Are Missouri's evangelicals going green? Part 2 | St. Louis Public Radio

Are Missouri's evangelicals going green? Part 2

Apr 17, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Green choices often begin at home. When David A. Mollerus, a Southern Baptist, completes his commute from work, he tosses aside his car keys and runs, or walks, to do his errands. His home in New Town of St. Charles is a short walk to a dry cleaner, a grocery, a gym, a farmer's market and a beautiful lake. He bought a home in the densely planned "New Urbanism" community two years ago, in part, to lessen his carbon footprint. 

For more than 16 years, Mollerus has been an ardent recycler of his family's metal cans, glass, newsprint, catalogs and junk mail and most plastic waste. Each Tuesday these discards go into blue containers for curb pick-up. Before buying stuff in plastic containers he checks for a "recyclable" swirl of arrows. His most recent resolution is to carry his own cloth bag to the grocery — eliminating "the paper or plastic" dilemma.

"We want less to go into landfills, and in the end that will save us all money because the more we send to landfills, the more expensive landfills will become," he said.

Mollerus is chief recycler at his job, too — custodian of his Southern Baptist church, Willott Road Community Church and Christian Academy in St. Peter's.

Its pastor, the Rev. Steve Koeneman, has begun planning for a new church and school complex on 36 acres, two miles from its present campus. 

The congregation doesn't expect to be able to afford to build a new campus that's completely sustainable or meets all U.S. Green Building Council standards. But Koeneman is researching many eco-friendly options, such as passive solar heating with lots of carefully planned windows and active solar water heating.

"Our buildings will use as much outside light as possible and no incandescent bulbs," he said. "We will use solid, good materials that last, not like these building that were put up in the 1970s."

Willott Road Church's new site will help students celebrate the wonder of God's creations when egrets, pelicans, shore birds and perhaps an occasional eagle visit the adjacent wetlands.

"Our children will appreciate being good stewards of God's world," he said.

Greening can save greenbakcs

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Kirkwood recently got energy credits after retrofitting its 25-year-old headquarters with a computerized heating and air-conditioning system. The cutting-edge system allows energy-saving temperature adjustment for rooms that are not in use, including conference rooms and the chapel. All lighting now is low-energy fluorescent bulbs.

"We'll save money over the years, money we can use for other work, but it's about the moral issue," said David Fiedler, executive director of general services for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The denomination also looks to one of its universities as a "green" model. Concordia University is on 186 pine-wooded acres along the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Mich. The school spent $4.5 million to replace its aged, campus-wide boiler system with individual, computer-regulated furnaces in each building. To save water, the school replaced all toilets and showerheads with low-flow equipment. They tightened up air leaks, upgraded windows and made scores of other "green" adjustments.

As religious educators, university vice chancellor Charles Winterstein said it was important to look at "every possible" way to save God's resources and university funds.

Already Concordia is saving one-third on its energy bills, he said. In the next 20 years, the school expects to save $7 million. It's a project that should pay for itself in about 15 years, he estimated. Next time the school adds a building, either it will have geothermal heat or harness the energy of the steady breeze over the Huron River with wind turbines.

A variety of church leaders have visited the Missouri Botanical Garden's Earthways Center, an eco-friendly demonstration house in St. Louis' Grand Center for green information.

Tim Montgomery, the principal of TMA Architects in St. Louis, won his first energy award for a passive solar house 23 years ago and recently received a rare Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — LEED — platinum certificate for rehabbing a wind-powered commercial building on the riverfront. Many religious groups want to go green, he said. Just in March three Christian groups hired him, but so far no evangelicals.

"It's mostly for moral reasons, but the utilities are killing them," Montgomery said.

What are evangelical Christians

Evangelical Christians are those who believe that the Bible is holy, infallible, and literal and their authority for life and faith and that Jesus is their personal savior whose message they are commissioned to spread. While evangelical Christians are "born again," not all born-again Christians are evangelical. Many born-again Christians do not take the Bible literally and do not believe that they are obligated to spread the Gospels. They say they have a personal relationship with Jesus and believe that they are going to heaven because his death saved them.

Patricia Rice has written about the environment and religion for many years, both regionally and internationally.

Next: Evangelicals' skepticism hasn't completely disappeared.