Black churches have long been a place of inspiration and refuge and many folks have traditionally relied on these religious communities to stay alive and thrive.
For Reverend Dr. Ambrose Carroll, a Baptist pastor of Green The Church in Oakland, California, thriving means addressing the impact of climate change. That’s why in 2010, he founded Green The Church “a sustainability initiative designed to tap into the power and purpose of the Black Church Community and expand the role of churches as centers for environmental and economic resilience.”
The organization brings “faith communities, environmental organizations, and individual practitioners together in order to ‘Green’ The Black Church.”
Carroll started his ministry in 1989 and became an environmental activist in 2009. He has seen first-hand how extreme heat, toxic air, and dirty water affect Black folks — and when it comes to climate justice, his faith is truly about deeds, not words.
Read what Carroll has to say about his activism and the spiritual basis for taking action to protect the environment.
MRC: What inspired you to start Green The Church?
AC: I became a Green For All fellow with Van Jones. As part of that fellowship, I started in the Renewal Worship Center Christian Church, one of the first green African-American congregations. One church was not enough to bring the Black church and community fully into the environmental movement. In this nation there hasn’t been a successful movement without the tone and tenor of the Black church.
MRC: How many members does Green The Church have?
AC: Green The Church represents about 3,000 congregations that have been a part of our work over the last two years. We represent all major denominations of the African American church— 40,000 congregations in the country.
MRC: Do you think Black folks should care about climate change?
AC: These issues are life and death. You should care about climate change because when the ravages of climate change happen, your life could be in jeopardy depending on where you live. Care about climate change because your life is in danger.
MRC: What are some solutions to environmental problems and Black communities?
AC: We have to be vocal. We cannot allow our people to live in the midst of toxic environments. Things like toxic tours that The Green Church does exposes people. It’s making those changes and visiting some of those things that have been more normal for so long. It’s awareness and advocacy. It’s bringing people power to make those changes.
MRC: How do religion and climate intersect?
AC: Religion and climate intersect. The notion of religion itself is very much a part of the toxic relationship between rich and poor. A healthy spirit allows us to clearly see what goes on in the human realm. Sometimes the theology of religion can be harmful, and can keep us out of conversations.
MRC: When you preach, do you include references to climate-related issues?
AC: I call what I do green liberation theology. There should always be some environmental justice call. We understand the text, we understand the message. There’s always some way of alluding to nature.
MRC: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers about Green The Church?
AC: Be a catalyst. Move more and more people into the movement. There’s so much room for people of color in this environmental space. We really want to inspire people to live out their life pilgrimage, doing good for one another and the planet.
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