Apr. 14—Climate Change is a Theological Issue


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
1 Peter 1:3

Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

I pray you are having a blessed Eastertide. Our celebration of Easter lasts for 50 days—“The Great Fifty Days.” It will continue until the Feast of Pentecost when we celebrate the giving out of the Holy Spirit on all those gathered together in Jerusalem for that feast (See Acts 2).

I pray your Holy Week and Easter observances were a time of blessing and joy. I have received very positive reports from clergy and laity from around the diocese expressing both thankfulness for a return to what felt more or less like the “normalcy” of “in-person” gatherings following years of COVID interruption. Many have reported the number of attendees, especially on Easter Day, was well up. This is great news. I pray those who worshipped with our congregations experienced the joy and hope of the risen Christ and, more important, of their need for Christ as well as Christian hope and community in their lives.

Princess Lora and I

After celebrating Easter at Trinity Cathedral, Susan and I headed down to Florida, primarily to celebrate the 5th birthday of our youngest grandchild, Lora. We have missed several of Lora’s birthday celebrations. Last year, her birthday fell during Holy Week. The two years prior to that, the pandemic prevented us from traveling. It has saddened us not to be with her and her parents for these celebrations.

On Wednesday, we drove down to Dania Beach where our son John, his wife Natalie, and Lora reside. Dania Beach is just south of Fort Lauderdale. We arrived in the Fort Lauderdale area on I-95 around 5:00 p.m. with the rain intensifying and heavy traffic inching along. Bands of rain fell in sheets. Flooding was extensive. We got on the phone with our son, John, who lives east of I-95, so that he could help us try to find a route to his home that would get past the local street flooding. We spent hours trying to get through, as our phone alarms went off, sounding a flash flood emergency alert, and as an increasing number of cars stalled out from trying to get through deep waters. The conditions were very dangerous and at 8:00 p.m. we were forced to retreat and crawled our way back to the hotel in Boca Raton where were staying.

Taken from our car during Wednesday’s storm

It has been subsequently reported that we had experienced a “once in a thousand-year storm” caused by a “supercell” that parked over Fort Lauderdale and was stalled and sustained by warm waters of the Atlantic fed by the increasingly warmer waters of the Gulf Stream. The rain dumped 25 inches of water on Fort Lauderdale, the third-highest amount of rain on a major city in the history of United States record keeping for such events.[1] As I write, the Fort Lauderdale Airport—a major international airport and key link to the area cruise industry—was just preparing to reopen with only one runway in operation. When Susan and I passed it yesterday on I-95, the runways were still underwater and it looked like a lake.

Certainly, climate change was a significant contributor to the experience Susan and I, and all those in the Fort Lauderdale had this past Wednesday. “We continue to see more and more of these thousand-year” weather extremes in major cities,” said Steve Bowen, a meteorologist and chief science officer for a major global reinsurance broker, “The whole definition of normal is changing.”[2]

“One-day downpours have increased in frequency and magnitude over the last several decades and will continue to increase in both in the coming decades,” according to University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado, and added, “These heavy rainfall events coupled with sea level rise on the Florida coast need to serve as significant ‘wake up calls’ for the residents of South Florida about the severe risks that climate change poses to them.”[3]

Climate change is not merely a political issue, it is an ethical issue, it is a justice issue, it is a theological issue. As such, it is a Church concern. Human beings are the only living creatures that can willfully alter and impact conditions on the planet for better or for worse. This reality comes with responsibility, a responsibility given expression in Genesis 1:

Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ Genesis 1:26

In theological terms it is the stewardship entrusted to us by God. In keeping with this, the Fifth Mark of Anglican Mission calls upon us To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

Earth Week takes place the week of April 22. As a proactive observation of this, Episcopal Community Services of New Jersey (ECS–NJ) is featuring the Reverend Ronald B. Tuff, New Jersey Organizer for Green Faith to be the keynote speaker for its This Zoom event is scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 20 from 7:00–8:30 p.m. You can register at this link.

That same week, on April 25, The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations is also sponsoring an important environmental concerns event – Climate Change: A Conversation with Katharine Hayhoe, Nature Conservancy.” Dr. Hayhoe is not only a renowned scientist, she is also a clergy spouse. Her work takes place at the intersection of science and faith. She is the author of an important book I have previously recommended to all in the diocese Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.

Happy birthday, Lora!

As we celebrate Easter and the blessing of new life so vividly expressed in the explosion of spring colors, I invite us all to participate in these events. Also check out the Creation Care section of the The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations website here.

By the way, although we were delayed by a day due to the storm, Susan and I did make it to Dania Beach and celebrated Lora’s 5th birthday. A larger family gathering is scheduled for tomorrow. We pray it doesn’t rain.

Blessings to you and yours in this Eastertide.

In Christ,
Bishop Stokes's Signature
The Right Rev. William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey


[1] See Borenstein, Seth “Here’s why the downpour in Fort Laruderdale just wouldn’t stop”—Associated Press, April 14, 2023 found at Here’s why the downpour in Fort Lauderdale just wouldn’t stop | AP News

[2] Borenstein, art. cit.

[3] Borenstein, art. cit