Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
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.”
Today, April 22, 2022 is Earth Day. Earth Day was established 52 years ago, on April 22, 1970. According to Earthday.org, the observance began at the instigation of Senator Gaylord Nelson who was then junior senator from Wisconsin and who, along with others, was outraged at the devastation and damage caused by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. It was the largest oil spill in California waters. According to Wikipedia, within a ten-day period 80,000–100,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Santa Barbara Channel and onto the beaches of Santa Barbara County and beyond.
Earthday.org reports that in an era of demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, Senator Nelson thought the idea for a “teach-in” to “infuse the energy of student anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution” would be effective. He and Pete McCloskey, a “conservation-minded Republican Congressmen” organized the effort. According to Earthday.org, they chose April 22 because it was a weekday falling between Spring break and final exams, to “maximize the greatest student participation.”
It’s worth noting that, at the outset, Earth Day was a bipartisan project. Today, like so much else in our country and world, the issue of climate change has been politicized and polarizing. What a shame, especially for people of faith for whom care of the environment is, in truth, a holy obligation. In his second encyclical, written in 2015, Pope Francis affirms this, writing:
If the simple fact of being human moves people to care for the environment, of which they are a part, Christians in their turn ‘realize that their responsibility within creation, and their towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.”
Christian and environmentalist Professor Katherine Hayhoe also urges the essentiality of care for creation as part of our Christian faith when in her important book Saving Us—A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, she writes:
“…if Christians truly believe we’ve be given responsibility—‘dominion’—over every living thing on this planet, as it says at the very beginning of Genesis, then we won’t objectively care about climate change. We will be at the front of the line demanding actions because it’s our God-given responsibility to do so. Failure to care about climate change is a failure to love” [emphasis added].
As Episcopalians and Anglicans we concur that concern about creation care and concern for the environment are integral to our Christian faith. The fifth of the Anglican Marks of Mission calls upon all of us corporately and as individuals, To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
I am grateful that at our most recent diocesan convention, a resolution was passed to “reinvent the inactive Environmental Commission to establish a Creation Care Committee…to develop programs to lead individuals, parish communities, and the diocese as our Christian call to be stewards of creation, especially in action responding to the global climate change crisis.” I am also grateful that Canon Barbie Bach has agreed to serve as Chairperson of this effort. Canon Bach was part of the official Episcopal delegation to COP26, the United Nations 26th World Conference on Climate Change. She has tremendous qualifications and passion to lead us as a diocesan community in this effort.
To celebrate Earth Day 2022, I urge us all to pray and become actively involved in addressing climate change in our world, in our churches and in our lives. I invite you to visit or revisit our own Episcopal Covenant for Care of Creation which can be found here.
We all have a holy obligation to protect “this fragile earth, our island home” (BCP p. 370)
God bless you this Earth Day and always.
The Right Rev. William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey
 See “Santa Barbara Oil Spill” on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1969_Santa_Barbara_oil_spill
 Pope Francis Laudato Si’—On Care for Our Common Home (Our Sunday Visitors Inc., Huntongdon, IN, 2015) p. 46.
 Hayhoe, Katherine Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021) p. 19.
 See Anglican Marks of Mission at https://www.anglicancommunion.org/mission/marks-of-mission.aspx
 See Resolution 2022-1 from the Committee on Resolutions passed by the Diocese of New Jersey meeting in Convention on March 5, 2022. The resolution as passed can be found at https://dioceseofnj.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/2022-Resolutions-as-Passed.pdf