Faith leaders gather in Flint for environmental justice tour, plan for ecumenical water justice action

The Creation Justice Ministries board meeting in Flint, Michigan
The Creation Justice Ministries board meeting in Flint, Michigan. Photo courtesy of CJM

A release from Creation Justice Ministries

From May 13-14 in Flint, Mich., 23 board members of Creation Justice Ministries, an ecumenical eco-justice organization, gathered to pray, learn, and act for water justice. The Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is an active member, and membership affords opportunities to network with other Christian communions, denominations, and fellowships with active commitments to protect, restore, and more rightly share God’s creation.

Since 2014, Flint has not had reliable and accessible clean drinking water. Although the local government has closed their water and food distribution centers, lead is still present in much of the water supply, making it still undrinkable in 2019.

“Collectively, religious communities have had a long-standing presence in Flint, before and after the notorious water crisis. During the crisis, our communities mass-mobilized for direct relief, solidarity, and advocacy,” said Creation Justice Ministries executive director Shantha Ready Alonso, speaking to why the board gathered in Flint in 2019. “Today, the news cameras have gone away, but communities of faith must continue to renew our relationships in Flint. The city has powerful lessons for faith communities as we consider how to grapple with racial inequities, crises in our democracy, and a just transition away from extractivism.”

As the Brethren representative to the Creation Justice Ministries board, standing in for Nathan Hosler, Monica McFadden had the opportunity to engage with local activists, faith leaders, and other partners.

“Meeting in Flint, a community continually impacted by environmental racism, was an excellent opportunity to learn about the current state of the water crisis and what we can do to work for water justice and care for God’s creation,” said McFadden.

Prior to the meeting, she talked to Bill Hammond of Flint Church of the Brethren about the church’s involvement in water distribution at the peak of the crisis and what struggles face Flint now. Some of the church’s long-term work focuses on early childhood issues like childhood literacy and community-building events in order to help mitigate some of the impacts of the lead crisis.

The board meeting began with an exclusive pre-screening of “Flint: The Poisoning of an American City,” a documentary by David Barnhart and Scott Lansing of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. This was followed by an environmental justice tour. The tour guides, Jan Worth-Nelson of East Village Magazine and Pastor Greg Timmons of Calvary and First Trinity United Methodist Church, explained how poverty and race deeply intersect with access to potable water.

The board saw sites of both city negligence and community resilience. The tour wove through many neighborhoods with houses abandoned due to plummeting value, seeing clear segregation firsthand, but also saw the Flint Culture and Arts Center, a community garden started by a United Methodist community, and a Field House rich in history and current sporting activities.

The board meeting ended the following day with a planning session for Creation Justice Ministries’ further justice work in Flint and beyond.

Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, historically black churches, peace churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at www.creationjustice.org .
— This release was provided to Newsline by the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy.

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