Sam Berry describes how evangelicals in the United States are beginning to see their biblically-based responsibility for 'creation care'.
The author moderates the Environmental Issues Network of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. He is a former President of the British Ecological Society and of Christians in Science.
Every now and then significant encouragements emerge from unlikely places. In early February, the United States National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), with 30 million members, stated that "as evangelical leaders, we recognize both our opportunity and our responsibility to offer a biblically based moral witness that can help shape public policy in the most powerful nation on earth and therefore contribute to the wellbeing of the entire world... Many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough."
The statement made four claims: human-induced climate change is real; the consequences of climate change will be significant and will hit the poor the hardest; Christian moral convictions demand our response; and, governments, businesses, churches and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change – starting now.
These claims were immediately challenged by the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, welcoming global warming on the grounds that it will lead to increased agricultural productivity and that the poor will be the most affected by measures to mitigate climate change. Two-thirds of American evangelicals are, however, convinced that climate change is taking place, and 54 per cent believe that a person's Christian faith should encourage them to support environmental action.
The NAE accepts that "mankind has a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part." The path that led to this acceptance began in Oxford in 2002, when the John Ray Initiative hosted leading scientists, policy-makers and Christian leaders from six continents to address the growing crisis of human-induced climate change. Richard Cizik, Vice President of Government Affairs for the NAE, was present, "dragged there by Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network" (and coordinator of the What Would Jesus Drive campaign). Faced with the evidence, Cizik says he had a 'conversion' on the subject so profound that he likened it to an 'altar call'. Since then, he has worked hard to convince the us evangelical community that creation care is a core Christian responsibility. He has not been unsuccessful.
The call from the Evangelical Climate Initiative concludes, "we pledge not only to teach the truths communicated here but also to seek ways to implement the actions that follow from them. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we urge all who read this declaration to join us in this effort". I can only add, "Amen".
Sam Berry, University College London Biology, Wolfson House, 4 Stephenson Way, London NW1 5HE, United Kingdom. Email: email@example.com. Web: www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucbtcee/cee/.