Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

June 9, 2012

'Creation Care' leader to speak at State Theatre

TRAVERSE CITY — Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room doctor and now a leader in the Christian "creation care" movement, has spoken at many churches and seminaries across the land.

One of his talks here this weekend will be his first in a movie house — the State Theatre.

Creation care combines environmentalism and the Christian principles of simplicity, personal responsibility and stewardship. Sleeth's visit is sponsored by Central United Methodist, Grace Episcopal and The Presbyterian Church.

"We thought it would be best to have his message go out to the whole Traverse City community," said Alline Beutler, adult Christian educator at Central United Methodist who heard Sleeth speak last year at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

"He delivers a very important message about creation care and gives specific ideas of what people can do."

His first talk starts at 5 p.m. today at Grace Episcopal. He will be guest speak at Central United's 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday services. His appearance at the State starts at 7 p.m.

All presentations are free. A free-will offering will be collected Monday at the State to help offset travel expenses.

Sleeth's books include "The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book" and "Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action."

A new book coming out in October, "24/6," is about the Fourth Commandment, "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."

Sleeth said he spent most of his life believing in science, not faith.

"My religion was that you can figure everything out environmental pollution related to disease and death," he said.

One day his wife Nancy asked him, "What is the biggest problem in the world?"

"The world is dying," he replied.

"And if the world is dying, what are we going to do about it?" she responded.

That question launched a personal exploration for more than a year.

When it was over, he resigned as chief of medical staff and ER director at New England hospital.

He preached at 1,000 churches over the first five years. She stepped down as communication director for a Fortune 500 company. They cut their electrical and fossil fuel costs. They downsized from their "doctor-sized" house into a house the size of their former garage.

They got involved in a church because their research had led to Bible passages about environmental stewardship and service.

At church, however, they found that fellow churchgoers often viewed environmentalism as heretical.

The Sleethes founded Blessed Earth. Nancy Sleeth spoke, wrote and led workshops and retreats.

"Environmentalism is the only activity where we can worship God all the time, if we live more humbly and meekly," Matthew Sleeth said.

Blessed Earth is now working with the National Cathedral to build an alliance of seminaries as well as develop leadership and train seminary students in theological environmental stewardship principles.

"We need to train the people who are running the church," he said.

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