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Some evangelicals launch campaign against global warming; others protestcomment (0)

February 23, 2006


Warning of millions of potential deaths worldwide from climate change, a new network of evangelical leaders launched a campaign Feb. 8 for government and grass-roots action to reduce global warming.
   
The network’s formation illustrates a growing divide among evangelicals on how — or even whether — to address climate change. Some evangelical leaders, such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, oppose activism on global warming, saying there is neither a scientific nor an evangelical consensus on the topic. But others, including best-selling author and megachurch pastor Rick Warren, see it as an important Christian issue and have joined the network.
   
As leaders representing Christian college and relief organizations took turns at a National Press Club microphone Feb. 8 decrying global warming, another group of evangelicals that includes Dobson issued a statement declaring objections to the new approach.
   
The new group, the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI), issued a document Feb. 8, titled Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action. As of Feb. 8, it was signed by 86 evangelical leaders.
   
“Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better,” the document said. 
   
Jim Ball, executive director of the Washington-based Evangelical Environmental Network, said he and others in the ECI would meet with U.S. senators on both sides of the issue, hold meetings on college campuses and at megachurches and, later in the year, a private meeting with leaders of energy companies. Ads are scheduled to appear in a range of mainstream and Christian media in February, costing “a couple of hundred thousand dollars” and funded by individuals and foundations.
   
“What we need is a requirement that carbon dioxide start to be reduced,” Ball said. The “call to action,” which expresses concern for the poor, calls for passage of legislation to achieve that goal “the most important immediate step” for federal officials.
   
But some evangelicals do not endorse such legislative action.
   
“Mandatory emission reductions would make energy more expensive,” said E. Calvin Beisner, a founding member of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, whose efforts are supported by Dobson and Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson. “Energy is an essential component of economic development and economic development is what the poor desperately need.”
   
The alliance released a statement in January, signed by 22 leaders, declaring that evangelicals have not reached a consensus on global warming and asking the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) to refrain from taking an official position. NAE President Ted Haggard responded by saying his association’s executive committee had reaffirmed that there is not a consensus but that it is committed to caring for creation.
   
Haggard added that NAE applauds the work of both the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance and the Evangelical Environmental Network because “they are both striving to protect God’s creation and arrive at a biblical worldview concerning these important issues.”
   
Ron Sider, president of Wynnewood, Pa.-based Evangelicals for Social Action, said he and other signatories on the new anti-global warming statement represent the center of the evangelical movement. Signers include Warren, Pentecostal leader Jack Hayford, Bishop Charles E. Blake of the Church of God in Christ and Christianity Today Editor David Neff.
   
“There’s just no way you can describe these people as fringe,” Sider said in an interview. (RNS)
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