By Robert Downs

The West Ohio Conference of the UMC includes about three quarters of the state geographically, ranging environmentally from the southeastern region of Appalachia with mining and fracking interests to the southwestern region of industry and agriculture to the northwestern region of farming and Lake Erie. The conference established a Creation Care Task Force in the early years of 2000 under the auspices of the Board of Church and Society, now identified as Just Missions. Task Force membership and activity have ebbed and grown over the years depending on conference leadership and competing priorities.

Over the past 15 years, the Task Force has promoted five resolutions to the annual conference, all of which were adopted. In 2008, the conference endorsed local church involvement in creation care and active advocacy of environmental stewardship. The first recommendation met with limited success depending on the local church; the second was largely ignored. In 2015, West Ohio forwarded three resolutions from Fossil Free UMC for action at the 2016 General Conference. They were never addressed by the overall assembly. Continuing to encourage action across the conference, this year the Task Force is sponsoring the Net Zero 2050 resolution for consideration; it has endorsement by the conference’s United Women of Faith and will be debated on June 2nd.

The Task Force has also offered numerous educational presentations and workshops on environmental stewardship. In 2013 it partnered with Ohio Interfaith Power and Light to sponsor several Green- Building Workshops to help churches reduce their carbon footprints and save money on energy. In 2016 and 2017 the Task Force worked with the then United Methodist Women to promote climate justice; several members of the Task Force were instructors for the Mission U programs on that subject, and one member, Jessica Stonecypher, authored Embracing Wholeness: An Earth Perspective for Covenantal Living, a text for Mission u 2018.

Two of the Task Force are also members of the initial cadre of EarthKeepers. One project to develop a lay leadership course on environmental stewardship was beta-tested and credentialed within the West Ohio Conference in 2018–19. This course was subsequently refined for denominational use and is now accredited by Discipleship Ministries as Loving People and Planet in God’s Name (LPP). Focusing on developing green teams and environmental justice leadership in the local church, LPP can be taught live, virtually, or in a hybrid format.

Finally, the Task Force is in the process of renewing itself and its mission. Working with new leadership within the West Ohio Conference, the Task Force is attempting to expand membership diversity in age, ethnicity, and geographic locale (urban, suburban, and rural). Recognizing the statewide emphasis of EarthKeepers, the Task Force is also working with the East Ohio Conference to promote mutual programs and coordinate advocacy efforts.


Robert Downs, EarthKeeper, is currently the lead for the West Ohio Creation Care Task Force. Additionally, he serves in several capacities in the UM Creation Justice Movement.