By Barbara Kessler

The Southern Baptists signaled this week that they’ll be joining the growing arc of citizens concerned about global warming by issuing a position paper. The “Southern Baptist Environment & Climate Initiative”, an ardent and eloquent treatise crafted by some of the churches’ young and established leaders, declares that the church has been “too timid” on climate change and urges preachers to call their congregations to action.

The document argues that working to save the Earth from destruction, and in particular, the poor who will suffer the brunt, must be a part of the Christian agenda in the spirit of brotherly love, caring for one’s neighbor, ministering to the poor and other Christian imperatives. To do otherwise would make Baptists appear “uncaring, reckless and ill-informed…to shirk our responsibility to be salt and light,” it said.

Calling on the faithful to “preserve and protect” God’s creation, the treatise explains that Baptists will not compromise on their right-to-life, anti-abortion stance by joining efforts to curtail population growth, an outreach of some environmental groups. Rather, Baptists can offer “moral witness in other venues and on many issues” related to the care of the planet.

Unsurprisingly, the document acknowledges global warming doubters among Baptists, conceding that the phenomenon of climate change has not been 100 percent proven, nor has it been shown absolutely to be caused by human actions.

But the statement also takes in the sweep of the scientific debate – in which the vast majority of scientists studying climate change concurred in 2007 that human actions like driving cars and burning fossil fuels are causing atmospheric decline – concluding that even amidst continued disagreement “we have to make informed decisions about the future.”

“We do not believe unanimity is necessary for prudent action. We can make wise decisions even in the absence of infallible evidence…Though the claims of science are neither infallible nor unanimous, they are substantial and cannot be dismissed out of hand on either scientific or theological grounds.”

In other words, Baptists, when it comes to global warming, take a little leap of faith.

  • (Among the signatories are church heavyweights like Jack Graham, Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano and past SBC President, (2002-2004), and Dr. James Merritt, pastor of CrossPointe Church and former SBC President, (2000-2002). Dr. Merritt’s son, Jonathan Merritt (B.S. from Liberty University, 2004; M.Div from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008) is the National Spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Environment & Climate Initiative.)
  • More information for evangelical Baptists, such as sermons and Bible study ideas, is a available at Creation Care.

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