which they are associated to adopt policies that will lead to the reduction and elimination of the use of PVC plastics.


4)         Suggests that health care facilities hire or assign professional staff to evaluate the potential for persistent toxic pollution associated with the life-cycle of products the facility purchases.


5)         Strongly urges medical suppliers to develop, produce and bring to market appropriate, cost-competitive products that can replace those that contain PVC or other chlorinated plastics.  Any substitution for a chlorinated plastic product must provide a less toxic alternative with concern for the full public health implications of the replacement, including infectious considerations.


6)         Encourages government oversight agencies and private accrediting bodies to incorporate requirements for education about the reduction of toxic pollution in their certification standards.


7)         Encourages study and evaluation of alternative products and practices that will lead to the reduction and elimination of the use of PVC products; also encourages programs to provide technical assistance and training to health care facilities that seek help in the reduction of their reliance on chlorinated plastics.


Environmental Justice for a Sustainable Future  2000, 1996

Calls on the focus on the conversion to sustainable practices in the following areas:  atmosphere, earth, water and energy.  Calls on the agencies and the local congregations to become involved in sustainable practices.


Environmental Justice for a Sustainable Future  -  1992

Calls for developing worship, mission, and social action programs related to ecological justice; call for annual conferences and local churches to become involved in sustainable practices


Environmental Racism  -  2000, 1996, 1992

Calls for church programs to combat environmental racism; to reduce use of hazardous chemicals; to become aware of the social and health impact of how waste is disposed


Environmental Stewardship - 2000

Offers principles of environmental stewardship and calls all United Methodists to implement them


God's Creation and the Church  2000

Calls on the church to adopt fresh ways to respond to the perils that now threaten the integrity of God's creation and the future of God's children.


God's Vision of Abundant Living  -  1996

Calls for assessing patterns of consumption and consumerism and urges moving toward a more simplified lifestyle


Indoor Air Pollution  -  1988

Examines sources of indoor air pollution; calls on United Methodists to assess this problem in various locations and work to correct it


Reduction of Water Usage  by United Methodist  - 1992

Calls for conserving water and using water-conserving technology


Safety and Health in Workplace and Community  - 1988

Calls for preventing public health hazards, particularly the creation of toxic wastes; greater community and workplace awareness of exposure threats


U.S. Agriculture and Rural Communities in Crisis  - 1996

Urges work to bolster ecologically sustainable agriculture; to support family and small-scale farms


Recycling and the Use of Recycled Products  2000

Calls on the Church and its agencies to participate in recycling programs for paper, plastic, glass and metal; to use recycled and ‘processed chlorine-free’ paper.


Use of Reclaimed  Paper  - 1972

Calls for use of recycled paper.


United Methodist Women/Women’s Division Policies


At the fall 1997 board meeting, the directors of the Division voted unanimously that the Division use only chlorine-free products.  This was a practical way to implement the General Conference resolution, ‘A Dioxin-Free Future.’  The resolution also arose out of mounting evidence on the connection between dioxin contamination and various severe health problems in women and children, including reproductive cancers (such as breast cancer).


 One of the primary causes of dioxin production is chlorine bleaching in the pulp and paper industry.  The relevant section of the resolution reads;

‘...Women’s Division begin to model environmental responsibility with respect to dioxin contamination.  This would require the Division to:

Use chlorine-free paper for all its copying and publishing  needs;

Switch to chlorine-free products whenever possible (e.g.; toilet paper, paper towels, linens, non-chlorine bleaches) in all its offices and facilities;

...encourage United Methodist Women to do likewise...



What Can We Do?

1.         Practice Garbage Prevention!


2.         Recycle and Buy Recycled!


3.                  Maintain zero tolerance for producing toxins!


One of the major myths of the industrial era is the there are safe and acceptable levels of pollution.  There aren’t.  The only safe level of toxins anywhere is zero.  We need to phase out our dependency on chemicals and on radioactive materials that can cause a range of health problems such as cancers, respiratory diseases, miscarriages, learning difficulties, and birth defects.  This is a two-pronged effort: We need to phase out our direct use of toxic products.  We also must alter what we consume so that we do not use goods that require toxic chemicals in their manufacture or produce toxins during the disposal process.


4.                  Avoid Plastics!


5.                  Conserve Energy!


6.                  Produce and Consume Locally Grown Food!


7.                  Use Natural, Safe Materials (i.e. avoid Styrofoam)!


8.                  Promote the Total Well-Being of Participants




For further information and more action ideas contact:


Office of Community Action

Women’s Division

475 Riverside Dr.  Room 1502

New York, NY 10115


Slee@gbgm-umc.org/; http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/



Taken and updated from Green Guidance, How to Plan Environmentally Responsible Events, Women’s Division














Date posted: Jun 02, 2004