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World News: Christians Continue Fight About Environment

In February, the Evangelical Climate Initiative was launched. This initiative advocates personal, religious, and commercial action to combat global warming, which many scientists say could result in the deaths of millions of people. That group has the backing of, among others, Rick Warren, megachurch pastor and author of the best-selling The Purpose-Driven Life. (See Banner, April 2006, p. 16)

Now another coalition of evangelical religious leaders has launched an education campaign that will try to persuade pastors and churchgoers that dire predictions about global warming are overblown.

 The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, supported by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and others, announced that its campaign will provide information that can be distributed to parishioners or used to influence sermons.

The Dobson-backed Alliance bases its beliefs on the 2000 Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. The document, signed by more than 1,500 people—including clergy, theologians, scientists, and economists—states that concerns about global warming, overpopulation, and rampant species loss are unfounded.

It further argues that efforts to solve global warming will hurt economic development and reduce attention to other issues such as disease, hazardous wastes, and resource consumption. Group founder E. Calvin Beisner said that while his group shares an evangelical Christian faith with the Evangelical Climate Initiative, the Warren-backed group “ignores biblical teaching about prudence.”

Beisner argues that if efforts to slow global warming succeed, energy prices will go up and residents of Third World countries facing environmental problems will suffer more. Evangelical Climate Initiative spokesman Jim Ball dismissed that argument as a red herring. “We’ve taken this very seriously, and prudence does require us to act now,” Ball said. “The science is telling us that there are going to be serious consequences, and those consequences will especially fall on the poor.”

Meanwhile, from the other side of the Atlantic, Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said U.S. President George W. Bush’s refusal to cut greenhouse gas emissions was not compatible with a Christian point of view.

“I think what the Bible and the Christian tradition suggest is that those who have that challenge put before them, and not only that challenge but the evidence of it, and don’t respond bear a very heavy responsibility before God,” said Williams. (RNS)

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