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Friday, March 14, 2008

Religion & Environmentalism

Earlier this week, 25-year-old seminary student Jonathan Merritt, with the support of many influential leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, released a proposal of action and conservation in response to the challenge of climate change. The "Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative" makes four points on the issue: Humans have a responsibility to care for the environment, addressing the problem is prudent, environmental stewardship is required of all Christians, and individuals and organizations should act now. The proposal conflicts with a resolution on global warming passed last June at the South Baptist Convention's official annual meeting, which urged caution on the issue in light of what it saw as conflicting evidence. (The scientific consensus is that climate change is real and occurring; the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found, with more than 90 percent certainty, that global warming has begun and is a result of human activities.) Ultimately, no one group speaks for all of the 16.3 million members of the Southern Baptist denomination, who leave final decisions to the local churches, but Merritt's declaration will likely have a strong influence as congregations begin to address the issue for themselves. —Stephen Mapes