Thursday, July 29, 2010


Southern Baptists Weigh in on Climate Change

Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change:
“We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues has often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice. Our cautious response in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better. To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light. The time for timidity regarding God's creation is no more.”

The declaration goes on to say, “There is undeniable evidence that the earth – wildlife, water, land, and air – can be damaged by human activity, and that people suffer as a result. When this happens, it is especially egregious because creation serves as revelation of God's presence, majesty and provision.”

Not only "can be damaged" but unquestionably has been damaged, causing not just human suffering, but initiating the sixth great extinction event in Earth's history. It has not been central to most Yancey residents, who have their hands full with pressing issues that seem closer at hand. But climate change, and global ecocrisis involving waste and resource depletion on a planetary scale, has already arrived, and is on our doorstep. Just ask residents of the Gulf, or the Carolina coast, for that matter.

I speak not as a secular environmentalist, but as a person of faith. But if we look at the record, the relatively godless Brits, Europeans and Japanese, and the countries most directly affected by the looming catastrophe in Africa and South Asia are the ones leading climate negotiations. Is the failure of the US to show ecojustice leadership not shameful to citizens of God's kingdom in a nation which once led the world in moral respect?

The House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill one year ago that amounts to a poker ante, and it was to that timid level of response that President Obama and his negotiators were limited at Copenhagen in December. But further action in the Senate has been postponed virtually indefinitely, with partisan politics on both sides leading to our current impasse. Isn't the fate of the Earth, a Creation that has been entrusted to our care by a loving God, more important than anything else in this bitterly partisan political climate?

For one last time before a bitterly contested election which may close the window for any effective movement towards a comprehensive energy and climate bill, I implore my fellow Yancey people of faith to flood our US senators with prayerful demands to pass significant climate legislation that is stronger than the House's first step. And you might give Harry Reid and President Obama a call as well. (The Cantwell-Collins CLEAR bill, featuring a carbon tax and citizen dividend, is the strongest and simplest of the bills, and the only remaining bipartisan effort.)

Time is running out, not just for us, but for the remnant of God's good Garden. You may not trust me, my Quaker brethren at Friends Committee on National Legislation, nor the climate scientists. In that case, reread the Southern Baptist declaration. Pray for discernment, and act accordingly.

Letter to the Editor
Yancey Common Times Journal
July 21, 2010

Caveat: At the request of George Reed, executive director of NC Council of Churches, I researched the statement on-line and learned that the “declaration” is a project of a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, Jonathan Merrit. It is, however, signed by 40 pastors, some of them prominent in the SBC. The official Southern Baptist position on climate change remains the resolution from June 2007, essentially rejecting the claims of climate science.

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