Sacred Acts (Paperback)

How Churches Are Working to Protect Earth's Climate

By Mallory McDuff, Bill McKibben (Foreword by)

New Society Publishers, 9780865717008, 259pp.

Publication Date: April 18, 2012

List Price: 17.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From evangelicals to Episcopalians, people of faith are mobilizing to confront climate change. This unique anthology brings together stories from all over North America of contemporary church leaders, parishioners, and religious activists who are working to define a new environmental movement, where honoring the Creator means protecting the planet.

Sacred Acts documents the diverse actions taken by churches to address climate change through stewardship, advocacy, spirituality, and justice. Contributions from leading Christian voices such as Norman Wirzba and the Reverend Canon Sally Bingham detail the work of faith communities:

  • Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where parishioners have enhanced food security by sharing canning and food preservation skills in the church kitchen
  • Georgia's Interfaith Power & Light, which has used federal stimulus funds help congregations, reduce utility bills, and cut carbon emissions
  • Earth Ministry, where people of faith spearheaded the movement to pass state legislation to make Washington State coal-free

Sacred Acts shows that churches can play a critical role in confronting climate change--perhaps the greatest moral imperative of our time. This timely collection will inspire individuals and congregations to act in good faith to help protect Earth's climate.

Mallory McDuff teaches environmental education at Warren Wilson College, a unique liberal arts school that combines academics with work and service. A lifelong Episcopalian, she was raised in a family that integrated faith and environmental stewardship. She is the author of Natural Saints.

About the Author

Mallory McDuff teaches environmental education at Warren Wilson College, a unique liberal arts school that combines academics with work and service. A lifelong Episcopalian, she was raised in a family that integrated faith and environmental stewardship. While Mallory has a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology and conservation and has published widely in academic journals, she prefers to write for a popular audience where she makes the connections between issues such as climate change and the realities of day-to-day life. Her op-eds are regularly featured in USA Today and The Huffington Post. She is the author of Natural Saints.

Praise For Sacred Acts: How Churches Are Working to Protect Earth's Climate

Review Foreword Magazine May 31, 2012 by C. William Gee

In Genesis, God is recorded to have made humans the stewards of his creation, yet many Christians and churches have largely overlooked this primary responsibility. In Sacred Acts , Mallory McDuff, a professor at Warren Wilson College, has compiled inspiring success stories of faith communities that have put into action their beliefs about the sacredness of all creation. Evangelical, mainline, and Roman Catholic churches, as well as interfaith organizations including Green Faith, Earth Ministry, and Interfaith Power & Light, are featured. Spiritual principles combine with science, activism, creativity, and enthusiasm to provide practical guidance and inspiration for other churches.

Arranged in four sectionsstewardship, spirituality, advocacy, and justicethe book’s twelve chapters are written by some of the leading voices in the Christian environmental movement, both clergy and laypersons. Practical stewardship is modeled by churches growing community gardens on church property, improving building energy conservation, and promoting natural burial. An evangelical climate scientist explains the scientific facts and projections of climate change and laments the political and denominational divide that exists on this critical issue. Church responses to the shockingly high environmental costs and health dangers of the burning of coal and of mountaintop removal mining are also shared. Advocacy and justice efforts are explored in climate-caused immigration, the placement of high-pollution industries in poor areas, and the need for economic justice related to race, employment, and salaries. The importance of sustained prayer and action for those in natural disaster areas is demonstrated in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast. Throughout, the scriptural basis of why Christians should be involved in climate change and related causes is credibly expounded.

Among the many lessons learned from this compilation are that we must shift our thinking and actions at the most basic levels” and that the healing of the world begins with the healing of the places where we live.” For those skeptical about climate change, the real cost-savings possible from adopting green practices and the potential to draw new converts from those who value the environment are presented in compelling terms.

In Sacred Acts, Dr. McDuff, a lifelong Episcopalian, builds upon her previously published work, Natural Saints, to demonstrate convincingly that churches can effectively mobilize to care for the Creation. As church members and religious leaders awake to their biblical charge, Sacred Acts serves as a highly recommended guide for persuasive theology and effective action.?

Review E Magazine May 1, 2012 by Britta Belli

Is there a natural connection between the religious and environmental movements? In Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect Earth’s Climate (New Society Publishers), author Mallory McDuff lays out the way that churches have increasingly become active in the business of caring for creation, seeing it as one of the defining moral missions of our time. Whether churches are lowering the carbon footprint of their houses of worship or parishioners are participating in protests against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, these faith communities are speaking to a new generation and maintaining their relevance.

A collection of authors come together in the book to weigh in on one of the following topics: stewardship, spirituality, advocacy or justice. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe’s essay At the Intersection of Belief and Knowledge: Climate Science and our Christian Faith” explains both science and spiritual solution. She succinctly describes how global warming works, i.e. Through our increasing use of fossil fuels, we have artificially increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide by 40 percent, and methane levels by 250 percent.This is what is heating our planet.” Hayhoe tracks the ways in which these increased greenhouse gases are radically altering the planet and also how global warming has become, instead of a shared public concern, a matter of political affiliation. These divides, she writes, also extend to religious communities. In a survey response to the statement I believe global warming is real and manmade,” she notes that only 28% of evangelical pastors agreed with the statement. Hayhoe argues that the call for caring about creation comes down to three essential truths: That we are pushing the boundaries of the earth that sustains us; that God created the earth and gave us responsibility for it”; and that, quite simply It is wise to conserve our resources.”

Other essays continue this theme, touching on topics from green jobs, to climate refugees, to anti-coal activism. The Birds of the Air: Preaching, Climate Change and Anxiety,” a sermon from Reverend Brian Cole, addresses our age of anxiety and the antidote that nature, and through nature, God, provides. It is about getting outside of ourselves and our troubles and considering more closely the world around us. Consider the bird and the field and then love them the way God loves them,” Cole says. Our love can motivate us to seek their protection, even if our attempts are potentially futile.”

Review Publishers Weekly April 19, 2012

For the past two decades, political and religious debate over the impact of climate change has produced calls to action from religious groups that believe that good stewardship of God’s creation is a vital part of a life of faith. In this useful and engaging collection, McDuff (Natural Saints) gathers 12 essays that explore four strategies for religious action to address climate change: stewardship, spirituality, advocacy, and justice. For example, Arkansas farmer Ragan Sutterfield highlights the work of churches that engage in the coproduction of food through gardening, canning, raising and butchering livestock, and cooking meals for the community. Episcopal Canon Sally Bingham points to the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Ill., as an example of a religious community that intentionally designed its building to adhere to the Jewish principle do not destroy or waste,” becoming the first religious congregation in the world to receive platinumthe highest levelcertification by the U.S. Green Building Council. McDuff’s collection represents a passionate act of communion in a prophetic movement that seeks to address climate change through love and justice.

The articles gathered in Sacred Acts edited by Mallory McDuff bring me back to reflections on the possible evolutionary roots of ritual as sacred acts. That is, their emphases on taste, leadership, burial, intersections of birds and advocacy, money and mountains, immigration and justice remind me of the intentional and attentional character of sacred acts. In our emergence, we humans stood up, perhaps as much as we were raised up, and we continue to look for that deeper intention in our actions, that attention to an abiding sacred in our world. Sacred Acts is a reader for this work.
---John A. Grim, Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale Divinity School, Yale Department of Religious Studies

As Protestant privilege wanes in America, churches are renewed as they respond to the pressing spiritual and environmental needs of our time. The essays in this fine book indicate that some faith communities are doing just that. Their witness challenges us all. I am filled with hope.
Bill J. Leonard, James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies Professor of Church History and Religion Wake Forest University