Monday, February 13, 2006

Evangelical Concern for Global Warming

An impressive array of eighty-six Evangelical scholars, pastors, bishops, college and seminary presidents and professors has signed and formall published "The Evangelical Climate Initiative: Climate Change: And Evangelical Call to Action." In the document, the group acknowledges that many of signatories have been hesitant to sign such a statement because they have been waiting for substantive evidence that "global warming" is a fact. Well, they now believe that the evidence is undeniable, and they advance a solid argument that Christians cannot take the situation lightly. You can read the encyclical and follow a link to the list of signatories here.

The document opens with "As American evangelical Christian leaders, we recognize both our opportunity and our responsiblity to offer a biblically based moral witness that can help shape public policy in the most powerful nation on earth, and therefore contribut to the well-being of the entire world. They go on to advance four claims: that "human-induced climate change is real"; that "the consequences of lcimate change will be significant and will hit the poor the hardest"; that "Christian moral convictions demand our response to the climate change problem"; and that the need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing lcimate change -- starting now."

This initiative surprises some, who read into the evangelical movement an identity with right-wing politics. That is a stereotype, of course, but it is regularly lent support in news outlets. This helps set the record straight. When a former head of the National Association of Evangelicals, Rick Warren (the purpose-driven guy), the presidents of Bethel University (St. Paul area) and Wheaton College, Timothy George (dean of Beeson Divinity), the president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the general superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, and many others agree that it is time to get serious about this issue, it is a sign both that the situation is dire and that the problem does not lend itself to a red/blue-state analysis.

The statement of this group of 86 has not arrived without controversy. "The usual suspects" (e.g., James Dobson, Chuck Colson, D. James Kennedy, Don Wildmon, and others) have come out against the statement. And many encouraged the National Association of Evangelicals not to support the Initiative. (Nevertheless, NAE head, Ted Haggard has announced his person support for the document while refusing to sign for fear that his signature would be interpreted as binding the NAE to the statement.) And many major news organizations have refused or failed to take notice of it. (The New York Times, where a full-page ad ran, published a good article about it, though.)

But, as I said, this Initiative and its statement claims the support of a very impressive collection of rock-solid Evangelicals. And with their vow to continue to fight on this issue, it will not go away. (Evangelicals seem better able to sustain theological and political pressure than do the mainline liberal protestant traditions, who ironically may agree with them on this issue.)

I think this is a very healthy development. I take it, too, as a call to take our brothers and sisters in the progressive evangelical movement with utter seriousness. Thank God for them and for this witness!

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