A Look at Evangelicals and Global Warming 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 08 Aug 2007 14:26:00 GMT

The Washington Post has an extended feature today on the growing evangelical advocacy on global warming, “Warming Draws Evangelicals Into Environmentalist Fold”, telling the story of Joel C. Hunter, pastor of Florida’s Northland Church. It discusses how the environmental advocacy of U.S. pastors is a result of an intense six-year effort by their counterparts in Great Britain, led by atmospheric scientist and evangelical Sir John T. Houghton, University of Wisconsin professor of environmental studies Calvin B. DeWitt, and Bishop James Jones of Liverpool, with further outreach by environmental organizations and scientists.
Several eminent scientists also set out to repair the breach that had divided American faith leaders and scientists for nearly a century. Harvard University entomologist Edward O. Wilson, who had grown up Southern Baptist but drifted away in college, decided that if he could win over the religious right, he might be able to convince Americans that their entire ecological heritage was in jeopardy.

“I was working off the ‘New York effect’: If you can make it in New York, you could make it anywhere,” Wilson said. In the fall of 2006 he published “The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth,” a short treatise in which the biologist makes his case for environmentalism in a series of letters to an imaginary pastor.

Last fall, Hunter and Wilson were among more than two dozen scientific and evangelical leaders who met secretly at a retreat in Thomasville, Ga., to draft a joint statement calling for immediate action on climate change. A month and a half later, they released a statement saying both camps “share a moral passion and sense of vocation to save the imperiled living world before our damages to it remake it as another kind of planet.”

After the meeting, Hunter and Conservation International’s Campbell drafted a tool kit titled “Creation Care: An Introduction for Busy Pastors” to send to evangelical leaders. Within a matter of months, they had produced a package of Bible passages and information on scientific findings to promote action on climate change.


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  1. Jim Jewell Thu, 09 Aug 2007 19:24:21 GMT

    Washington Post actually understates evangelical movement on creation care and climate. The Post article is a welcome look at Rev. Joel Hunter and his role in the growing consensus among evangelicals that Christian faithfulness must include responsible stewardship and protection of God’s creation. But Eilperin’s effort to tell a compelling story and to outline evangelical creation care quickly, leaves the impression that Rev. Hunter is walking this road alone, and that he’s followig only British religious leaders.

    In fact, Hunter became involved in climate policy as a signatory of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a group of now 106 senior evangelical leaders who as a result of their commitment to Jesus Christ are calling for sound climate policy that will express a concern for the health and well being of our families today and for many generations. Here is the ECI statement that has captured this sentiment and was signed by 106 leaders.

    (The public relations firm I head, Rooftop MediaWorks, is a partner with the Evangelical Climate Initiative and has handled the groups communications campaign). (www.therooftopblog.blogspot.com)

    I regret that the article did not mention that the signatories of the ECI included perhaps the best known evangelical pastor in America, Rick Warren (Saddleback), as well as megachurch pastor Bill Hybels (Willowcreek), the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson, the presidents of many Christian colleges and evangelical relief and development organizations, and several denominational leaders (here is a complete list of ECI Signatories).

    Because the article is anecdotal, I’ve already seen blog responses that call this an indication of thin evangelical support for Christian action on climate and creation care. That impression is wrong. A national Ellison Research poll of evangelicals to be released next month (the top line results of which were part of a testimony by Jim Ball, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, before the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee in June), showed that 70% of the evangelical population believes global warming will pose a serious threat to future generations, and 64% believe action should be taken immediately to curb global warming.

    The Washington Post’s coverage of evangelical movement on environmental issues may reveal its sympathy for the cause. But the Juliet Eilperin article actually understated the extent and momentum of evangelical action on climate and creation care. Today, evangelical leaders and the community are embracing biblically based creation care without abandoning their worldview and speaking on environmental issues with a unique evangelical voice.