Monday, 4 May 2009

Climate Change and the USA Church

This is an article which appeared in the US Press just recently. It illustrates the problem and also the hope ....

Conservative Christians launch green awakening
McClatchy Newspapers
Published: Monday, May. 4, 2009 - 5:06 am

WAKE FOREST, N.C. -- For years, some conservative Christians regarded environmentalists as little more than nature worshippers. But on April 24, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., hosted its first conference on what it calls "creation care," or honoring God's good Earth.

The one-day "Creation Care Symposium" was the seminary's first effort to go green, and, no surprise, it came two days after Earth Day.

Southeastern President Danny Akin said his denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, needs to do more to combat pollution and the degradation of the planet. But he added, "We're not jumping on the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Al Gore bandwagon. We're using a more cautious, responsible approach."

That Southeastern is even interested in caring for the planet represents a milestone in the environmental movement. While mainline Protestant Christian denominations, Roman Catholics, Jews and Muslims have made strides in raising awareness among adherents of the challenges of climate change, pollution and degradation of natural resources, conservative denominations have thus far relegated the issue to the back burner.

Only two years ago, Southern Baptists passed a resolution urging the government to "reject mandated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," and to "proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research."

Last month, Richard Land, president of the denomination's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, urged Baptists to write their U.S. senators to oppose global warming legislation that would tax firms for global emissions.

And in a recently released poll, only 47 percent of Protestant pastors said they believe global warming is real and man-made. Among evangelical denominations, only 32 percent of pastors agreed.

Yet a group of younger evangelicals is challenging those views and pushing churches to audit their energy use, analyze their impact on the environment and adopt cost-saving measures.

Leading the charge is Jonathan Merritt, a graduate of Southeastern and the son of former Southern Baptist President James Merritt. Now an Atlanta-based writer, Merritt said the environment is no longer the exclusive domain of the liberal left.

"In the last few years we've seen many conservatives say this is a moral issue, and Christians have an answer for it," Merritt said.

He points to pastors such as Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist megachurch minister who has shown an environmental awareness. And he notes comments by Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who in a recent issue of Newsweek calls for energy independence from foreign oil. (Although Gingrich approves of drilling in Alaska.)

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