Environmental advocates piled in to Ecumenical Campus Ministries on Tuesday night to hear the Rev. Sally Bingham, founder and president of Interfaith Power and Light.
The fundraiser benefited the Kansas chapter of the organization, which promotes energy conservation to faith communities statewide and helps Kansas congregations reduce their carbon footprints through public advocacy, education and programming.
Bingham, an Espiscopal priest in the Diocese of California, started Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) in response to her recognition of global warming as a moral issue. The organization’s mission, “a religious response to climate change,” drives religious leaders to make a difference through environmental stewardship.
“Climate change is no longer an environmental or political issue — it is a spiritual issue,” Bingham said. “We have to wake people up to the idea that environment stewardship was as important as faith, hope or love.”
Bingham created IPL after graduating from seminary school in 1994. She says she faced opposition in her first years as an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of California.
“Admittedly, California is probably an easier place than Kansas to preach (about the environment),” Bingham joked. “But I was called a communist and told I was bringing a political issue into the church. I was told I needed to focus on saving souls, but I said, ‘we are not going to have souls to save if we don’t protect the air and the earth around us.'”
Before coming to Kansas, the environmental-advocacy figurehead recently turned down an opportunity to chain herself to the White House fence to be arrested with 40,000 climate change protesters in Washington, DC. She says her decision was not for lack in agreement with the cause — in fact, it was the opposite.
“We can’t look like the radical flamethrowers. Those people are needed, but religious leaders in IPL can serve a specific purpose and come in to speak with legislators and look like peaceful negotiators.”
Margaret Thomas, of Prairie Village, has been an avid supporter of IPL for years. She said the Kansas chapter of negotiators serves a specific purpose, due to the polarized politics of the state.
“Kansas is going through an ultra-conservative period, and environmental and spiritual advocates are looking for a way to gain traction,” Thomas said. “One way to do that is by connecting with the spirituality of conserving the planet and we can achieve success by working in tandem with religious organizations.”
Rabbi Moti Rieber, coordinator of Kansas IPL, knows the political obstacles of sustaining a “green” organization within the state, but says the organization’s existence is a nod to the group’s success.
“We’ve had a number of victories; the Holcomb coal plant is still not built and the Keystone XL pipeline is still not built,” Rieber said. “If we can keep the IPL in the Koch brothers’ backyard, then we can keep it anywhere.”
Bingham encouraged attendees to continue their efforts within the state.
“Say yes to the call of God to be the stewards of creation,” Bingham urged.
-- Staff intern Caitlin Doornbos can be reached at (785) 832-7146.