Tag Archives: John McConnell Jr.

John McConnell, Jr., Pentecostal Founder of Earth Day, Dead at 97

John and Anna McConnell, May 27, 2011, eating brunch in their Denver home with Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers.

John McConnell, Jr., the Pentecostal founder of Earth Day, passed away Saturday night, October 20, 2012, in Denver, Colorado. He was 97 years old. A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 700 South Franklin Street, Denver, Colorado, at 10:30 am, Friday, November 2, 2012.

McConnell’s grandfather was at the Azusa Street Revival and his parents were founding members of the Assemblies of God.

Read about McConnell in the article, “John McConnell, Jr. and the Pentecostal Origins of Earth Day,” published in the 2010 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage magazineFlower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers recorded an oral history interview with McConnell and his wife, Anna, on July 15, 2009, at Timberline Church, Fort Collins, Colorado.

McConnell deposited materials relating to his Pentecostal faith and the lives and ministries of his parents and grandparents at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

The following obituary was posted on the Monarch Society website:

John Saunders McConnell
(March 22, 1915 – October 20, 2012)

Founder of Earth Day

“Peace, Justice and the Care of Earth.”  McConnell, 97, died peacefully on October 20, 2012.  Memorial Service will be Friday, Nov. 2 at 10:30 am at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 700 S. Franklin St., Wash Park, Denver.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests you please consider a donation to Shevet Achim (www.shevet.org), a non-profit in Jerusalem which brings Jews, Muslims, and Christians together in order to give life saving surgery to save children’s lives.  John McConnell is survived by his wife, Anna McConnell, his son, Cary McConnell, and two daughters, Christa Mason and Corenella Keiper.Son of an evangelist, John McConnell has advocated tirelessly for global peace, and care of the Earth.  People all over the globe have responded to his appeals for peace, justice, and Earth care, and to be counted as Earth Trustees.

Following the Kennedy assassination, McConnell’s Minute for Peace gained worldwide attention.  This led to his Earth Day and other initiatives aimed at promoting people and planet.  In this book, he shares the views that garnered support during the environmental movement from 1969 onward, and that have inspired followers for forty years at annual Earth Day ceremonies at the UN and cities across the globe.

John McConnell coined the term Earth Day in 1968, proposed its celebration on the spring equinox to the City of San Francisco in October 1969, and announced it in November at a UNESCO Conference.

The City responded by hosting the first Earth Day on March 21, 1970.  Margaret Mead, UN Secretary-General U Thant, President Ford, and thirty-three Nobel laureates supported McConnell’s Earth Day, and thirty-six worldwide dignitaries signed McConnell’s Earth Day Proclamation, supporting Earth Day on the spring equinox, an annual planetary holiday linking people everywhere without regard to politics, culture, national border, or religion.

John McConnell initiated:  Star of Hope (1957), Minute for Peace (1963), Earth Flag (1969), Earth Day (1970), Earth Trustees (1971), Earth Society Foundation (1976), Earth Charter (1979), Earth Magna Charta (1995).

Accolades from noted persons:

John McConnell is one of the world’s spiritual leaders who had a profound influence on the United Nations. — Kurt Waldheim, former United Nations Secretary-General

John McConnell gave me courage and hope.  — Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Laureate

With John McConnell’s Earth Flag on board my spaceship, I felt like a messenger of peace.  — Anatoly Berezovoi, cosmonaut

John McConnell is an idealist, a visionary, a peacemaker.  Those are the people needed today, for our future.  — George Gallup, Jr., pollster

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Pentecostal Origins of Earth Day

John McConnell, Jr., ca.1990

The 2010 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine includes an article that will raise eyebrows — the story of John McConnell, Jr., the Pentecostal founder of Earth Day. McConnell’s parents were founding members of the Assemblies of God, and his grandfather identified with the Pentecostal movement at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906.

Forty years ago, McConnell established the first governmentally-recognized Earth Day on March 21, 1970. The United Nations adopted the holiday the following year and has been celebrating Earth Day on the March equinox since 1971.

This original Earth Day was quickly eclipsed in prominence, however, by a second Earth Day (celebrated on April 22). The founder of the April observance, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, took the name Earth Day for his Environmental Teach-In, scheduled to be held on the 100th anniversary of communist leader Vladimir Lenin’s birthday.

According to McConnell, a representative of Nelson approached him at a United Nations conference and asked McConnell to switch the original Earth Day to April 22. McConnell refused, because he believed the celebration should be on nature’s event. Furthermore, McConnell intended Earth Day to be a non-partisan event that would unite people from various backgrounds and foster peace. In contrast, Nelson’s purpose was a political protest against pollution – he viewed Earth Day as a means to force the environment on the national agenda by mass demonstration.

McConnell states that Nelson “stole” the name Earth Day and used it for his own personal political agenda. McConnell contends that the April 22 observance is too politicized, which alienates many people, including Christians and conservatives.  He maintains that the day should be celebrated on the March equinox. Significantly, he views Earth Day as an opportunity for Christians “to show the power of prayer, the validity of their charity and their practical concern for Earth’s life and people.” McConnell’s call is not for earth worship, but for responsible stewardship (which he prefers to call trusteeship) of the earth.

McConnell also spearheaded two nationally-recognized peace movements: the Star of Hope (1957) and the Minute for Peace (1963-present). He also served as a leader in Meals for Millions (1961-1963), an organization that fed starving people.

McConnell credits his Pentecostal background for his concern for peace, justice and care of earth. He wrote, “If there had been no Christian experience in my life there would be no Earth Day – or at least I would not have initiated it.”

In a 2009 interview, McConnell stated, “I definitely still believe what my father taught and preached.” His father, J. S. McConnell, was an Assemblies of God pastor and evangelist from 1914 to 1928. According to McConnell, his father emphasized the teachings of Jesus above all else.

McConnell’s story offers an intriguing example to Pentecostals from their own history of how one can love Jesus and care for creation; these two attitudes are not mutually exclusive.

To read the entire article about John McConnell in the 2010 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage, click here.

Posted by Darrin J. Rodgers

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John McConnell placed his collection of materials relating to his family and his faith at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. He placed his collection of materials relating to his work with the environment, peace, and the poor at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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