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[greenyes] eVANGELICAL Environmental Network


Faith-Based Stance on Environment
A group of evangelicals meets to discuss a pro business, pro green agenda.
It may be a pivotal move if they engage in policymaking.
By Larry B. Stammer
Times Staff Writer

July 4, 2004

Declaring that caring for the environment is part of following Jesus, a
group of 30 evangelical leaders has agreed to work for faith-based
environmental activism among the nation's most conservative Christians.

The decision to move ahead, made at the end of a two-day conference in
Maryland, could begin to reshape environmental politics in the years ahead,
those present said.

Participants represented a cross section of mainstream evangelicalism in
America, including the president of the National Assn. of Evangelicals,
ranking officials of evangelical denominations, development and relief
organizations such as World Vision, prominent evangelical scientists and
theology professors, and senior editors of Christianity Today magazine.

The low key but potentially pivotal move by evangelical leaders toward a
wider engagement in environmental affairs comes at a time when 1,000
mainline Protestant, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Orthodox clergy from 45
states have been stepping up calls for another vote in the U.S. Senate on a
bill that would limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The evangelical group did not take a stand on the emissions bill being
backed by the Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign, which is urging Senate
leaders to again take up the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. It
would set a nationwide limit on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases,
requiring industries to reduce emissions to their 2000 level by 2010. The
bill failed on a 55-43 vote in October. It was opposed by the Bush

On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops dispatched letters to all
senators calling for a vote. In a letter signed by Cardinal Theodore
McCarrick of Washington and Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee,
Fla., the conference urged senators to consider the fate of poor workers and
nations when addressing climate change. The poor, they said, would bear the
most harmful effects of climate change because of where they lived and their
limited resources.

The evangelical leaders, who met at the Sandy Cove Christian Conference
Center about 80 miles northeast of Baltimore, avoided the specific issue,
saying it was not their intent to become involved as a group in election
year environmental campaigns.

"We took the long view. I'm not in it for a quick press hit," the Rev. Ted
Haggard, the association's president, said after the conference. "What I saw
working was the Holy Spirit."

Their primary purpose, the delegates said, was to build trust among each
other and then reach out to other evangelical leaders on environmental

Among the conference speakers were Larry Schweiger, the president of the
National Wildlife Federation, who in 1995 won a conservation service award
from the Christian Environmental Assn.; Sir John Houghton, a British
evangelical and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a
U.N. organization; and Howard Snyder, a professor of history and theology of
mission at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.

If evangelicals do become fully engaged in environmental policy debates,
those at the conference said their approach would bear a distinctive
evangelical stamp - grounded in Jesus' love for the created order and for
the market-based solutions favored by many members.

"We are pro business. We're pro free enterprise, we're pro free market
because of our concern for the poor," said Haggard. "People need goods and
services. We would become corporate-friendly environmentalists, which would
be a totally different political and economic force than the current popular
image of a granola tree-hugger."

But the fact that evangelicals would be engaging in environmental issues,
even from a business-friendly perspective, could change the political
calculus in Washington and state capitals, those present said.

"It's an inescapable fact that the evangelicals are the Republican party's
base. If that base were to say at some point that this [climate change] is
an important concern to them, one would only imagine that Republicans would
take note of that," said Richard Cizik, the association's vice president of
governmental affairs.

"These are some big ifs, but over the course of the next five months if an
evangelical consensus were to develop on climate change, it's obvious that
consensus would seem at odds with the present Bush policies."

Until now, most efforts by evangelicals to influence public policy - whether
their successful efforts to help save the U.S. Endangered Species Act in
1994, or their more recent efforts to encourage Christians to drive fuel
efficient cars by asking, "What would Jesus drive?" have been mounted by
autonomous groups such as the Evangelical Environmental Network.

The Rev. Jim Ball, executive director of the Evangelical Environmental
Network, said many evangelicals have viewed environmentalism, as a "liberal"
issue bordering on pagan idolatry and unfriendly to business.

David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, a magazine founded by evangelist
Billy Graham, said there was "high distrust" of environmental groups. "That
suggests to me that if the right trustworthy organizations came to that
evangelical constituency, it could be mobilized. Right now, anything that
sounds like an environmental organization is going to have a little bit of a
credibility problem."

Peter Anderson, President
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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