“What do a well-to-do emergency room physician and non-profit founder devoted to caring for the earth have in common? Nothing, except they are the same person.” – Dr. Matthew Sleeth
For years, Sleeth and his family lived a wealthy New England life with all of the perks — until the family patriarch converted to Christianity about 10 years ago. Eventually the rest of his family followed and their life change began.
Gone was the enormous home, multiple cars, overabundance of material possessions and the mentality that everything belonged to them. In was a newfound appreciation for the planet and a dedication to caring for it through faith, an uncommon mingling of environmentalism and religion.
Sleeth spent a solid year of research and study and authored the book “Serve God, Save the Planet.” Eventually he and his wife, Nancy Sleeth (also an author), founded Blessed Earth — an educational nonprofit headquartered on Old Vine Street. The organization’s mission is to “inspire and equip people of faith to become better stewards of the earth.”
“We’ve been really blessed,” Sleeth said. “I now get to speak and teach and preach and write constantly about that.”
Through churches, colleges, universities, seminaries and media outreach, Blessed Earth seeks to “build bridges that promote measurable environmental change and meaningful spiritual growth.”
But Sleeth is not quick to call himself an environmentalist.
“For many, the term ‘environmentalist’ connotes a scientific expertise that I don’t have,” he said. “However, to the extent that the places we live are degraded and need attention and restoration, I am an ardent supporter of doing what is prescribed by both environmental science and biblical mandate — ‘to tend and protect the planet’ (Genesis 2:15).”
Blessed Earth focuses on educational partnerships with those in the faith community and does a lot of work with churches.
But not just any churches. Sleeth recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak at The National Cathedral for a series of eight sermons. He also visited the White House as part of a recognition of churches that have made great strides in stewardship of the earth.
And his work is paying off. Traditionally, he pointed out, evangelical Christians have not always focused on the environment.
“I think to some extent that’s been true and to some extent that’s changing,” Sleeth said. “We in the church have a language around it. We have gone to our Bibles and looked to see what the Bible has to say. For me, it’s not about a political point of view, it’s about finding out what God says, period.”