“Can you hear me clearly? I’m in a coffee shop.” Even through the white noise of a dozen simultaneous conversations, the clatter of mugs on saucers and forks on plates in the mid-morning South Carolina hustle and bustle, one thing that is easy to hear clearly is Reverend Jeremy Summers’ earnestness.
An affiliate faculty member at Indiana Wesleyan University, Southern Wesleyan University, and Oklahoma Wesleyan University, the Chair of the Evangelical Environmental Network, husband to another ordained minister and father of four, Jeremy Summers is easy going and straightforward, obviously straining a little into his mouthpiece to be heard above the din, but don’t mistake volume for vigor here. His passion, one feels, would shine through at a whisper or with a look.
He’s discussing his calling for Creation Care, an evangelical movement based on the conversation around climate change, more distinctly around what God’s word says about the responsibility of believers to be good stewards of His creation.
For Rev. Summers, it’s “a biblical issue, and a passion of, I think, for every believer that we’re called to be stewards of God’s creation. We believe that creation is good. And that God has given a responsibility, that we’re being trusted with that goodness, so to speak.”
Responsibility to protecting and nurturing that “goodness,” as Rev. Summers puts it, but here he goes even further, deeper.
He shares with me the importance of understanding the relationship between clean water and clean air, and the need for justice as a human right – for a child of God to benefit from the beauty and “goodness” of His uncorrupted creation.
He continues, “When I see pollution, and I see how that affects asthma, the health of others, that should bother me. If I see that there (are) toxins going into the water system, it is affecting people’s health, (that should) especially concern me. Because God’s heart breaks for those people. And so the question is, what am I going to do about it, as a believer in Jesus?”
And here is where he drops perhaps his most salient point, and certainly the well from which one gets the feeling this whole conversation is springing forth.
“To me, it’s a salvation issue. We look at scripture throughout scripture, you know, all talk about how God is gonna restore all things, like all things…not just human beings,” he says and then sights specifically God’s commandment in Deuteronomy to care for even “the birds of the air.”
Rev. Summers presents a hypothetical question and just as quickly an answer, a response that’s thoughtful and purposeful as the man himself and decided upon after a long reckoning with the question: “Why do you want to care for creation?” he asks and then replies in the very next beat, “It’s about being mindful, it’s about being present. It’s not about being political; it’s biblical. As a Christian, we believe that we’ve been entrusted with someone else’s gift, that we believe that you are given God’s grace, and love and the opportunity to care for this gift that he’s given us: the gift of life. But also, the gift of the earth.”
Pivoting to his main point where all of his beliefs seem to flow into one strong and steady current, Rev. Summers adds, “So, as I’m fighting for these issues, am I doing so out of love for God and love for Jesus, or something else? And, I think when it starts to turn to something else, we start to lose our focus.”
For Rev. Jeremy Summers, it’s simple. A believer should be a good steward of God’s creation because yes, he or she is commanded to in scripture – and yes because it is the right thing to do – to nurture a gift given so freely. But, it is his firm belief that the responsibility to the earth goes hand in hand with the believer’s responsibility to his fellow man, that the fight for cleaner water and cleaner air is the fight for equity and justice across all stations of humanity.
One leaves a pretty weighty conversation with Jeremy Summers framed in those simple terms, and feeling a little more prepared for the fight to protect mother earth and the human race.